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– by Nick Doll

What are the odds that a film that had its two original directors fired, only to be 70% reshot by Ron Howard, would turn out to be a solid Star Wars entry? What are the odds a movie about one of the most beloved characters from Star Wars, told in prequel form, without perhaps the most beloved actor from Star Wars, would turn out to be a lot of fun?

Well, never tell me the odds! Because I already know the answer.

I have seen Solo: A Star Wars Story twice, and can confirm that I absolutely adore it. (It’s been a dream to see a film twice before reviewing it. I wish it was a requirement…) But, everyone has a unique feeling about Star Wars these days.

Star Wars has become the most dividing issue in the realm of movie fandom. First there were the original three films that are still beloved, and basically can’t be touched at this point, except for maybe Return of the Jedi – which still has middle-age Han Solo! Most fans hate the prequels, a statement that was probably truer five years ago than now. Things seemed to be heading in a mostly agreeable position under Disney’s rule, with The Force Awakens and Rogue One seeming to garner mostly positive reaction. Then, The Last Jedi hit last December and divided the universe faster than 2016 divided America.

So, all I can really say is that all opinions here are my own. You and I do NOT have exactly the same taste in Star Wars films, we will always disagree on something. Hell, the reviews for Solo: A Star Wars Story have been fairly split if you look at Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to most critics agreeing Last Jedi was great. I haven’t read any of those reviews, and I have not let the general percentage on Rotten Tomatoes influence my thoughts about Solo. This isn’t a review meant to fall in line with everyone else or cater to your expectations. This is simply why I love the film. with just a few complaints, because what are the odds this film would be perfect? Threepio would know…

Solo: A Star Wars Story finds a young man named Han (Alden Ehrenreich) trying to escape the clutches of Madame Proxima, who keeps orphans safe on his home planet of Corellia in exchange for slave labor. When Han nabs a vial of Coaxium, a “hyper fuel” worth quite a bit, but very, very explosive, he tries to bribe his way off the planet with his love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). Things never go as planned, and Qi’ra is left on Corellia while Solo enrolls in the Imperial Infantry to escape capture. After 3 years on the battlefield, to escape combat, Han becomes involved in the underworld of the galaxy, meeting new allies including Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Rio Durant (Jon Faveau), Val (Thandie Newton), L3-37 (Phiebe Waller-Bridge)… and of course Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). Maybe, with a heist of Coaxium, Han may someday be able to afford a ship…

What I love most about this movie is the script by Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan. Father and son, Lawrence Kasdan wrote some of Harrison Ford’s best lines in The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Force Awakens. The narrative of Solo is unbelievably simple and direct for a Star Wars movie, which is refreshing in a universe now steeped with too much Jedi mythos and films featuring large parties that split up for most the film. In this way, the story is most comparable to Star Wars (aka A New Hope, which I guess I will have to use from now on…), without seeming to copy the story structure like The Force Awakens. Solo is also the funniest Star Wars film since A New Hope, and perhaps the most standalone Star Wars movie to-date. Solo features a very linear structure based entirely around Han Solo, just as A New Hope was told from Luke Skywalker’s point of view, before Empire began the trend of splitting into teams and “A, B, and C” storylines.

I did consider A New Hope the funniest film in the franchise prior to Solo. When I re-watched that film before Rogue One in 2016, I tried watching it from my father’s perspective; a man who sees many films because of me but always has a few gripes, God Bless him! I noticed something all of us who saw Star Wars at a young age missed due to nostalgia and love for the franchise: terrible and cheesy dialogue, poor acting from nearly everyone, and sets that today look just a cheesy as Star Trek TOG. But, something saved it for my dad, and I realized my favorite character was my favorite character because he is key to A New Hope working… Han Solo.

Harrison Ford made every scene amusing with his charm, sarcasm, and actual belief that Lucas’ dialogue was unreadable. Nearly every line he says gets a laugh from me now. It’s not that Ford is in on the joke that this is a ridiculous movie, it’s that he is also the joke and the rest of the cast doesn’t get it.

The Kasdans defiantly researched Han Solo from A New Hope when writing Solo, as he has much more in common with that version of the character than the more seasoned hero who romances Leia in Empire.  But here there are intentional jokes, and Ehrenreich nails the delivery, most the time.

Back to the story — or freedom this film has – for a moment, before we move on to acting. I can’t say how refreshing it is to finally get a Star Wars film with no mention of Jedi, Death Stars, and the Skywalkers. The Empire is a presence, not the villain. And there are hints of the beginning of a new rebellion, something that feels forced, especially after The Last Jedi; perhaps the weakest point of the narrative.

I want to see more Star Wars films like this, free of Jedi, the Empire, the Rebellion, and the Force; just more regular folk making their way through a dangerous galaxy. I really enjoyed the time period between the prequels and the original trilogy, more than Rogue One, which was set right before  A New Hope. Like I said, this movie actually has more in common tone-wise with A New Hope than the darker Rogue One. And yet, it offers the most Saving Private Ryan type battle scene of any Star Wars movie, showing up Rogue One which was partially sold as a war film. Bring on a Solo sequel and a Lando prequel!

The film has fun with some classic moments we’ve heard about from Han in the original films, and read about in the now-defunct classic Star Wars Extended Universe. The introduction of Chewbacca, for example, is unexpected, and one of the highlights of the film. The film is a bit heavy handed with some classic moments though, and shows us a few more than we needed to see.

Bringing acting into the equation, along with the writing, this portrayal of Han Solo is pretty solid. The best parts of any Star Wars always featured Solo talking his way out of something, with a high rate of failure. This film is no different, with plenty of these moments, written fantastically and delivered with that same false confidence – or arrogance – that classic Han would. I am not at all unhappy with Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Solo, which says a lot from a Harrison Ford and Han Solo fanatic, like myself. There is no one like Harrison Ford, but Harrison Ford, yet this “kid” does a good job.

The rest the cast is great as well, especially Donald Glover as Lando (as if you had any doubt). But really, everyone form Harrelson to the film’s villain, Paul Bettany, does a killer job. It’s also amazing that at this point Chewbacca feels more like an actor than a character, with the difference between Peter Mayhew’s version and Suotamo’s being indistinguishable from each other.

This movie will divide people. It will create more fights. But remember, it may be Star Wars, one of the most important brands in the pop culture world, but it is still that, just a fictional franchise made by directors with good intentions.

And I loved it!

Grade: A-

Will you be seeing Solo: A Star Wars Story in theaters this weekend? Let us know your thoughts once you have, in the comment section below. But remember, it’s just Star Wars, as important as Star Wars is to all of us.

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