Easily the least acknowledged entry into the Star Wars franchise, Solo was Disney’s second anthology movie after the wildly successful Rogue One.
Although Disney had announced their plans for multiple anthology movies, Solo’s disappointing performance at the box office soon saw that those plans were scrapped, and fans were robbed of countless new cinematic Star Wars outings. The Mandalorian’s success has seen many of these concepts now in production as Disney+ exclusive shows, but let’s take a look at the movie that derailed the House of Mouse’s original plans.
Set approximately 10 years before the events of A New Hope, Solo explores young Han Solo’s beginnings as a smuggler, the early days of his partnership with Chewbacca, and his acquisition of the Millennium Falcon.
From the off, Solo is a gorgeous movie. Its sleek visuals and incredible visual effects are certainly in keeping with the franchise’s high standards, and aesthetically, Solo delivers in every way possible, even down to its set and costume design. Visually, it’s everything fans could have hoped for.
Solo’s casting was also outstanding, especially Donald Glover as young Lando Calrissian and Alden Ehrenreich as young Solo. The two share the same rivalry/friendship chemistry that made them so intriguing in Empire Strikes Back, and both managed to capture the nuances of their respective characters that really make you believe that it’s the same person.
The thing is, while Solo might boast flashy visuals and solid acting all round, it falls apart where it really matters: its writing.
The plot itself is riddled with holes both small and large, but one of Solo’s most egregious errors is its undermining of Han’s arc in the original trilogy. The determination to have young Solo act as an idealistic white knight goes against everything we learned (and loved) about him in A New Hope; he was callous and calculating, with no thought for anyone but himself, his ship and Chewie, and that’s exactly the sort of anti-hero fans were expecting. Instead, we got a character who was constantly contradicting himself, seemingly unsure of his own intentions, trying desperately to stick to a moral code he never should have had in the first place.
The movie’s misguided writing seeps into the experience in other ways, too. Early on, we meet Rio, a wise-cracking Ardennian pilot, who (spoiler alert) quickly dies before we can realise he’s nothing more than comic relief cannon fodder. Shortly after, we meet Lando, along with his friend and co-pilot, L3-37, a droid with the most comprehensive navigational database in the galaxy. Again, L3 is used as little more than comic relief, and it’s at this point that the audience realises that she’s a stand-in for Rogue One’s K-2SO. The idea that the Star Wars audience desperately needs some sort of overly-human droid character for light comic relief is a little irritating, and more than a little insulting.
Overall, Solo features some real high points, and it’s a generally enjoyable blockbuster. But once you look at it as part of the larger Star Wars franchise, it quickly begins to fall apart as the uninspired, lazily-written mess that it was. It’s probably the biggest disappointment in the Star Wars universe, because with its cast, its production budget, and Disney’s commitment to the project, it could easily have been every bit as good (or better) than Rogue One, but the execution left so much to be desired that it effectively killed the Star Wars anthologies before they ever got started.
Summary: Neither fully bad nor fully good, Solo is equal parts engaging as disappointing. Good acting and a massive budget can’t hide lazy storytelling, though, and ultimately, it falls apart under any kind of examination.