Alex Holmes’s review published on Letterboxd:
I had a bad feeling about this.
However, I was mostly wrong. Solo is exactly the kind of movie it needs to be - fun. You've got space scoundrels and rogues lighting up the screen in a way that usually only happens on the side in most SW films. I got Empire vibes from the dialogue, and no surprise considering it's written by Kasdan (and his son). There is a climax at the second part of the film that just felt fab - the combination of dialogue, music, characters just really felt like one of those moments only 'Star Wars' can achieve.
(It's a space western guys. If you've seen enough westerns you'll get that. But it's a good one, yay!)
So how does a Han Solo origin actually work? Well, for the most part, pretty well. Sure, there are a few little on the nose "origin" moments (I really didn't feel like I needed any of them to be honest) but some of them are also pretty great- Han meeting Chewie for the first time is a blast and their friendship forming over the film was one of the big highlights for me. I was reminded a little of Gundam The Origin which I also watched this year - which, similar to Solo, spent a lot of time chronicling the journey of one of its most popular characters (as well as explaining minutia a little too much) to where we find him in the series. And whilst not as good as Gundam The Origin, Solo does mostly work. And both succeed because the characters, even early on, retain the core of who they are in their original appearances.
Smartly Kasdan avoids the problem with Anakin from the prequels - Han here is a different Han we know from Star Wars but he's also the same guy at his core making him simultaneously not a Ford impersonation, but still recognisabley the same character. The plot is mercifully simple and straightforward which allows us to enjoy some planet hoping and great set pieces, but also to enjoy spending time with the characters - the real attraction here - rather worrying too much about the plot itself. The first two thirds of the film are perfect for this, but the last third gets a bit more...well it wasn't a bad conclusion but the first two thirds of the movie are definitely more Solo.
As for the characters, they wouldn't be so enjoyable if they weren't played so well. Alden Ehrenreich is fantastic as Han. I could watch this guy a lot. I had serious doubts going in - the trailers didn't really sell his version, and the behind the scenes drama didn't help. But no, he really nails his han who is somehow both his and Ford's. His vocal range is spot on and honestly anytime he's on screen bantering with one of the characters you're having a good time. Hell I'd argue Han hasn't been this...Han since Empire (I honestly felt that he kinda slept walked through Jedi). The much spoken about Donald Glover brings space panache to a young Lando and damn he's good. But crucially he never overshadows Ehrenreich (something I would like to believe is a choice on Glover's part) and he makes for a great pairing. Joonas Suotamo shows he is still, three movies in to a fine performance, worthy of Chewie. Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson round out the cast as Qi'Ra and Tobias Beckket respectively as Han's young love interest and mentor. They're fine and turn in good performances but neither wowed me the way the three did, but then again they weren't refreshing beloved characters. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is on hand as well as Lando's trust droid sidekick L3-37 but her character I honestly did not find engaging and frankly tonally out of place with the rest of the film. I think I got what they were going for, but it did not work for me.
An aside should be mentioned for the score here - Williams contributes Han's own personal theme, but there's also alot of musical call backs to Empire and the like (including one very cute one) and that really really helps the film feel like a "real" Star Wars film. I can't but imagine what Rogue One would have been like with a Williams score.
So how does Solo compare to Rogue One the *other* Star Wars story that seems to have, in the year plus since its release, gotten a worse reputation than when it came out? Well I still love Rogue One alot but that is because it is tailor made for me - it has a great diverse cast including Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, it is a dirty dozen against all odds war story, and the politics of the film still really resonate with me. Despite all that though I do acknowledge its fair share of issues. Solo is the reverse, it doesn't really have anything to pull me in in terms of genre tropes or anything and yet I found myself having a great ride for the majority of the film. I won't even compare it to TLJ (far and away the best blockbuster in years) because Solo simply isn't trying to be the grand space opera (and certainly none of the subtext of that film) that the mainline episodes are. Solo finds itself in being the perfect side story - non essential but a treat for those who like the character and a good time to boot. And that's fine. Everything's fine.
How are you?