Stewart Gardiner offers his first impressions of where Ron Howard’s Han Solo picture stands in the grand scheme of things. No plot points or reveals discussed.
There’s an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called “The Zeppo” where the typically season-long A-story apocalypse occurs in the background, while Xander Harris’s slightly heroic coming of age B-story is elevated to the fore. In the grand scheme of things his story is insignificant when removed from the big stuff – Buffy and co. are after all trying to prevent the world from ending. But the funny thing about life is that the little things count when you’re caught up in them. Han Solo gets caught up in them.
No Tectonic Plates
Solo is where the Star Wars anthology films begin for real. Or rather, it is where the idea of what a Star Wars anthology film actually is becomes apparent. Thankfully it’s more than a mere template-setting exercise. Ron Howard’s Star Wars picture is a joyful romp that is hard to dislike. Whether it is of great mythic consequence (it isn’t) is entirely beside the point. Sure, each Star Wars film up until now has taken place upon the shifting tectonic plates of galactic history. But that isn’t to say every Star Wars film needs to do so. That they always have doesn’t mean that they forever should.
Where does that leave Rogue One though? Simply put, it is an outlier in terms of the anthology films. Granted, there have only been two of those to date – my data set is woefully inadequate. Yet the idea can be reasonably deduced because of Rogue One’s close relationship to the saga pictures. Rogue segues into A New Hope seamlessly – by design of course – and is therefore decidedly not a story taking place on the periphery. Instead, it is a hitherto unknown part of the story. Solo may take as its focus two major characters from the original trilogy, but here they are out on the edges. Han and Lando get caught up in history, eventually playing pivotal roles in galaxy changing events; just not yet. One could of course make an argument that every choice, each passing event in their lives, is significant in that it leads them where they need to be to help save everyone else’s. Multiple heroes’ journeys cascading in significance, as it were. Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan’s screenplay toys with such notions. They risk answering questions that never needed answering, but not too often, and when they do it’s with a deft touch. It feels organic and necessary rather than by-numbers fan service.
Alden Ehrenreich is Han throughout; Harrison Ford casts a long shadow, but Ehrenreich makes the role his own. Donald Glover rocks as Lando (like I needed to tell you that). Emilia Clarke is wonderful as usual and Qi’ra is a standout addition; her character’s noir roots are further shaded in nuance. And as for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, she almost steals the show as L3 (every quote is a t-shirt slogan I need in my life right now). The picture plays out like a western crime caper with elements of noir, so that obviously keeps me happy. Solo: A Star Wars Story is more fun than it has a right to be and sits comfortably alongside the animated television shows while offering up fresh expectations for the anthology films.