Star Wars spin-off hits mark

Since acquiring the Star Wars franchise in 2012, Disney has churned out additions to the Star Wars saga at a rapid pace. While the sequel trilogy, with recent releases The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, were spectacular blockbuster successes, the executives at Disney have also produced spin-off movies, “Star Wars stories”, that don’t follow the narrative of the Skywalker family and have been surrounded by considerably less fanfare. The most recent, Solo: A Star Wars Story, came out on May 24 to mixed reviews. While Solo had its flaws, the movie emulated the elements that endeared its protagonist, Han Solo, to Star Wars fans decades ago and overall was an entertaining ride.
In the convoluted Star Wars timeline, Solo: A Star Wars Story takes place between Episodes III and IV, at a time in which the Empire is ruling the galaxy and only the seeds of rebellion are present. The movie follows Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich) in his formative years as he tangles with a group of smugglers and embarks on his first heist. Along the way, Solo meets a cast of shady characters and learns the ways of the smuggling life.
Solo has an engaging narrative and strong development that make it a much more complete film. The style takes after its title character with a thrill-seeking, swaggering tone and strays from the good versus evil narrative of the other Star Wars films in favor of the all-out survival of the criminal underworld. Following a slow expository act, the plot picks up with fast-paced action sequences interspersed with scenes that introduce and develop characters.
That’s another aspect that Solo really hit on- its characters. From exploring the title character to well-known characters such as Lando Calrissian (played by Donald Glover) and Chewbacca to new characters, the character development digs past surface level of the characters and touches on their eccentricities. The acting, especially by the leading actors, is particularly strong for a Star Wars film. However, as the primary motivation is money for most of the characters, the plot lacks urgency at times and the storyline isn’t as compelling..
A point of great contention among critics and fans is the abundance of references to other Star Wars movies. Avid Star Wars fans, such as this writer, will take a lot more out of it than the casual moviegoer, but the references are necessary in making a spin-off movie that is still immersed in the Star Wars galaxy. From the original music to character cameos, this film connects well with the other movies even though its events have minuscule importance to the original trilogy. I especially enjoyed that references were also made to the prequel trilogy, including one jaw-dropping reveal that I loved.
Solo: A Star Wars Story strives for spirit of Star Wars and is an entertaining addition, yet it doesn’t quite capture the magic that makes the others so special. In comparison to Rogue One, Solo is more compelling and complete but lacks the high stakes and good versus evil storyline that makes an excellent Star Wars movie. Disney took a gamble on Solo, and though it doesn’t rank with the best from the franchise, it was worth the risk.

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