KESSEL — What I like most about Disney’s formula to their big franchise film format is that in the off years, you get a side story about a particularly interesting character or event.
This approach has been refined with the dozens of movies that take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is now being perfected with their "Star Wars" property.
This year, we get the movie “Solo: A Star Wars Movie” as an opportunity to fill out the "Star Wars" universe with another layer of interest and context. “Solo” is an origin story of sorts for a few key characters we have grown to love over the course of nearly four decades.
This film takes place a few space years before “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” and is focused on the backstory of a young Han Solo and his friends as they make a name for themselves in the "Star Wars" universe.
There is a lot to like about this movie and a few things that could have been better. Here's a rundown of the good and the bad.
The character development is strong
The key to this movie is character development. If you don’t do someone like Han Solo justice in his own movie, you didn’t do your job.
Fortunately, the writers and several directors who worked on this film got it right in the end. We get a very strong sense of where the Han Solo we know and love from Star Wars episodes 4, 5, 6 and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” comes from, and forces in his life that mold him into who he is.
Young Han Solo is played by Alden Ehrenreich, who puts forward a great effort to capture Harrison Ford's swagger. I wouldn’t say it is the same, but it's close enough. I was impressed at how Ehrenreich was able to deliver dialogue as Ford may have done if he had been playing the role himself.
The great thing about this movie is that it wasn’t just about developing only Han Solo’s character. We get to learn a lot more about Chewbacca, the Millennium Falcon and Lando Calrissian (played by an awesome Donald Glover).
At this point, I wouldn’t mind seeing a standalone film about Chewbacca himself, especially because we learn that Chewie has quite a bit more history under his belt than almost any other main Star Wars character.
I was surprised at how much I cared about the Millennium Falcon during this film. The Millennium Falcon is as much a character in these films as any human, creature or droid. It has its own personality and quirks and brings its own special energy to the screen. I love that they took care to develop this spaceship in a way that we can see it earn its scars just the same as anyone.
Feel of the film
It is pretty neat to see that over the years, each Star Wars era has its own look and feel. The film creators did a great job putting “Solo” in its proper place and time in the same way they did with "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."
We get this from visual cues in the way they shoot the movie and approach special effects. Special effects, hairstyles and dialogue all conjure up the feel of the original three films from the late 70s and early 80s. These are the little details that add up to a much more consistent and genuine experience.
The dark side
There are some missed opportunities
The screenwriting for this film was solid and the story good, but if I have one major complaint, I would say it could have been more unique.
This movie didn’t really stand out above any other "Star Wars" film mostly because it did not try anything new. A standalone Han Solo movie would have been the perfect opportunity to do this.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” felt a little like more of the same and I would hate to think about getting bored with a franchise as exciting as "Star Wars." It would have been fun to see them do with “Solo” what they did with “Thor: Ragnarok” and take a chance on taking the movie a different stylistic direction.
The first two Thor movies are boring and lazy, and I didn't like the character or care about the storyline until I saw “Ragnarok”. Now I can honestly say a Thor movie is probably my favorite Marvel movie so far.
I think "Star Wars" should learn from this and take some chances with style and tone or run the risk of feeling stale.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” was a lot of fun and never really let me down. It could have taken more risks and worked even better, but I am not complaining.
If you want to get to know more about the crew of the Millennium Falcon and be introduced to some new friends, you should absolutely see "Solo."
This film will do well for the summer but is not going to beat “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in box office sales or interest. But that is kind of the point with this type of side story — it is meant to keep us interested in the universe outside of Jedis and lightsabers.