By Anna Husted EBS Contributor
Few film franchises capture the archetypal hero’s journey as well as the Star Wars series. According to mythology scholar Joseph Campbell’s theory, most narrative storytelling is set up the same: We are introduced to a hero, the hero is called to some task, descends into the darkness of challenges and temptation, and undergoes a transformation that enables the hero to complete the task. In “Star Wars: A New Hope” the hero is Luke Skywalker. In “Solo: A Star Wars Story” the hero is Han Solo—albeit a reluctant one.
The morally ambiguous Han of “Star Wars: A New Hope” is a clearer do-gooder in “Solo.” In this film we come to know why Han becomes the hardened smuggler he is in the original trilogy, but I won’t spoil that here.
“Solo” is about a 20-something Han (played by an excellent Alden Ehrenreich) who wants nothing more than to become the best pilot in the galaxy and to love the girl he grew up with. But the hero has to enter the darkness in order to accomplish what he sets out to do, a darkness full of smuggling and gambling, both of which he has a knack for; and making enemies, least of which is the unimaginatively named Crimson Tide.
Traveling through the darkness with Han is smuggler-mentor Beckett (an overplayed Woody Harrelson), new-found-friend Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), and Lando Calrissian (a refreshing Donald Glover doing a great Billy Dee Williams impression). Other than Glover’s Lando and Suotamo’s Chewy I felt like I was watching a Marvel movie because of the near-identical and somewhat lackluster casting.
Each new installment of the new Star Wars films comes with a petite British brunette, a quirky British droid, and a bad guy we’ve already seen play a bad guy in the Marvel Universe. Disney Studio’s lack of creativity across these two universes is surprising and suggests it might be time to move on from these series.
Aside from the unimaginative casting “Solo” is fun. Each mission delivers clever one-liners, what-do-we-do-now glances between Han and Chewy, and easy-to-follow action sequences that are all well-played out and resolved.
Because “Solo” is a prequel it leaves the hero’s journey unfinished. Han’s journey won’t be completed until “The Return of the Jedi” or, arguably, “The Force Awakens.” But Han transforms into the character we know and love in “Solo”—the greatest pilot in the galaxy with the greatest ship, The Millennium Falcon.
“Solo” is an unnecessary prequel, but it’s full of enjoyable references to the original trilogy that will make Star Wars fans laugh, and it’s full of that Han and Lando charm we all love so much.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is now playing at Regal Gallatin Valley Stadium 11.
Anna Husted has a Master’s in film studies from New York University. In Big Sky she can be found at the movies at Lone Peak Cinema or reading a book on her deck. When not gazing at the silver screen or watching her new favorite TV show, she’s running, fishing or roughhousing with her cat, Indiana Jones.
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