Solo: A Star Wars Story ★★★★

When I first saw Solo, I didn’t like it at all (see here to find out just how much), but one of the multitude of voices inside my head kept nagging me to give it another chance, which I did (see here for details). Now that I have seen it again, I am able to admit that I have failed to see the forest for the trees.

Any discussion about this film can be easily derailed to focus almost entirely about its infamous production problems, the drama surrounding the firing of its directors and the subsequent appointment of Ron Howard to helm the project. Alternatively, one can sway the discourse to focus on the film’s relationship to the Star Wars lore and fan service, such as ‘the parsec problem’, the ‘Han shoots first debate’ or the surprising reveal of its relationship to one of the earlier movies in the series. In fact, I have touched on all those issues before myself, which almost completely impeded me from recognizing this film for what it really is – a Western. Of course, the entire Original Trilogy is heavily steeped in Western inspirations, but Solo is more organically rooted in the legacy of the genre. The characterizations alone of Han as a gunslinger with a big mouth, Woody Harrelson’s character as an untrustworthy horse thief or Paul Bettany’s as a black-clad violent ringleader would lead one to believe this is the case, but the similarities don’t end there and completely permeate the film’s main set pieces. Thus, the key sequences are sci-fi equivalents of a train robbery, a rendition of a classic fortress infiltration, a stagecoach pursuit and a climactic showdown with duels, betrayal and double-crossing. Even the so-called rebelling marauders are stylized after Native Americans...

Having realized what this movie really is underneath all the fan service and vestigial tonal problems stemming from its production problems, I think I can safely admit that Solo has grown on me immensely over time. At its core it is a fun, light-hearted attempt at reconnecting the Star Wars series to one of its original roots that also happens to capitalize on the inherent likeability of its main character. Warts and all, it is a very solid film that only occasionally dips into the soap opera of who’s-related-to-whom variety, which has for the most part taken over the main Skywalker saga. As far as self-aware space westerns go, this one’s pretty damn formidable and I only expect to like it more with every single revisit.

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