Both Solo and Rogue One expand and enrich the Star Wars universe in surprising ways. Solo just does it with a bit more grace and a lot more love.
Rogue One explains a moment. Solo explains a character.
Loaded with lore and packed end-to-end with great action and even better characters, Solo is the superior of the two big-screen Star Wars stories operating outside of the main Skywalker Saga. It’s fun, funny, energetic, and, most importantly, a story that cares about its characters.
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Don’t misunderstand me: There are things to love about Rogue One (Donnie Yen and Alan Tudyk being the indisputable standouts). What could have been a skeletal film with no narrative meat ended being a pretty substantial story with lots to chew on. Seriously, there is fun to be had here!
Rogue One had no business being as layered or as entertaining as it was and we are glad it worked to give us a worthwhile experience.
But part of what puts Solo a notch above Rogue One is its consistency. Every scene, every moment in Ron Howard’s film focuses on Star Wars characters doing Star Wars things and having a blast doing it. There are no bits here that feel perfunctory or contrived. It’s a great time! Rogue One, by contrast, doesn’t seem to be having nearly as much fun and meanders for at least an hour.
Now, let’s talk stakes. Rogue One has higher stakes and a larger scale but Solo has higher personal stakes. Han’s life isn’t the only thing on the line. Qi’ra’s life, Chewie’s life, even Tobias Beckett’s life…everything feels more important because these characters mean something to Han.
And that’s where the biggest difference between each group of core characters lies: Solo‘s heroes bond through genuine connection and Rogue‘s protagonists come together through circumstance.
Neither approach is wrong, necessarily, but the former is often far more effective than the latter. We don’t feel any chemistry between the Rogue One crew. The result? An emotionally hollow, tonally flat film that tosses rebels with nothing in common at an endgame that doesn’t matter because we don’t care.
When discussing any Star Wars villain, it’s important to compare/contrast Orson Krennic and Dryden Vos as effective antagonists. Krennic has more potential but Vos ultimately trumps him because he’s written and executed far more skillfully. Vos evokes fear. Krennic? Not so much. The digitally-rendered Tarkin intimidates me far more than Ben Mendelsohn’s eager-to-please Death Star director.
Because Solo is character-driven, it manages to give new context and depth to decades-old pop culture staples. From the subtle reveal that Beckett killed famed bounty hunter Aurra Sing to the Darth Maul cameo in its final act, Solo makes good on its built-in promise to expand the Star Wars universe.
As icing on the already delicious cake, Alden Ehrenreich nails the title role. He’s not trying to emulate Harrison Ford because he knows he can’t touch the legendary actor’s cultural impact. That’s the smartest approach Ehrenreich and Howard could have taken.
So yeah, between its acting, characters, story, and impact, Solo: A Star Wars story is the stronger of the two. Where Solo soars above expectations, Rogue One scrapes them.
Watch and Rogue One and Disney+. Solo will be available on Disney on July 9.