LUCASFILM LTD. / WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES (2018)
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Joonas Suotamo, Jon Favreau
Who shot first?
Well, actually Lord and Miller did, before Ron Howard came in to save the day on the troubled production of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Well-documented issues plagued the movie and now the Galaxy’s favourite smuggler is back on the big screen in his own swashbuckling space adventure.
Despite all the hoopla, it’s pretty good after all.
Escaping a repressed, crime-filled upbringing on Corellia, Han Solo (Ehrenreich) joins the ranks of the Empire as a means of a get-out clause. An encounter with prime smuggler Tobias Beckett (Harrelson) and his crew – Val (Newton) and alien Rio Durant (Favreau) – on the battlefield changes his destiny and hurls him into the smuggling game. Tasked by crime lord Dryden Vos (Bettany) to recover valuable coaxium, the path leads him to encounters with playboy smuggler Lando Calrissian (Glover), the girl he left behind Qi’Ra (Clarke) and his soon-to-be-best-buddy Chewbacca (Suotamo) – with a quick stop via Kessel.
“I’ve got a good feeling about this”, I thought heading into the screening. I wanted a cool, fun pirate-heist flick and that’s just what Solo delivers. Of course, the main question was – could Alden Ehrenreich pull of the Han Solo character and, happily, the answer is yes, yes he can. Combining the trademark swagger, smirk, arrogance and soft-centred bravado that the character is known for, Ehrenreich is more than just fine – though it did take 20-25 minutes for the ‘new’ Han to feel right to me. Similarly, Glover is marvellous as Lando Calrissian – shady, cool and oh so smooth. It’s certainly not without its flaws, though, and a slow, clunky start is quickly forgotten as the action really begins. If you aren’t in to fan service and nods, well, they’re scattered throughout so be warned – but for this guy, they were just fine.
Bottom line? Fun and action-packed, a good addition to the canon, but it doesn’t always stay on target.
Whilst the two main men delivered most, good supporting turns from Bettany, Harrelson and (thankfully) Emilia Clarke all help prop the movie up and assist in fleshing the story out further. Chewbacca has a lot more to contribute here and finally gets to unleash some Wookiee fury. Solo delivers a few twists and surprises with character motivations and, indeed, character additions – however, one may surprise/confuse many fans of the saga that maybe aren’t so clued up on the wider canon. Vos, Beckett and Qi’Ra all brought something extra to the movie, Vos especially as the menacing, smarmy crime lord and Clarke as the tenacious survivor.
As to be expected, for the vast majority of the movie, it all looks great – the CGI/motion capture is flawless – strange worm woman, aside – and the new planets retain that quintessential Star Wars feel to them. There are enough nods here to remind you that you are in a Galaxy far, far away as you won’t find the Force here. John Powell brings a fresh take to the score, though John Williams returned to score Han’s theme and overall, visually and in terms of score, everything feels familiar enough. The Kasdan family promised this to be possibly the “greatest Star Wars script”, and it’s hard to argue against the story but at times, however, the execution didn’t fully support it. At one point during the movie, Beckett says “there will be no improvising” with a stern authority and I wonder if that was always in the script…
The opening act stumbles as the tone and pacing shift at will, it’s clear too much was trying to be forced in to allow the movie to open up later on. It’s all necessary, however, but the movie clearly picks up once the second act begins. As mentioned, there are nods galore throughout and whilst some are deep cuts for the hardcore, there are some very on-the-nose references (though most work just fine). Key moments in Star Wars history finally get to be seen – Han meeting Chewie and Lando, the Kessel Run and how the Millenium Falcon was won – and they don’t disappoint (mainly...).
What you take from Solo will be what you go in with. If you expect a full-on Star Wars experience, you will be disappointed. If you expect the greatest movie in the canon, you too will be disappointed. If it’s a fun romp through space with great characters and good action you want, you’ll be just fine. Ehrenreich doesn’t disappoint with his interpretation, Glover is superb and seeing some of the more famous moments in Star Wars history play out onscreen will never not be exciting. You might wanna buckle up baby because Solo brings the fun and adventure – if maybe not hitting the zany heights of previous entries.
May 24th 2018