It’s been a troubled road to the screen but Solo: A Star Wars Story has finally arrived in cinemas with the latest Star Wars off-shoot looking to inject some much-need goodwill into the franchise after The Last Jedi divided audiences. This is a slightly different beast in that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a film that you can enjoy without any back-story. It’s designed as a standalone film but don’t be surprised if a sequel or two ends up happening because the solid groundwork is here.
Solo is an origin story of everyone’s favourite Star Wars character Han Solo. We join a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) as he tries to leave a troubled life behind. Along with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) the two try to escape a life of criminality on the planet Corellia. They get separated but Han vows to return when he’s able to rustle up enough currency and a ship to make a new life for them both. In order to do that, he navigates the underworld and joins a group of rag-tag pirates lead by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) along with a wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). They have to pull off a daring mission for local crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) that will have grave repercussions for everyone if they fail.
When the original directing duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller left the project due to ‘creative differences’ a safe pair of hands was called upon to steady the ship and handle some reshoots. Ron Howard is a safe director; he knows how to handle a film of this scale and ends up delivering a matinee movie that’s massively enjoyable to watch. It would have been nice to see what Lord and Miller’s interpretation was but given the upheaval, its remarkable that Solo: A Star Wars Story comes out as so enjoyable.
As an origin story it doesn’t scratch too deep and that’s a shame. Instead we have a linear adventure yarn that doesn’t offer many surprises but that does the basics exceptionally well. I was ok with that; others won’t be, so your enjoyment will squarely hinge on your expectations going into this movie. And on that note, seeing someone play Han Solo other than Harrison Ford is just plain weird. But I made my peace with this a long time ago, and acknowledging that no-one will ever top Ford’s performance does help you enjoy this film a lot more. That’s also not to disparage Alden Ehrenreich performance – he is actually really good as the charming rogue and does exceptionally well leading the film. He also never makes his performance an impression of Ford, which is welcome.
The cast are all great and work off the tireless effort Alden Ehrenreich puts in as Han. Emilia Clarke adds a nice air of grace to the cast, Donald Glover is a new fan-favourite for his portrayal of Lando Calrissian and the dynamic conjured up between Joonas Suotamo’s Chewbacca and Ehrenreich’s Han is the main reason the whole project works. Their dynamic is awesome and carries the responsibility of the film very well. Paul Bettany steals his scenes as Dryden Vos, a role that very nearly was completely CGI with Michael K. Williams voicing it before a scheduling conflict meant he couldn’t continue. Bettany in psycho mode is always worth your time and money and he’s great here, bouncing off the walls with conviction and menace.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a very entertaining summer blockbuster that evokes just the right kind of nostalgia for this franchise. After the bitter taste left by the backlash of The Last Jedi, it’s nice to go into a Star Wars universe film that’s purely focused on delivering a fun ride whilst setting up a sequel or two that would be very welcome. It has issues, it doesn’t really delve into Han’s back-story enough and the plot does run with convention a few too many times but on the whole this is a very satisfying ride. And it’s worth the admission price alone for one massive moment towards the very end that will get you on your feet cheering.
IMAX is also the best way to experience the magic in a cinema. The clarity and scale of the IMAX presentation really lends itself perfectly to a film like Solo: A Star Wars Story. It’s vibrant and energetic and makes every scene pop onscreen, especially the breathtaking finale that features the Millennium Falcon. Check out all the trailers, posters and clips from Solo: A Star Wars Story and 10 fun facts about Alden Ehrenreich.
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Paul Bettany, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt Director: Ron Howard Writer: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan Released By: Lucasfilm/Disney Certificate: 12A Duration: 135 mins Release Date: 24th May 2018