Solo: A Star Wars Story (12a)
Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson
Running Time 135 mins
During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters LandoCalrissian years before joining the Rebellion.
With original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller leaving the film midway through filming, citing the oft-heard “creative differences”, rumours that up to 80% of Solo: A Star Wars Story was to be reshot under new director Ron Howard, along with an acting coach needed for Alden Ehrenreich, Michael K Williams being recast with Paul Bettany and an underwhelming trailer that forebodingly featured a literal train wreck, Solo: A Star Wars Story seems destined to be this year’s Fantastic 4.
But is it?
Setting the story well before Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope means the narrative isn’t hamstrung by trying to get from point A to B before the credits roll. While I did enjoy Rogue One, I felt it was missing something quintessentially Star Wars, a criticism that has also been levelled at The Last Jedi, but here, Solo feels like it truly belongs in the Star Wars universe, with a Young Guns in space vibe to it.
Faced with an impossible task of trying to replace one of the most beloved movie characters of all time, played by one of the biggest stars of all time, Ehrenreich was up against it from the start (don’t tell him the odds) but he proves himself a more than capable Solo; he wisely never tries to do a Harrison Ford impression but rather captures the cocky flyboy with an unwelcome conscience swagger of the character to a tee.
Surprisingly, it is Donald Glover, whose casting I was most excited about, who tries to do an impression of his character’s predecessor. His Lando impersonation, while spot, feels like a missed opportunity for one of the biggest talents in the world to put a stamp on the character and make it his own. Paul Bettany brings a glorious menace as the movie’s villain and Woody Harrelson is as perfect as you expect Woody Harrelson to be.
Special mention to JoonasSuotamo who seems to be having a blast playing Chewie (check out his twitter) – he gives the Wookie a real sense of character and purpose as opposed to a “walking carpet” sidekick.
However, the real star of the film is Director Ron Howard.
Having been brought in as the ‘safe pair of hands’ to try and salvage a ship seemed destined to sink, he delivers far more than I had expected.
Han and Chewie’s relationship feels earned and will enhance any viewings of the original trilogy, Howard handles the nods to the iconic moments in their history with grace and nothing is ham-fistedly thrown in, references to other avenues of Star Wars cannon feel like they serve the story as opposed to moments of fan service.
There are, of course, a few moments that don’t land: L3-37 feels like a re-tread of Rogue One’s K-2SO but without the charm and one or two characters feel like they are roll-overs from the Lord and Miller version.
But overall, Solo: A Star Wars Story manages to beat the odds (3,720 to 1) and deliver an exciting, entertaining and, above all, fun movie.
4 out of 5