Editor’s Note: There are major spoilers on this review. If you haven’t watched “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, you might want to skip reading.
If the rebel insurgents who stole the blueprints of the Death Star get to have their own spinoff movie, then it makes a whole lot of sense for such an iconic character as Han Solo to get his own standalone film as well. The thing is, Harrison Ford has already been deeply embedded in the character, the same way Hugh Jackman will always be Wolverine, or how no one else can play Harry Potter as ably and charmingly than how Daniel Radcliffe had portrayed the character. Despite this challenging prospect, director Ron Howard is able to make “Solo: A Star Wars Story” work, turning it into a “space-western” adventure that much anchors on Star Wars nostalgia and does not let up.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” takes us back to many years before Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) meets Luke and Leia. Han worked as a street scalawag for the cruel Lady Proxima (Linda Hunt) in the streets of Corellia, along with his childhood friend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). Determined to become a pilot, Han comes up with a plan to escape. However, his plan goes awry and Qi’ra gets left behind. Han finds himself at the criminal coterie of Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who lets him in on a heist that will supposedly enable him to get his own ship and rescue Qi’ra from Lady Proxima’s slavery.
A huge chunk of the enjoyment in the film comes from its effective use of nostalgia, primarily directed towards casual and hard-core “Star Wars” fans. It’s entertaining because it’s reflective, and it’s fun to see how it fills the missing pieces from the main series, like how Han was able to make the Kessel run in “less than 12 parsecs”, and how Chewbacca became his co-pilot and confidante, and even what are, hand-scratching as the may seem, the origins of his last name, Solo.
However, if you’re hoping for a story that sheds some light on how Han Solo became the roguish yet charming scoundrel we know him to be, you might want to manage your expectations a little. This film doesn’t really add any more depth to Han, and the younger version that we see in this movie is pretty much just a replication of the Harrison Ford’s portrayal. Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo is already wild and adventurous from the start, albeit less charismatic. He’s no Ford, basically.
Beyond Ehrenreich, it’s actually the rest of the cast that makes “Solo” supremely watchable. Donald Glover is deviously charming as the smuggler Lando Calrissian, while Emilia Clarke presents a likeable yet equally suspicious Qi’ra. Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett is the same magnetic persona to be expected behind a Woody Harrelson performance, and Paul Bettany is amply intimidating as the crime lord Dryden Vos, although I wish that he had given more screen time to work his magic on the character.
Interestingly, despite the impression that it’s a standalone film, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” teases a possible sequel. Several loose ends dangle by the end, like the real score between Han and Qi’ra, and how Qi’ra (SPOILER) ends up conspiring with Darth Maul (played by Ray Park, and voiced by Sam Witwer). Han also refers to a “bigshot gangster”, which sounds a whole lot like the disgusting slug, Jabba the Hutt.
A few bumps notwithstanding, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a fun ride. It doesn’t expand the “Star Wars” universe any further, but you would be leaving the cinema with a smile on your face knowing a bit more about the saga.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
2018 / Action, Adventure, Science Fiction / US
Direction: Ron Howard
Screenplay: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Donald Glover
During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.