Solo: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence
2 hr. 15 min.
Full disclosure here: I don’t go into these reviews cold. I do my homework, seek word of mouth, sift through opinions, get a read on the story synopsis and then see a film for myself. Taking on an examination of Solo: A Star Wars Story was no different. I came away asking myself, did some of these people see the same film I did?
I’d imagine that those who steep themselves deeply in the Star Wars franchise become jaded. Only the spectacular and astonishing would rouse them from their torpor, regarding what is fitting for anything Star Wars-related and what is not.
After 41 years, it’s about time we got more than ruminations about what made Han Solo a grizzled, sardonic rogue turned hero. At the outset, controversy dogged this project. Renowned director Ron Howard took over the reins from Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (The Lego Movie). Howard interpreted the script by father-and-son team Lawrence and Jonathon Kasdan differently than Miller and Lord might have. This may have been key for those who thought the film could have gone farther than it does.
Han’s story breaks out on Corellia, a shipbuilding planet that’s a scene of poverty and decay that almost defies description. Freaky beings and criminals abound, space vehicles rev and spin out of control — kind of a Fast and Furious in space.
Lovers Han (a game Alden Ehrenreich) and Qi’ra (Game of Thrones’ Dragon Queen, Emilia Clarke) try to escape the planet with a stash of hyper-fuel. Only Han gets out, but he vows to return to the fetid Corellia and free Qi’ra. He joins the Empire to become a flier, but winds up grinding out interstellar war on the ground. There, Han meets dodgy characters Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton). When he’s outed as a deserter and tossed into a mudhole, Han comes upon the giant Wookiee, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). Ah, the matted fur of Chewie, desperately in need of shampoo and conditioner. (Does his planet have flea infestations?) Ehrenreich is not Harrison Ford, but when you see Chewie, you know you’re at a Star Wars movie as surely as when you hear John Williams’ theme music.
Beckett and Val are out to steal a motherlode of the aforementioned hyper-fuel, coaxium, for a crime overlord, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). When things go awry, they talk the evil Vos into giving them another chance. That leads them to Capt. Lando Calrissian, Atlanta’s Donald Glover. His young Lando is crafty and suave. Billy Dee Williams should be proud.
The tricky part of any prequel or sequel, especially those that come decades after the original, is to keep the energy, the groove and the tone of what made the film and its characters special in the first place. We learned with Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace that the hordes of devotees to this 41-year phenomenon will turn out in droves but complain about those responsible if the film doesn’t hit all the marks. They need not worry. Solo has humor, surprises and sensational computer-generated effects. Please see it in flesh-grazing 3-D!
Some of the new characters, like Lando’s droid L3-37, voiced by a brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge, bring even more life and wit to an exhilarating story. No, we’ll never find out if it takes a 10-pound bag of Purina to feed a hungry Wookiee, or other questions that may plague the hardcore aficionado. Just open your eyes, pretend you’re seeing Star Wars for the first time, and enjoy this Wild West ride through a galaxy far, far away.