Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Joonas Suotamo

Written by: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan and (based on the characters created) George Lucas.

Running Time: 135 mins

Cert: 12A

Release date: 24th May 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second of the stand-alone movies in the ever-evolving universe. There is one thing that is surprising about this origins tale of the early days of Star Wars favourite Han Solo, is that it ever got made at all. Having the original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller left the project due to creative differences, it was up to Oscar winner Ron Howard to pick up the pieces, yet it has been widely reported that he reshot more than 80% of the movie.  For that, he must be applauded as you really cannot see the joins. The question that needs to be answered, however, is do we really need another Star Wars movie so soon after The Last Jedi?

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Han is a young man with big dreams: escaping the hell of a planet littered with crooks and thieves with the love of his life, Qi’ra and to be a pilot. When the two lovers are separated, Han joins the rebellion where he meets a gang of criminals, led by Beckett, who are planning to steal hyper fuel for the leader of an Empire band, Dryden Vos. When they cannot deliver, Dryden demands that Beckett, Han and Chewbacca, Han’s new friend, replace the fuel, with help from a smuggler, Lando Calrissian.

Set sometime before The Phantom Menace, when the Empire was forming, this is the tale of how Han met his buddy, Chewbacca, got his full name (in one of the most clunky scenes ever) and got his hands on the Millennium Falcon. All wrapped up in a cowboy/heist film. Unlike the other Star Wars films, which were about war and often took themselves seriously (sometimes far too seriously) the tone for this adventure is light and is more like a romp. This is one of the problems with the film. We have all regarded the saga to have light and shade throughout, with characters like Han bringing the light to otherwise dark situations. Here, the film is a little too tongue-in-cheek, as if it’s a parody of itself.

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Han Solo has always been the rogue, the one with the smart one-liners and the devil in his eye but the whole film doesn’t feel like an extension to the universe, more a way of appeasing the fans while they wait for the final part of the next segment. Unfortunately, this seems to have been released way too close to The Last Jedi and so you get this feeling that Disney and Lucas Films are churning them out too quickly, which could damage the franchise and people may see this as just a money making opportunity. Sadly, that thought sits in the back of your mind while watching it.

The action sequences are well executed. The heist on the train works well and brings an element of excitement to the proceedings but there are moments when the pace drops and the middle does feel a little baggy. The romance between Han and Qi’ra also feels more like an interruption than a plot device. On the plus side, the interaction between Han and Chewie is almost heart-warming and the performances from a very energetic cast manage to pull you through and makes it quite an entertaining experience.

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Alden Ehrenreich does a terrific job stepping into the giant shoes of Harrison Ford as Han, bringing that same boyish glint and sarcastic slant to each line. He seems to get better and more charming as the film goes on, maybe because you have got used to someone else playing such an iconic character. Woody Harrelson is always good value and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, she of the TV comedy, Fleabag, is funny as L3-37, Lando’s robotic partner. The real aces to this film are Donald Glover as the smooth, sharp-dressed Lando, who has an almost uncanny resemblance to Billy Dee Williams and who brings depth to the character that makes you want to see his story develop. Paul Bettany as the villainous Dryden Vos, steals the film from everyone with a confidence and approach to his character that makes you almost scream out, why wasn’t he in any other Sar Wars movie!

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Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t terrible. It’s hugely entertaining while you are watching. It has moments where you laugh-out-loud and you do enjoy spending time with these characters. The problem is you leave the cinema thinking, I had a good time but what was the point? If this was a new character and unconnected to Star Wars, it might be a reasonable adventure but we have come to expect something more from the series. Rogue One managed to make you feel satisfied but this is fun but flawed.

4/5

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