Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG)
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clark, Woody Harrelson
Directed by Ron Howard
Is it possible to be entertained by a movie that has a lot of action but isn’t very exciting? Definitely. Solo, the second Star Wars standalone story, following 2016’s Rogue One, is one such example. The movie, about the pre-Rebel Alliance days of iconic space pirate Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich in a role made famous by Harrison Ford), is directed by Ron Howard, who inherited the gig after original helmers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie) were fired mid-shoot. Howard is a safe and predictable choice and it shows: at times the movie wants to be playful and reckless but is too afraid to draw out of the box. It’s an okay Star Wars movie, though not a very satisfying one. Here’s what’s best — and worst — about Solo.
It isn’t particularly rousing, though. One of the set-pieces, a train heist, while highly imaginative is also strangely inert; it’s a spectacle without the sizzle. The fateful first meeting of Solo and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) is frustratingly underwhelming, while the moment when Solo is handed his soon-to-be signature blaster pistol by his outlaw mentor (Woody Harrelson, reliable as usual) is a little understated. Elsewhere, Han’s relationship with childhood love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is kinda lukewarm. Most of the time, instead of a ‘whoa’ reaction, you’d most likely go, ‘That’s it?’
We need to talk about Alden!
As young Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich has some big shoes to fill. And it’s pretty obvious — in some scenes, he’s affable, others awkward. Is he channelling or mimicking Harrison Ford? Hard to say. He’s work in progress. That said, Ehrenreich was original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s choice to play the Corellian scoundrel, but the duo got fired ’cos the producers didn’t approve of their comedic take on the material. Had Ron Howard (or any other director) restarted Solo from scratch, would Ehrenreich still be the chosen one? Discuss.
Donald Glover is the MVP!
As Solo’s frenemy Lando Calrissian, the original owner of the Millennium Falcon, the Atlanta star lights up every scene he’s in with his easy charm and colourful wardrobe. While Solo has Chewbacca as his partner-in-crime, Lando has L3-37 (performed by Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge via motion capture), an eccentric droid assistant with whom he has an unusual relationship. It’s a pity that Howard didn’t turn Solo around during the reshoots and rename it, Lando: A Star Wars Story. That’ll work too. Han who?
It’s no Rogue One!
The Felicity Jones-led Rogue One resonates because its stakes are high: it’s about a suicide mission which no one makes it out alive. The stakes in Solo aren’t as high and the whole reason for its existence is to serve as a warm-up for the inevitable sequels (a cameo by a fan-favourite villain hints that he’ll play a big part in the future). That’s the trouble with origin stories: it’s always about the build-up. Meanwhile, if you really want to see how a Han Solo movie should be, check out Joss Whedon’s Serenity. (**1/2)
Main photo: Lucasfilm/Disney