So what exactly was Han Solo doing when he was Luke Skywalker’s age?
As runaways on shipyard planet Corellia, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) are forced to steal under the thumb of Lady Proxima (voice of Linda Hunt). Attempting to escape together, only Han makes it, vowing to rescue Qi’ra as soon as he can. In the years that follow, Han meets his Wookie friend and eventual co-pilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and falls in with a crew of thieves led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) while still trying to acquire a ship of his own and make good on his promise. Fate has other plans, however, when Han discovers Qi’ra made it out of Corellia and is the employ of the villainous Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). As for finding a fast ship, there is one available — the Millennium Falcon — if they can talk a fashionable gambler named Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) into “borrowing it” for a bit.
Directed (ultimately) by Ron Howard (after a few mid-production directorial changes) from a script written by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan (whose writing credits include more Star Wars films than almost anyone else), here’s the summer film that no one asked for but Disney pushed onto everyone anyway. As one of the most-loved characters from the original trilogy — one viewers are still wincing about how things ended up — is it worth it to fans seeing a young and new Han Solo begin again in theaters?
Whether by luck or sheer force of will, Solo manages to walk the line between nostalgia and revelation that nicely fills in the details for throwaway lines throughout the original trilogy. Ehrenreich’s Solo is cocky and full of himself, both more ambitious and less naive than you’d think. While he may not be Harrison Ford, he does emulate the actor and the character of Han, and it doesn’t take long to accept him as a younger model. Finally, in all but the most dire of scenes, Solo himself acts like a ray of hope — never tell him the odds — running headlong into trouble with a familiar knowing smirk that informs him as a good guy among bad guys… even if not law-abiding.
The film doesn’t rely entirely upon Ehrenreich although he shoulders the title responsibility. The principal cast pulls their weight, from Emilia “Mother of Dragons” Clarke to Woody “Boston bartender” Harrelson. “Westworld’s” Thandie Newton as Val gets in over her head while droid L3-37 voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge fights for mech rights across the galaxy. Even Jon Favreau voices CGI character Rio Durant, showing more than a few crossovers from the Marvel Studios side of the Mouse House along with Paul Bettany. There are a few very good surprises throughout but nothing after the credits because that’s never been a Star Wars thing.
Rogue One, the first “Star Wars Story,” looked interesting while not advertising anyone fans already knew about — surprises notwithstanding — and did well enough. Solo, by comparison, was saddled with re-introducing beloved known characters, eliciting that “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” response. Still, it’s Star Wars, both familiar and new; we all knew was coming from Disney when they bought Lucasfilm. Word of mouth could do for Solo what early box office reviews may not — never tell Han the odds.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence and a room full of capes on the Falcon.
Three skull recommendation out of four