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Solo: A Star Wars Story (dir. Howard)

Image: Alden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo in Solo: A Star Wars Story © Photograph by Jonathan Olley. Property of LucasFilm Ltd [Source: IMDB]

 ★★☆☆☆

Years before the original ragtag crew of Luke, Leia, Chewie and Han came together. Find the beginnings of what made Han Solo the scoundrel smuggler he became. Delving into the criminal underworld, discover how Han got his signature style, his trusty companion and his longtime friend Lando Calrissian.

Director: Ron Howard. Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany [12A]

Solo is a film that seemed cursed before the public had even a chance to see it. Production problems and shifting directors did not bode well for Han Solo’s origin story. Rumours of Ehrenreichs’ miss casting didn’t help settle the minds of fans either. Surprisingly, however, Howard has seemingly done the impossible and made a decent film of the mess handed to him.

Ehrenreich also surprises with a great performance as the soon to be smuggler. Copying and imitating Harrison Ford to such a degree that lines seem to roll off the tongue of Ford himself. To which Donald Glover also does a fine job of imitating Billy Dee Williams. Offering a younger, playful and still utterly charming Lando Calrissian. It’s a film packed full of charismatic performances, sticking to what we know and love about this world and these characters. But it’s a tactic born of the mixed responses to The Last Jedi’s bold approach and the results do very little favours for Solo.

Foremost in this safe, bubble wrapped outing is the lack of a creative spark. In many respects, this could have been any sci-fi franchise’s film. This just happens to have the Star Wars logo slapped on. Generic plotting most evident in Han’s beginnings. With some comic moments aside – Han Solo is your typical started from nothing, miraculously working his way up hero. Expectations for a look into the seedy underbelly of the criminal world should be left at home. With few moments of rich storytelling, a particular highlight being where Han started and his meeting of Chewbacca – Solo is a stale story with limited attempt at adding depth to the smuggler. Banal narrative choice not necessarily a bad thing but for a character we already presumed this for, coupled with rather worn out action set pieces. Solo reiterates to its audience that it is unneeded. Brushing over character development and interesting narrative points as though it wants the film to finish as soon as possible and with as little interesting exchanges as it can. We miss out on any sort of dynamic back and forth between Han, Lando, or Chewie. The characters, the scene structures and the narrative is met with a nondescript mode of address.

Solo on its own offers very little. There is some fun to be had seeing the adventures and near death escapes of the smuggler but Solo forgets that without more of a reason for seeing Han’s origins than ‘wouldn’t this be fun’ leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of fans. Enhancing nothing about Han Solo, Lando Calrissian or Chewbacca. It feels hollow as a generic heist movie with none of the stylings. Solo is a flat, lacklustre money grab. But while on its own it does very little, it is evident that there are plans to expand into more movies, widening the story and hopefully the characters.

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