Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second spin-off from the Star Wars world after 2016’s Rogue One. An ambitious yet obvious choice given how popular Harrison Ford’s smuggler turned resistance hero remains 41 years after we first met him.
The rather daunting job of playing the young Han Solo falls on the shoulders of Alden Ehrenreich. The big question is, does he do this iconic part justice? He certainly does, but the film fails to live up to its promise.
We meet Han as a “scrumrat” desperately trying to escape the slums of Corellia and fulfil his dream of becoming a pilot. He falls in with Woody Harrelson’s Beckett and his gang of smugglers tasked with retrieving some Coaxium, an explosive chemical, for evil Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany. The seedy criminal underworld is explored and we go planet hopping in a whistle-stop tour of the galaxy far far away.
Director Ron Howard creates some nice moments such as the origin of Han’s name, the beginning of his bromance with Chewbacca and his first meeting with the Millennium Falcon. We even get to see how Han managed to finish the Kessel run in 12 parsecs, but overall the film feels slightly disjointed and rushed even in its overlong run time of two hours fifteen minutes.
Woody Harrelson is always good value, Paul Bettany’s character lacks the menace required for a memorable baddie, Emilia Clarke doesn’t have a great deal to do and is the least interesting of the supporting ensemble, however Donald Glover is inspired casting as swaggering gambler Lando Calrissian and he deserved more screen time.
A Star Wars film isn’t a Star Wars film without a droid and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37 doesn’t have the charm or the wit to rival the beloved R2-D2, C-3P0 or BB-8, but thankfully she isn’t in it for too long.
The film’s saving grace is the excellent turn by Ehrenreich as he successfully manages to capture the essence of the character, with his arrogance falling foul to naivety as he learns some harsh lessons in love, trust and friendship. With a twinkle in his eye and a cocksure smile he also introduces some of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo mannerisms into his winning performance as he discovers that travelling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops.
There are some exciting set-pieces including the Kessel run, a monorail heist, knowing what’s to come in a card game between Han and Lando and another highlight was seeing a character from the previous films introduced and he, yes he, will no doubt feature heavily in the inevitable sequel.
Solo: A Star Wars Story could’ve been brilliant, but instead it’s only good.