Non-Stop Fun Thrill Ride
Much of the fun and joy of watching a Star Wars movie these days comes not from discovering something new, but rather from revisiting everything old with a new set of eyes. Whether the original series of sequels and prequels or within the Star Wars Story ‘tweeners, we’re putting together an intergalactic puzzle of sorts, plugging in missing clues and reconciling bombshell revelations to bridge nostalgic gaps within the Star Wars canon. And along the way, we’re having a whole heck of a lot of fun.
The latest, Solo: A Star Wars Story, certainly plays into that idea with a non-stop thrill ride that is a certified blast from beginning to end. Any concerns about problems from the much-publicized falling out between original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie) and Lucasfilm can be shelved. Though certainly not perfect and even frequently hobbled by the occasional rough patch, it is undoubtedly one of the most lighthearted and fun-loving adventures in quite some time and perhaps even in the entire franchise. And as for those puzzle pieces? We can not only snap a few more pieces into place, but many new ones are thrown onto the table while we discover that, at least one old one was misplaced all along.
The tale being told in Solo: A Star Wars Story is a relatively simple one as we meet a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Amelia Clarke) as they are trying to get off the planet Corellia, where they’ve been repressed most of their lives in a pre-WW2-like world that seems to be slowly collapsing into a dangerous state of martial law. But as their escape plan begins to unfold, the two are accidentally separated with Han promising to one day return and rescue the love of his life.
Flash forward three years and Han, being the rascally rebel with a mile-long stubborn streak, is looking for that one big score that will allow him to buy a ship so he can return to retrieve Qi’ra. His shady dealings lead him into a nest of seemingly unsavory outlaws led by Tobias Beckett who is played wonderfully by Woody Harrelson. It is here where Han also meets Chewbacca who we know eventually becomes his life-long furry friend. Several moments shared between the two are genuinely heartfelt and just might bring a lump of nostalgia to the throat.
Han also crosses paths with Lando Calrissian (Dan Glover) who owns the Millennium Falcon and loves to play cards. Put that puzzle piece in its place! There’s been a lot of positive discussion across the web about Glover’s appearance in the film’s trailers and other footage. Well, the footage doesn’t lie. Glover very nearly steals the show as the wise-cracking space scoundrel with a soft spot for a flirtatious droid. Even at well over 2 hours, the film could have used more Glover. He’s that good here.
While it is a bit difficult to initially buy into Ehrenreich as Solo, he eventually wins us over with his smirky grin and whip-smart tongue. No, he’s not a bit like Harrison Ford and he’s certainly not better than him. But he does manage to make Han Solo his own while never betraying the character’s legacy.
The best news with Ron Howard having taken over in the director’s chair last year is that he didn’t screw it up. That’s not a knock on Howard as much as it is a huge sigh of relief that the behind-the-scenes turmoil appears to have had little effect on the film’s outcome. Sure, the story by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan is almost always predictable as we know where this is all going, but Howard keeps his galaxy-hopping heist film zipping along at a pace that never lets things get too stale. And it is quite humorous at times as well with Ehrenreich’s Solo playing wonderfully against Glover’s Calrissian. Their interplay is often the best thing in the film.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is chock full of heart-pounding action. And once the main chase/heist sequence gets up and running, it is a white-knuckled, 12-parsec ride to the surprising ending that can’t really be talked about here. But let’s just say that everything is brought together nicely with an over-the-shoulder glance to the past and rays of hope pointing to the future. Everyone involved is clearly having a good time, especially the story which sets itself up perfectly for a series of sequels that are certain to come. Have no fear, for this far, far away galaxy is still in great shape.
(Released by Walt Disney Pictures and rated “PG-13” for sci-fi action/violence.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.