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Dan's Review: "Solo" not your typical Star Wars Story

May 16, 2018 07:32PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Alden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo in Solo: A Star Wars Story - © 2018 Disney/Lucasfilm.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (voice), Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau (voice), Linda Hunt (voice), Jonathan Kasdan, Toby Hefferman, Ian Kenny, Clint Howard, Anthony Daniels, and Warwick Davis.

Written by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, based on characters by George Lucas.

Directed by Ron Howard.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW:

Scoundrels aren’t born, they are made. Getting to the backstory of (arguably) the most popular Star Wars character from that galaxy far, far away is the challenge of Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, and it’s a tough task, to say the least. Part of the problem (for those who do not study fan novelizations and SW “canon” with all the religious fervor of a cult zealot) is the inevitability of “ruining” other possible backstories for Han Solo, whether written or imagined. But, Disney’s gotta Disney, and no one controlling the mouse ears is gonna overlook any chance to squeeze another pile of cash from their prized Star Wars cow.

Alden Ehrenreich plays the young Han, a desperate mine factory worker trying to get himself and his girlfriend Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke) off the squalid planet Corellia by any means necessary (it’s the planet for building spaceships, including a certain type of freighter). During a daring escape attempt, Han and Qi’ra become separated, and he is forced to join the Empire army, in hopes of becoming a pilot, while she is left to climb the social ladders of crime syndicates. After washing out of pilot training, Han finds himself an infantryman in the middle of a bloody war. He meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), a smuggler posing as an imperial officer and eventually joins his smuggling crew. Joining Han is a Wookiee named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and they become fast friends (since Han speaks Wookiee and is the only person who can understand the hairy fella). Beckett’s crew also includes Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio Durrant (voiced by Jon Favreau). Their mission is to steal a shipment of valuable space fuel on behalf of the evil crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), whose chief lieutenant/salve is none other the Qi’ra. Things don’t go well on the mission, as Beckett and Han must report their failures to Dryden. In a desperate attempt to make things right, the smugglers propose an even bigger heist with greater risks. Qi’ra joins them and helps obtain the perfect ship from a notorious scoundrel named Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). With the help of his sidekick L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a droid with social justice tendencies, Lando pilots his Millennium Falcon to their destination, which follows the notorious “Kessel Run,” a challenging path through space that ends on a planet where the space fuel is harvested in raw form. If everything goes right, the team should be able to get the fuel back to Dryden and walk away richer than they’d ever imagine. Of course, the odds are always against anything to do with Han Solo, so all kinds of chaos ensue, including several twists and betrayals, right up to the point where the team meets with Dryden – and their destinies.

Solo is not your typical Star Wars story. Many have compared it to a 20th century western, but I think it has more elements of an old gangster film, complete with crime bosses, a beautiful mysterious love interest, betrayals, mysteries, not to mention a hero with scoundrel tendencies. Being an atypical Star Wars tale has its challenges – and its advantages. One conspicuous absence is the lack of “Force” mysticism. Solo is about a man who doesn’t believe in all that crap (yet), so there’s really no place for magic tricks and special powers that conveniently save our protagonists in their moments of desperation. Then again, the Force is an integral part of the SW universe, so some fans might take issue with it.

As for the main cast, Ehrenreich plays the part of a young Solo with perfect panache and mischievousness, while Glover perfectly captures the essence of Lando, complete with his penchant for flashy capes and irresistible charm. Harrelson’s role is little sketchier, while Emelia Clarke’s “troubled dame” function in the gangster drama is slightly ambiguous.

Ultimately, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a lot of fun and well worth seeing. Just don’t expect it to be like any other film in the SW universe.          


Solo: A Star Wars Story Trailer

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