Coming off the back of the most widely publicized production problems in cinema history since Alien 3, not to mention being released a mere 5 months after the most polarizing Star Wars entry to date, it would seem the Han Solo movie has it all to do. A lack of enthusiasm in the choice of character used, mass debate concerning the lead actor chosen and the frankly ludicrous “boycott solo” movement can’t of helped.
Other movies with barely half as much pressure crumbled twice as fast (remember Jumper, or Supernova? Didn’t think so.), can any movie, even one with the Star Wars brand attached to it, handle the strain?
Well, fittingly enough, someone took Han Solo’s advice and never told him the odds, because Ron Howard’s salvage attempt has yielded a breezy, swaggering, fun time of a movie, and while it may not be perfect, it’s definitely is no stain on a galaxy far, far away.
A young street rat on the grimy, industrial planet of Corellia, Han and his young love (a thankfully okay Emelia Clark) aim to nail a decent score to leave their Oliver Twist-like lives (complete with a giant tapeworm/Fagin character) and explore the universe. Only Han succeeds and ends up fighting for the galactic Empire instead. It’s here he starts accumulating the companions and character quirks needed for him to eventually become the loveable scoundrel we meet propping up a booth in the cantina and shooting green aliens in various different order depending on the edit.
Shorn free of any need to focus on the usual “the universe is at stake” plots a film with Wars in the title usually needs, Solo flies free and clear in it’s own little universe, the Empire is present, sure, but it’s only a back drop to the grimy nooks and crannies where Han’s path takes him.
The story is basic criminal heist material with the usual cold blooded villains and occasional double crosses or deaths that, to be honest, you kinda see coming a mile off, but it’s a smoother, more consistent ride than Rogue One (although nothing here touches Rogue’s final bombastic 40 minutes) with characters you instantly take to too.
Alden Ehrenreich may not have a spot on Harrison Ford impersonation down, but you sure as Hell believe him as Han Solo and his budding bromance with his hairy life mate Chewbacca is an utter joy to behold. Similarly awesome is Donald Glover’s Lando 0.5, a silken smooth, cape obsessed con artist who’s very presence demands (and is getting) his own spin off movie. New faces impact with varying degrees of success, Jon Faverau’s CGI co-pilot is disposable, Paul Bettaney’s scarred villain is crisp and effective and new droid character L3 steals scenes left, right and centre but doesn’t feel a million miles from Rogue One’s similarly snarky K-2SO but Woody Harrelson is a steady hand as Solo’s mentor.
In fact I found watching Solo an oddly soothing experience, like I’d almost already seen it before but in a good way.
It doesn’t offer a huge amount in innovation (apart from a crazy, last minute, bring-the-house-down cameo that opens the whole universe up, Marvel style) but it sure is fun as taking the Falcon for a spin.