♦ Tripwire’s editor-in-chief JOEL MEADOWS just saw Solo: A Star Wars Story, the second standalone Star Wars film, directed by Ron Howard…
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo, Donald Glover, Paul Bettany
Solo: A Star Wars Story is the fourth Star Wars film released since Disney bought Lucas’s creations and it has had a more checkered production history than its three recent predecessors. Originally Lego Movie helmers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were attached to direct it but they were let go last year and replaced with Ron Howard. Usually a change of director isn’t a good thing although it isn’t always a fatal blow for movies.
Solo: A Star Wars Story gives us the origin story of everyone’s favourite irascible rogue, played originally by Harrison Ford. Ehrenreich plays the twentysomething young rascal and we first meet him here involved in something dodgy on his home planet of Corellia with girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). Attempting to get off this vile hellhole after he gets separated from her, the orphan Solo joins the Imperial Navy where he meets criminal Tobias Beckett (Harrelson) and his gang which includes his lover Val (Thandie Newton) and it is during his time in the navy he first encounters that walking carpet, Chewbacca (played here as he has been the last few years by Joonas Suotama). Solo finds himself involved in a number of criminal enterprises and at the heart of these is the monstrous Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) who uses Solo for his own ends. To complicate matters, Vos has a connection to a figure from Solo’s past. We are also introduced to young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), who is even more flamboyant and theatrical than Billie Dee Williams.
Solo: A Star Wars Story does have a huge cockpit to fill as a film. It is a thankless task to fill in the backstory of a much-loved figure and so the question here is: does it work?
The answer is yes mostly it does. Casting Ehrenreich, who was very good in the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, was an inspired choice as he succeeds in channeling Harrison Ford without merely offering a weak impression of him. Harrelson is a decent foil for him as the very questionable mentor for the young pilot and there is good chemistry between Solo and Chewbacca here, pointing to a long and deep friendship. Even Bettany as criminal mastermind is suitably sinister on screen too. Glover inhabits the role of Calrissian with style and panache too even though arguably his role is an extended cameo here. You do get chills when Solo and Chewbacca take their spots in the Millennium Falcon. The biggest problem is Emilia Clarke. She does manage to get away with her shortcomings on Game of Thrones but in Solo, just like Terminator Genisys, Clarke just doesn’t cut it. There is no real chemistry between her and Ehrenreich and she is not remotely convincing as the femme fatale figure here.
Howard has created a fairly stylish Star Wars adventure that mostly works, with some very nice touches. Ehrenreich is very good as is Glover and the supporting cast do lift this above the pedestrian. The film fills the gaps in Solo’s earlier life with invention and imagination. But Clarke’s presence mars Solo, making it a less enjoyable exercise.
So Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fairly well-made Star Wars adventure, certainly nothing like the disaster it was feared it would be when Disney got rid of its original directors. But it isn’t without its flaws and so it loses a star. Fans of Star Wars will have a great time here but overall it is a frustrating film.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is out in UK cinemas from 24 May and in the US from 25 May