Action Adventure

Review: The Fun is Strong, but the Stakes are Low with ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

May 23, 2018Ben MK

We all know how Han Solo's story ends, but in Solo: A Star Wars Story, we finally get to learn how the galaxy's most charming rogue came to team up with a Wookiee named Chewbacca, and how he came to be the proud owner of an underrated little ship called the Millennium Falcon.

Starring Alden Ehrenreich as a younger, slightly rougher-around-the-edges version of the character first made famous by Harrison Ford in 1977, Solo introduces the legendary smuggler at a time in his life before he ever thought to utter the words "Death" and "Star" in the same sentence. Instead, as the film's opening carefully informs us, this is a time when crime syndicates are everywhere, and when everyone has just one thing on their minds — hyperfuel, the highly explosive, not to mention highly valuable, stuff on which the galaxy runs.

It's on the ship-building planet of Corellia that we meet Han, a runaway lured into a life of indentured servitude by a worm-like, light-sensitive alien creature named Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt), who attempts to make a daring escape with the aid of a souped-up landspeeder that looks suspiciously like a modified 1960s-era Ford Falcon, his girlfriend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) in the passenger seat. But when Han makes it out while Qi'ra doesn't, he vows to come back for her, enlisting with the Galactic Empire in order to fulfill his dreams of becoming a pilot.

Three years later and no closer to achieving either of those two goals, Han finds himself a lowly Imperial Mudtrooper on the planet Mimban, where he crosses paths with a pirate named Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew, Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio (voiced by Jon Favreau). It's also around this point that Han is charged with being a deserter, which then leads to him being thrown into a muddy dungeon, where the hitherto unknown beast that dwells within happens to be none other than Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) himself.

For better or for worse, director Ron Howard indulges viewers in a lot more of this path-crossing before it's time for the end credits to roll, as Han, Chewie, Beckett, Val and Rio embark on a mission to liberate a train of its payload of hyperfuel, leading to a skirmish with the cool-looking and mysterious Enfys Nest. This, in turn, brings Qi'ra back into Han's life, before the final pieces of the puzzle (Donald Glover's Lando Calrissian, his co-pilot, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's L3-37, and Paul Bettany's villainous Dryden Vos) fall into place.

By the end of it all, it's hard not to feel as if screenwriters Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan are being a little too obvious with their attempt to build a narrative around the bullet points of Han Solo's backstory. Still, if fleshing out the backstory of one of pop culture's most iconic characters is a priority, you could do a lot worse than Solo, which also delivers plenty of fun moments, the highlights being the interactions between Lando and L3-37, as well as a climax that involves the infamous Kessel run that the older Han is so fond of bragging about.

That said, Solo just doesn't feel as integral as it should. However, one might argue that's the whole point of these non-episodic entries in the first place. Like Rogue One before it, this is a movie that answers the sort of questions that might keep hardcore Star Wars fans up at night. But unlike Rogue One, Solo sets its stakes considerably lower, which has the unintended effect of making this Star Wars Story appear content with flying at cruising speed, when it ought to be jamming on the throttle and blasting off into hyperspace.

Solo: A Star Wars Story releases May 25th, 2018 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 15 min.

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