Movie review: This ‘Star Wars’ stand-alone doesn’t quite make it through hyperspace
It’s the same galaxy that’s far, far away, but the tale told here happened a longer time ago than we’ve experienced before. It’s an origin story, about Han Solo as a young man — Han Solo, the fast-talking survivor of lawless times, the fellow who gets by via working illicit deals in the street and running away from the bad guys, the upstart who just wishes he could be a pilot.
It’s also about how Han (Alden Ehrenreich) got his last name, first met up with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and how — though even casual “Star Wars” fans will already know this — he became the owner of the Millennium Falcon.
Han is both a good guy and a troublemaker. He’s got a hot girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), but that dream of flying a ship of his own is getting in the way of everything. Some “lifestyle changes” lead him to doing some military duty in, of all places, the Imperial Army. But his unruly behavior puts him on the path to still more strife, and at one point his captors are told by their commander, “Feed him to the beast!”
It’s a good thing for Mr. Solo that he speaks a little Wookiee, as that “beast” answers to the name Chewbacca, and those two have been buddies since this series began four decades ago. But there’s much more to this than finding out how “Star Wars” regulars met other “Star Wars” regulars. We also get a look at the relationship between Solo and a shady army man named Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who Han believes is less of a soldier and more of a scam artist (kind of like himself), and who has a right-hand woman and love interest called Val (Thandie Newton).
HERE’S A ONE-SENTENCE SPOILER THAT’S ACTUALLY OK TO READ: Solo is right about Beckett, who works for the nasty and vicious Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) who, as is the case with so many villains, also works for someone.
And even though Qi’ra vanishes for a while, it won’t surprise anyone that she returns. Come on, she’s played by Daenerys Targaryen; did you think this would be a walk-on part?
What we get here is big, fast action accompanied by a loud, symphonic soundtrack (by John Powell, who contributes some original music and adapts some of John Williams’ familiar work). There will be no mistaking that this is a part of the “Star Wars” family. But even though it achieves some greatness, as in a terrifically edited train heist in a mountain setting, and in the dashing, swagger-filled performance of Lando Calrissian by Donald Glover, there’s also something of a cookie cutter feel to it. A lot of holes in the “Star Wars” legend are filled in, but there’s very little sense of surprise. The vast, complicated story is satisfying, but the writing, by Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan (Lawrence wrote Episodes V and VI, as well as “The Force Awakens”; Jonathan is a newcomer.) is simplistic and, in some moments weak.
The most unconvincing parts are pieces of dialogue in some of the one-on-one scenes, which seem more scripted than real. And while the film gets a big boost in plotting and storytelling in the final half-hour, it kind of loses control, then goes far beyond any believability.
There’s good news and bad news in the way Ehrenreich (“Beautiful Creatures”) presents Han Solo. Wisely, he doesn’t even give a hint of an attempt at channeling Harrison Ford. But though his Solo is good-humored, likable, and easy with a smile, he’s a little too deliberate in his line delivery. Translated: You can see him acting.
But, you know, it’s a “Star Wars” movie. “Star Wars” movies are always going to make money. This one just might not have as many repeat viewers as usual.
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at email@example.com.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
Written by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan; directed by Ron Howard
With Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo, Donald Glover