In theaters from director Ron Howard and Walt Disney Studios is the story of a scruffy-looking nerf-herder in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
On Coreillia, a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is trying to get away from the miserable and abusive life on the planet. Wanting to bring the girl who has his heart, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), he devises a plan that will test his piloting skills. Mere steps from the transport that will take them away, they are spotted, and Qi’ra pushes Han to leave without her. Pledging that he will return for her, there is only one thing he can do to make that happen — he immediately joins the Imperial Navy, which gives him the name Han Solo.
Several years go by and Han still is having a difficult time. Kicked out of the Imperial Flight Academy, he ends up on Mimban fighting in a battle as an infantryman. That’s when Han notices Imperial Officer Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton), and follows him to discover that he is actually an imposter — but not before Tobias has him arrested and thrown in a pit where he meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo).
Managing to escape from prison, Han and Chewbacca make their way back to Tobias, who sees potential and brings them aboard his ship. Getting help with his next job, Han learns that the leader of the Crimson Dawn, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), is expecting a shipment of something called coaxium and Tobias is going after it. The problem is there is someone else interested in doing the same thing, which puts Tobias, Han and Chewbacca in danger.
The meeting with Vos is not something Tobias is looking forward to, but Han is shocked to see Qi’ra there all grown up as Vos’ right-hand woman. Feeling that their lives are in danger, it is Han who says that they can steal unprocessed coaxium from the mines on Kessel. Agreeing to the plan, Vos sends Qi’ra with them, and she locates smugger Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). A game of poker brings them all aboard the Millennium Falcon to Kessel, and once they get their bounty they have little time to get the unstable coaxium back to Vos.
But there is also the Cloud Riders, led by Enftys Nest, as the group learns that they are only trying to make a difference by aiding the rebellion against the Empire. When they arrive to deliver to Vos, he informs them that he knows what they’ve been doing and how he knows shocks Han and Chewbacca. Now Han must deal with the traitor, save a friend and make things right for the Cloud Riders — and he will definitely make sure all scores are settled.
Ehrenreich does a fine job as the young Solo. He has the look of someone who doesn’t take orders well and isn’t about to be told what to do — that’s important. He throws out the arrogant confidence and silly charm that I’d expect from Han Solo. That being said, there is something not quite right — oh yes, it isn’t Harrison Ford. Look, I get that it’s hard to walk in on a role that has been made iconic by another actor, in fact I give Ehrenreich props for doing it, but I can’t make the leap in years between this young Han and the Han of 1976.
Clarke as Qi’ra is another character that I’m afraid will end up with its own film (gawd, please don’t). Kind of broke my heart a little that Leia wasn’t Han’s first love, but the more I got to know Qi’ra the less I worried about her. The chemistry between Clarke and Ehrenreich is good. Glover as Calrissian gave a charmer performance, and he gave the character swagger and capes. His robot counterpart was far funnier and more interesting to watch, however.
Harrelson as Beckett is a smuggler who is going to go with whomever is going to pay him the most. Being a traitor seemed to come naturally to this character, and Harrelson gives it his smirk and calmness that ends up being some of the trademarks found in Han. Newton as Val has a small role that works with Beckett and is the smuggler with a heart.
Bettany as Vos is a bad guy who doesn’t give one wit of care who knows it or what anyone else thinks of it. In fact, he only answers to one person (sorry, no spoiler for you!), so how he handles situations goes easily unchecked.
Big shout out to Suotamo as Chewbacca because I think this is the first film that I’ve seen him in where he’s “talked” so much! It must be said that seeing him on the Millenium Falcon was uber cool.
Other cast include Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37, Jon Favreau as Rio Durant, Linda Hunt as Lady Proxima, Ian Kenny as Rebolt, John Tui as Korso and Warwick Davis as Weazel.
Now that I’ve given you background, let’s get right to it, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is just that and nothing more — a story. There isn’t anything in this film that makes me thrilled and may answer only one question that I hadn’t thought to ask. The rest is what I call “Star Wars” noise, and that’s about it. There were laughs, action and plenty of symbolism and nods to the original “Star Wars,” and there isn’t anything wrong with that.
I guess my problem is I wanted something more, something unexpected, something — something! It’s hard to explain it unless you can have a conversation with the 1976 version of me. I think the fact that Han is gone, Luke is gone and Leia is really gone, it is hard for me to care about this film because I never really needed to know the backstory of characters. I trusted who they were from the beginning and was happy with that.
Now, “Rogue One” was cool because it didn’t involve the main three characters, but instead the story of how R2-D2 got the Death Star plans. That took me in a direction that was where I wanted to go, “Solo” just really doesn’t do that. I mean, I go for the ride but I’m happy when it’s over.
This is another difficult “Star Wars” review to write because I am an original die-hard fan. Yes, I stood in line every Saturday for months to go for the ride, and I didn’t need any urging. That’s what I want from anyone who dares to take on the task of making these “A Star Wars Story” films, and we all know there are more on the horizon (deep sigh).
I think I also feel a bit like someone is treading on my memories, on my love of the galaxy far, far away. I didn’t embrace these characters but instead wanted to offer them a cup of blue milk in a traveler cup and send them on their way.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” isn’t bad, it’s filled with a lot that fans love, and that is going to have to be enough.
In the end — never tell him the odds!