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Friday, May 25, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story Movie Review


Solo: A Star Wars Story is an exhilarating blockbuster that captures a lot of what made Star Wars great, with the worst you could say about it is that it's ultimately unneeded.

Alden Ehrenreich's got Han Solo's impish grin down pat as he swaggers and cons his way through the film much like how Harrison Ford did it back in the day. And while nothing beats the original, Ehrenreich's Han has the benefit of having the whole film to himself, which means he's got all the time in the world to endear himself to us with a youthful and energetic performance that's a passable Ford impersonation without bordering on creepy.

As this is Han Solo before "less than 12 parsecs" was a thing, his world is populated by "new" additions to Star Wars lore, at least where canon is concerned. Paul Bettany is so satisfying to watch as creepy villain Dryden Voss, a gangster whose razor-thin veneer of good manners barely hides a bloodthirsty streak.  Emilia Clarke as Han's love interest Qi'ra is as hard-edged and hard-to-read as her name, while Woody Harrelson pretty much plays himself as Tobias Beckett, Han's then-unknown mentor, both of whom shape young Han into the flyboy scoundrel we know today.

But here's the thing about Solo: A Star Wars Story: it answers the when's and the how's of Han's backstory well, but the why's never hit. We know Han met Chewbacca before the events of A New Hope. We know Han won the Millennium Falcon fair and square from Lando Calrissian (played by Donald Glover in my second favorite performance in the film). Anyone who doesn't know shouldn't have Solo as their first Star Wars movie. But the movie feels like a checklist of Han Solo facts, with Disney throwing stuff in and hoping it sticks. There's no pressing need to know why Han has a problem with authority, or why he believes only in himself and a good blaster by his side, and even if we did, Solo's insights aren't that interesting or deep, and we're left knowing the same Han Solo we've always known.

But as its own thing? Solo: A Star Wars Story is pure popcorn entertainment. Any Star Wars fan will let out an audible gasp with every callback and Easter egg, and it's got enough breakneck thrills and action that will have you leaving the cinema smiling and possibly considering a second viewing. But is it enough to justify making it? I guess the box office will tell.
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