Solo: A Star Wars Story (12A)

SciFi (2018)
135mins US

Starring: Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Warwick Davis, Thandie Newton, Alden Ehrenreich, Paul Bettany, Emilia Clarke
Director: Ron Howard
Writer(s): Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Wise-cracking smuggler Han Solo and Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca frequently operate on the wrong side of galactic law. Han's mentor Tobias Beckett and childhood friend Qi'ra draw the lovable rogue into an action-packed adventure that leads to a charged meeting between Han and fellow smuggler Lando Calrissian, who is shadowed by his droid companion L3-37.

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LondonNet Film Review
Solo: A Star Wars Story (12A)

If Ryan Johnson's tour of duty with Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi propelled George Lucas's saga into a galaxy far, far away from the old-fashioned charm of the original trilogy, Solo: A Star Wars Story slingshots at lightspeed in the opposite direction. Scripted by Jonathan Kasdan and father Lawrence, co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, the second standalone anthology film after Rogue One sketches the formative years of the charismatic scoundrel Han Solo in comforting, broad strokes. Ron Howard captains the hulking ship after director duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were tossed into a sarlacc pit over 'creative differences' a few months into production. Behind-the-scenes turmoil hasn't manifested noticeably on screen...

Solo: A Star Wars Story. Copyright: 2018 Lucasfilm Ltd. Caption: Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard. Photo: Jonathan Olley. All Rights Reserved.Howard's gung-ho romp of double-crossing criminals is clinical, bookmarked by impressively staged set-pieces laden with pyrotechnics and special effects. Solo's name is emboldened in the title but he's the least interesting element and Alden Ehrenreich's performance falls short of the smouldering, rascally delights of Harrison Ford. Instead, London-born actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator of award-winning comedy Fleabag, shines brightest through the digitally rendered gloom as a rebellious droid, who is hard-wired to demand equal rights for her mechanised kin.

A nifty prologue set on the ship building planet Corellia illustrates the doomed romance of Han (Ehrenreich) and sweetheart Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke). Three years later, after a cute meeting with Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Han seeks a route back to Corellia by hijacking a consignment of crystal fuel coaxium with thief-for-hire Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his accomplices Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio (voiced by Jon Favreau). The heist doesn't unfold as planned and the deflated reprobates become indebted to Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. Thus, Han and Beckett reluctantly undertake a more dangerous assignment: to steal canisters of unrefined coaxium from Kessel. To accomplish this seemingly impossible feat, the thieves must wrest the Millennium Falcon from smuggler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and his deadpan droid L3-37 (Waller-Bridge).

Solo: A Star Wars Story looks and feels like a throwback to the original canon replete with visual nods to Han's lucky dice and the Dejarik holochess table. The series' mythology, which stretches decades into the future after this film concludes, severely limits the number of characters who can sustain serious injury. Consequently, there's scant dramatic tension despite the efforts of composer John Powell to riff noisily on John Williams's recognisable main theme.

A lean script provides a smattering of one-liners to underscore Han and Chewie's jocular banter and Glover has fun with his flirtatious chancer, who always deals himself a winning hand. "I've got a good feeling about this," grins Han as he sits in the captain's chair for the first time, a neat reversal of Luke Skywalker's famous line in Episode IV: A New Hope. I harboured similar feelings of quiet optimism for Howard's picture but like the mighty Millennium Falcon, when she emerges from the Kessel run, my expectations were badly dented.

- Jo Planter

Solo: A Star Wars Story. Copyright: 2018 Lucasfilm Ltd. Caption: Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard. Photo: Jonathan Olley. All Rights Reserved.

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