Solo: a Star Wars Story
by Hope Madden and George Wolf
Are Han and Chewie your favorite characters from the Star Wars franchise? And if not, why not?
They were the cool kids in a galaxy of nerds, and if any single Star Wars offshoot deserves the edgy, thought-provoking, dare-we-even-say dangerous treatment, it’s the origin story of this duo.
And nothing spells danger more than director Ron Howard.
Actually, most everything does, but Howard does manage to steer Solo in satisfactory, though not quite thrilling, directions.
The film catches the scent of a young street rat, in love and in need of a ticket out of his home planet. Complications arise, friends are lost, found and lost again, there’s gambling, smuggling and risk-taking and a future legend finally getting his wings – plus a big, furry co-pilot.
Aldren Ehrenreich makes for a fine young Han. He mixes enough of Harrison Ford’s mannerisms (and the scar on his chin – nice touch) with an unvarnished naivete that suits the effort. He’s more than matched by Donald Glover, whose Lando is a smooooth amalgamation of Billy Dee Williams, youthful swagger and some sweet capes.
Fun new characters, including a rebellious droid who steals the show, round out a rag-tag group of misfits to root for. Woody Harrelson cuts exactly the right figure to be the mentor Han needs, while Paul Bettany’s brand of slippery villain (Josh Brolin busy?) offers an excellent foil.
Howard famously picked up the Solo mantle after executive producers canned Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the charming rogues behind The LEGO Movie, 21 Jump Street and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
He’s working from a script by the father and son team of Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan the Elder, of course, penned Force Awakens, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
All of which sounds perfectly calculated and terribly risk-free. And it is, but it’s also a lot of fun. The imagery (speeders, desolate planets, weapons, casinos) looks simultaneously retro and futuristic, beat up but cutting edge. And there are plenty of warm nods to Han and Chewie’s future that will bring a knowing smile while honoring our long investment in these characters.
So what’s missing? The rogue spirit that let Han steal scenes in A New Hope so easily.
It’s a film that takes no chances, which feels ill-at-ease with who Han is as a character. After a couple of installments in the Star Wars saga that were unafraid to make dangerous decisions, chart new courses and stir up the fanboys, this one just feels too safe.
Solo‘s got plenty of space, just not enough balls.