Star Wars Solo: A Star Wars Story
dir Ron Howard
scr Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
prd Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanuel
with Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Paul Bettany, Joonas Suotamo, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt, Ian Kenny, John Tui, Warwick Davis
release US/UK 24.May.18
18/UK Lucasfilm 2h15
Solo: A Star Wars Story
A boy and his Wookie: Ehrenreich and Chewie

harrelson clarke glover

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Solo: A Star Wars Story There's a sense that this spin-off was assembled only to explain virtually every detail about the Han Solo character as depicted in the Star Wars saga. Each set-piece adds to the puzzle, while piling on witty references, echoes of familiar dialog and sight gags that refer back to earlier films. Thankfully it's also a lot of fun, and the characters are strong enough to make it gripping too.

Raised by a slave-trader (Hunt) on a crime-ridden planet, Han (Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi'ra (Clarke) have a bit of trouble when they try to escape. Han ends up training with the Empire before joining up with mercenaries Beckett, Val and Rio (Harrelson, Newton and Favreau) as they try to repay a debt to mob boss Dryden (Bettany). Along the way, Han meets Chewbacca (Suotamo) when the two team up to escape a sticky situation. He also reunites with Qi'ra and teams up with swaggering scoundrel Lando (Glover) and his sassy droid L3 (Waller-Bridge).

Director Howard maintains the Star Wars vibe, with grubby settings populated by eye-popping species. It's exciting but rarely very thrilling, expertly staged with seamless effects. It's also very funny, with snappy banter thrown back and forth between characters who don't quite trust each other but need to work together. So even if most of the plot's twists and turns are fairly obvious, it's amusing to watch the balance of power shift between the characters. And no one is just along for the ride.

Each role offers the actor something meaty, including those who disappear for one reason or another. Ehrenreich is likeably arrogant and freewheeling, constantly striking familiar poses. Opposite him, Clarke holds her own as a tough woman who has done what was needed to survive, and she seems to have her own motives for joining this adventure. Harrelson provides a shoot-from-the-hip sensibility that gives the film a bit of an edge. And Glover is terrific as the slick, preening scene-stealer.

But it's Waller-Bridge who steals the whole show as a free-thinking droid who clearly believes humans are idiots, protesting that droids should have equal rights. This is about as far as the film goes into subtext. Otherwise, there are set-pieces staged as war scenes, heist capers, elaborate cons, Wild West shootouts, chaotic car chases and so on. It's a rather random jumble that really shouldn't work at all, and yet the film keeps the audience thoroughly entertained. And wanting more.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 22.May.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall