With every new Star Wars movie comes the nonsense that permeates the media, both of the mainstream and social kind. Alas, such has been the case with Solo to the point where any anticipation you may have is tempered by the flurry of commentary, most of which is premature, ill-informed and based on assumptions as a result of information that is speculative at best. Yes, Solo endured a somewhat troubled production with a change in directors midway through shooting but, at the end of the day, Ron Howard has delivered a film that ticks all the boxes with regard to what could have reasonably been expected from this story, which takes us back to the galaxy far, far away for a series of adventures that precede the events of the original trilogy. It is fun, exciting and addresses some questions that had hitherto remained unanswered and should satisfy any genuine fan (except those who can never be satisfied because their life only has meaning if they are complaining about a cinematic world they claim to love), whilst providing an entry point for anybody unfamiliar with the any of the previous films.
In Solo, we learn how Han (Aiden Ehrenreich) and his sidekick Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) first met and we also discover the circumstances around which he came to take possession of the Millenium Falcon, a ship that, despite its habit of breaking down at critical times, has survived innumerable showdowns against all manner of man and machine in transporting the various heroes of the franchise across the galaxy. In this instalment, the Falcon serves as means of transportation to deliver a shipment of an unprocessed superfuel known as coaxium to Dryden Voss (Paul Bettany), the leader of Crimson Dawn, a crime syndicate of which Solo’s former girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is now a senior member. Han and Chewbacca, team up with criminal-for-hire Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) for the mission which, in true Star Wars tradition, never goes according to plan and relies on Han’s considerable skills as a pilot to evade those pesky Empire forces.
Whilst there are a slew of new characters making the on-screen franchise debut such as Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio Durant (voiced by Jon Favreau), the most enjoyable of all is L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) a decidedly feminist droid sidekick for Lando Calrissian, a gambler and smuggler played here by Donald Glover as the younger incarnation of a figure who appears in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Whilst Glover is suitably suave as Lando, it would be a big call to declare his characterisation superior to that delivered by Billy Dee Williams. One of the more amusing moments in the film comes at Lando’s expense when Qi’ra and Han poke fun at Lando’s extensive collection of capes. In fact, with franchise veteran Lawrence Kasdan on writing duties, fears the film would be devoid of humour under Howard’s direction prove unfounded.
Sure, Ehrenreich doesn’t quite nail the sardonic, cocky swagger of the eponymous character in the way that Harrison Ford did in the original trilogy, but he is clearly recognisable as Han Solo and does a reasonably good job in a casting that has been subjected to more scrutiny than perhaps any other in recent times. Ehrenreich doesn’t always look comfortable but, like Ford before him, he manages to make young Solo a likeable figure despite the arrogant persona he peddles to all and sundry. Whatever Howard ultimately delivered, he was on a hiding to nothing given the disparate demands and expectations of the devoted hordes. In the end though, Howard has utilised the quality cast at his disposal to deliver a film that is hugely enjoyable and a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon.