Solo review Alden Ehrenreich Emilia ClarkeYear: 2018
Director(s): Ron Howard
Writer(s): Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Region of Origin: USA

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Rating: PG-13
Digital, Color, 135 mins

Synopsis: Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion. (Source)

Of all the characters in the Star Wars universe, Han Solo isn’t someone we need to know more about. His devil-may-care attitude and morally ambiguous slant are traits that rely on mystery. When he shows up in Episode IV, he’s fully formed, and great because because of what we don’t know about him. In a world where Disney is forcing out a new Wars film every year, however, Solo is sad inevitability. It’s something that ticks all the boxes and plays safe. But wait. Despite delivering exactly what we think is going to happen, the film is an undeniable rush. From the massive set pieces, to the perfect ensemble, everything magically falls into place. Even as #branded entertainment, Solo is fun, funny and fast, hurtling towards an ending that seems appropriate for Wars’ most infamous rogue.

The story picks up with the galaxy in a state of flux. Crime syndicates ravage the galaxy for resources as the Empire rules with an iron fist. On the shipbuilding world of Corellia, orphans survive by stealing for local gangs. One of these young rebels is Han (Alden Ehrenreich), who longs to one day leave the planet and see the galaxy by becoming a pilot. Things are set in motion when Han and his girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), scheme to escape their oppressors. As you can guess, things don’t end well, and the pair are separated against their will. From here, Han enlists with the Imperial Flight Academy, leading him on a path to one of the galaxy’s most feared crime bosses. Vowing to make a path back to Qi’ra, his journey unites him with a combustible gallery of thieves and misfits, each scrambling to make their own way in a desperate world.

Right from the word go, this film takes off at lightspeed and never looks back. Using the Star Wars universe as its playground, the film shuffles from one restless heist to another, with shifting alliances, twists and danger at every turn. In a lot of ways, this is the series’ equivalent of a western, taking our anti-heroes from planet to planet and forging tenuous alliances out of necessity. This nice use of ambiguity is perfect for Solo, keeping us on our toes and offsetting the unavoidable predictability. Along the way, the action never loses sight of its characters, delivering big, breathtaking spectacle while defining who Solo and co. are. Sure, we already know that Han and Chewie will become besties, that something will force Han to stay neutral in the battle between the Empire and the syndicates, and that a deal with be struck with Lando – but in this rare occasion, seeing how it all comes into play is irresistible. It’s worth nothing, too, that this film probably has the best use of humor in any Wars film, grounding everything and helping to subtly push the stakes higher.

Solo review Alden Ehrenreich Emilia ClarkeAn obvious part of why the film works is its ensemble. Anchoring everything, Ehrenreich is a natural and obvious choice for Solo. It was always going to be risky to separate this character from Harrison Ford, but Ehrenreich has enough spark to transcend some generic writing. Ehrenreich just has that magic charm, and even more, transforms throughout. Even with a horribly token female role, Clarke is great as Qi’ra, helping to prop up her character and give her an agency that the writing doesn’t quite allow. Clarke does well in balancing Han, turning in a duality that contrasts and informs those around her. In truth, though, the scene stealers are Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s spunky droid, L3. I don’t want to say too much about them, but they draw a much more sophisticated line than anyone else here, bringing out the film’s ambiguity both thematically and in terms of comedy. Straight faced yet bursting with riotous charisma, these two pretty much pull the rug out from their co-stars. Lastly, Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton shine with peripheral roles, Paul Bettany oozes menace in spite of flat writing, and Joonas Suotamo is admirable, picking up the mantle of Chewbacca with vitality.

So, yeah, against my will, I really loved Solo. It’s a bit outdated and old fashion at at this point, but its made remarkably well and with enough love and care put into it. As far as pure adrenaline-infused go, this film makes good on its promises, giving weight to its titular character without demystifying him completely. It’ll be interesting to see where this story goes next, but, as an all-out space adventure, this film stands on its own, giving the series some of its best action and reinvigorating the lore with some fresh ideas.

SG