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Review: Solo A Star Wars Story plays it safe with straight up adventure romp

PUBLISHED: 10:28 24 May 2018

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd/Jonathan Olley

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd/Jonathan Olley

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The Last Jedi propelled George Lucas’s saga into a galaxy far, far away from the old-fashioned charm of the original trilogy, but this Han Solo origins story directed Ron Howard slingshots at lightspeed in the opposite direction.

Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca, Woody Harrelson is Beckett and Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd/Jonathan OlleyJoonas Suotamo is Chewbacca, Woody Harrelson is Beckett and Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd/Jonathan Olley

Solo: A Star Wars Story (12A)

***

I can understand that Disney are keen to try and get back the $4 billion they paid for the rights, but four Star Wars films in less than 30 months is pushing it a bit, isn’t it?

You can have too much of a good thing, and increasingly people aren’t so sure how much of a good thing these new Star Wars films are. Do we need a Han Solo origins tale?

Still, everybody loves Han Solo, don’t they? Everybody except the grumpy man who once played him and approached his return to the role with a which-hydraulic-door-do-I-have-to-get-crushed-under-to-get-off-this-film attitude.

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd/Jonathan OlleyAlden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd/Jonathan Olley

I’m a little lost right now with where we are with the new Star Wars films. Just before Christmas, I came out of The Last Jedi almost effusive. After the comfort blanket of Force Awakens, this was a bright, entertaining romp that seemed to modestly tweak the old formula and suggest bright new avenues for it to explore. Imagine my surprise when the acolytes informed the world that it did in fact suck, was an affront to the values of Lucas’s creation and had raped their childhoods.

Well, there should be no such worries with this film. This exhibits such a lack of adventure and a desire to play it safe that it might as well have been this year’s cup final.

As has been well documented, just like the previous Star Wars Story (Rogue One) this was a troubled production with directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie) getting the boot and being replaced by the safest of Hollywood safe pairs of hands Ron Howard.

He has delivered a straight up adventure romp with daring schemes and escapades of the sort that we have seen so very many times before.

This isn’t the Star Wars film that is most like the original trilogy; it is the one that is most like all the old Saturday morning serials that inspired the original trilogy.

Thandie Newton as Val, Woody Harrelson as Beckett and Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd/Jonathan OlleyThandie Newton as Val, Woody Harrelson as Beckett and Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd/Jonathan Olley

Given that Lord and Miller apparently got two-thirds of the way through shooting it, and Howard is supposed to be responsible for around 70 to 80% of what is now on screen, this all sound very costly. This may explain why so much of the CGI looks so grubby. Anything shot on a real location looks magnificent, but the rest looks distinctly second-rate, and definitely not up to the standard of the previous three films.

Still, if the plan is to try and milk Solo for a few more adventures, and a few more billions of dollars than at least they have got the casting right.

Donald Glover is a fine Lando and Joonas Suotamo a convincing Chewie. Emilia Clarke, as Solo’s great love, is a little too similar in appearance to Felicity Jones in Rogue One, but she looks more comfortable here on the big screen than she did in Terminator Genisys.

Alden Ehrenreich was reported to have required an acting coach on set which would have had anyone who had seen the Coen Brothers comedy Hail Caesar thinking of Ralph Fiennes slapping him while trying to get him to say the line, “Would that it were so simple.”

Whoever he/she was they did a fine job Ehrenreich is infectious in the role, playing it in the way most of the men in the audience would do so if given the chance: like a big kid who can’t believe he got to be Han Solo.


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