Production on Solo: A Star Wars Story was troubling, to say the least. Original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) were booted midway through shooting on account of their more relaxed, comedy-centric directions, leading to the more refined Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) to take control, presumably following suit from the words uttered by Woody Harrelson’s smuggler, Tobias Beckett – “Don’t improvise”!
As worrisome as some may be due to a directional shift – we’ve all seen how reshoots can alter the continuity of film cough Fantastic Four – Solo doesn’t have the look of a film that suffered throughout its production. It all runs relatively smoothly, albeit rather unremarkably, resulting in a suitable space adventure outing that surprisingly lacks any major action set pieces, instead relying on its appealing cast to bear the heavy lifting.
Proving that his rogue scrappiness was a trait from the get-go, we meet a younger Han (Alden Ehrenreich) when he’s in the midst of escaping a life of servitude to join the Empire’s army with the goal of becoming a pilot. Ultimately not taking too kindly with the Empire’s agenda of outer-worldly domination, he bails and silver-tongues his way alongside the thieving Beckett and his wife Val (a wasted Thandie Newton); the loveable Chewbacca (near-7-foot Finnish basketball player Joonas Suotamo) eventually joins the crew, setting the film neatly in motion and allowing Ehrenreich to loosen up thanks to the lively banter between them.
Given that we are fully aware of the character’s fate through the Star Wars stories that have come prior, or technically still to come going by the timeline, any sense of urgency or dread is sadly muted, and the Jonathan Kasdan/Lawrence Kasdan-penned script fails in delivering anything fresh or unique; Paul Bettany’s by-the-books villain Dryden Vos and Han’s love interest Qi’ ra (Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) similarly fail to rise above their character descriptions. It isn’t all bad though as Ehrenreich slips rather comfortably into the intimidating shoes of Harrison Ford’s legacy, and Donald Glover (as smuggler-on-the-up Lando Calrissian) is certifiably charming in a role that’s not nearly as utilised as it deserves to be.
Ultimately Solo, like Rogue One before it, fails to make the argument to fans that it’s a story worth telling. There’s a few neat winks to his prominent character traits along the way, and it at least attempts to hone its own personality against the more well-known titles in the catalogue it can’t help but be compared to, but aside from the best of intentions and a scene-stealing turn from Glover, this particular story is little more than a down-played actioner that survives on nostalgia and good faith rather than telling a story that brings new ingredients to the recipe.
About Solo: A Star Wars Story
Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ an adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is in Australian cinemas from 24th May 2018.