Solo: A Star Wars Story Theatrical Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story Theatrical Review

He's got a bunch of unexplained scars, a vague eccentricity and no menace.

Solo is not the disaster that many feared when news leaked out of those firings and hirings. What's less surprising is that none of these deaths has much of an impact because we met the characters in question just a few minutes beforehand.

For the most part, "Solo" is a conglomeration of set pieces we've seen before - from familiar chase scenes and a battle sequence reminiscent of World War I trench warfare to a train heist followed by a decadent cocktail party thrown at an art-deco-inspired space yacht - with some tasty callbacks to Star Wars legend and lore thrown in to delight lifelong aficionados. Because I sure didn't need to know what Han was doing as a young man on Corellia or see him the first time he says, "Watch this", only to have things go terribly wrong. In the trenches he meets rascally Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his partner Val (Thandie Newton), who re-introduce him to a life of crime. Like oil, it's the sort of thing people fight over, and the villainous mogul Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany, with pinky-red tiger stripes on his face) wants the juice for himself.

Emilia Clarke as the attractive Qi'ra did keep some of my attention but her arch was also hard to nail down. In my mind, Rogue One has the upper hand. Her bond with Lando in particular is both hilarious and daring and will surely provoke many conversations.

IGN says, "Solo: A Star Wars Story commits to being a charming and fun exercise in repackaging nostalgia and pre-owned protagonists". How do you portray one of Hollywood's most iconic performances with a completely different actor?

As the story progresses and alliances shift, I started to think, "OK, we are going to get a deeper look into character development as Alden Ehrenreich plays Han!" He captures the wry wit and gunslinger swagger, mirroring enough of Ford's mannerisms to be familiar yet he also manages to not simply be a mere mimic by lending the character a dopey sweetness and vulnerability not always evident in Ford's version.

At times more bumpy than is good for the heavy payload that it has on board, the Solo: A Star Wars Story ride is heady and thrilling enough to please newcomers to the saga as well as its inveterate fans. Glover captures the duplicity and bravado of the best-dressed rogue in the franchise, while also revealing a surprisingly tender side at one key point in the film. But it's very much a film of good bits and bad bits. In teasing a potential villain path for Han's love interest in the movie, Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), they bring back a character from the "Star Wars" saga that is a fan favorite, but is a weird choice to be included in this story.

On the Rotten Tomatoes front, Solo actually finds itself pretty low on the Star Wars chart - only Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace have scored lower - but the official logline still promises a fast-paced adventure. Howard's work has never had a readily identifiable style of its own, so it makes sense that he would be capable of adhering to the established look and feel of the "Star Wars" franchise. It's not enough to hide the obvious ideological problem of willfully retreating to childhood in the face of real-world problems, nor the consolidated efforts of an unwieldy and arch-conservative private company to make said retreat into a national pastime; Solo's best moments are nearly entertaining enough to make you forget about all that.