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And now for the Solo backstory

Solo: A Star Wars Story: Alden Rhrenreich tries Harrison Ford's space shoes for size

Trish Lee

Charlie Masters

trish.lee@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886663

The Solo backstory

Solo: A Star Wars Story (12A)
Running time 2hr 15mins
Rating: ***

HOW does one even begin to interrogate the appeal of the titanic Star Wars franchise? Once upon a time, years would pass between entries in the main saga; by all accounts, Disney is dead-set on Marvelising its latest cash cow, to the extent that we might expect a new spinoff every half-year or so. It would seem unlikely, however, that this new ploy should dull
audiences’ enthusiasm – once a byword for late-20th century escapism, George Lucas’ epic has been reinvented as a phenomenon curiously exemplary of our brave new cultural order, with each successive release taking home enough to cash to feed a small country just as it fails to secure a real legacy for itself (no, we won’t be reminiscing fondly upon Rogue One three decades from now). Like the Death Star (sorry, ‘Starkiller Base’), the new franchise is a superweapon, burning through entire
planets and leaving nought but dust in its wake.

In some respects, Solo: A Star Wars Story appeared to offer the prospect, however remote, of a refocus, a return to the nerd-do-well nostalgia factor that ensured the original trilogy immortality. Sure, it was a blatant cash-in (and the post-preview fan revolt has shown it to be a decidedly unwelcome one, at that), but is there any character more emblematic of Star Wars’ auspicious past than Han Solo? By far the best stretch of The Last Jedi involved a caper at an interstellar casino; a Solo origin story invited more in the way of such shenanigans, only slowing down halfway through to treat us to the inception of cinema’s great bromance, that of Han and anthropomorphic space-mop Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo).

Rumours that Alden Ehrenreich, the Han of the Hour, was struggling to fit into Harrison Ford’s boots provoked an internet firestorm – thankfully, little in the film hints at these bothersome beginnings, with Ehrenreich handling the role capably if imperfectly. His Solo is a relative small-timer, a military reject with dreams of fame and (inevitably ill-begotten) fortune. After acquiring the Millennium Falcon from a big-time smuggler, he gets mixed up in some dodgy dealings involving an old flame (Emilia Clarke), an intergalactic kingpin (Paul Bettany) and a hyper-rare elemental MacGuffin
If only to provoke giddy murmurs at the multiplex, there are run-ins with the nascent Resistance and morethan one Easter egg for The TrueFanboys.

Regrettably, however, Solo lacks the real sense of jeopardy you’d associate with its protagonist, let alone the swashbuckling plotting this intriguing project demanded. Original co-directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord were reportedly keen to realise the film as a lighthearted, boy’s own adventure; their sacking deep into Solo’s production appears to have been in the interest of artistic continuity, with replacement Ron Howard parachuted in to stitch together a movie very much in keeping, tonally and aesthetically, with other recent entries in the series.

In its reprise of the key character dynamics (Han is revealed to have met Chewie in a gladiatorial dustup), Solo can’t help but delight, even if it’s a whole lot moreformulaic – and quite a bit less spectacular – than we could’ve hoped.

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