April 6-7, 2024
Written by Mark Beresford
It was incredibly hard to tell what to expect from Solo: A Star Wars Story prior to watching. The first of the ‘Anthology films’ to center around a beloved character, a very public fallout with the film’s creators, rumors of Alden Ehrenreich’s talent being called into question, and bringing in a gamut of new actors to take on an untold story, there was so much that was ready to go wrong.
Yet for all the challenges standing in front of it, by the completion of the first few scenes, it was simply washed away to reveal an entrancing Space-Western tale, a woefully overlooked genre.
Solo gives us the deepest look that we’ve ever had at the rugged smuggler turned Rebel legend, telling his coming of age story from rags and slavery, to the hardships that chiselled a hero. Despite having to fill the frankly enormous shoes of Harrison Ford, new torchbearer Ehrenreich takes to the role well and captures the same vigour and grit in a way that leaves surprisingly little to adjust to.
From the swagger to the pistol grip, all the mannerisms were there, with the exception of the gravelled Harrison Ford voice. This made it easy for the audience to focus on the actual film, instead of being forced to furrow their brow over “this feels weird, that seems different” problems.
Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson play a strong supporting cast, with a breakout role from Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the rebellious navigation droid L3-37. Much like the pairing of old, the outstanding and captivating expansion of Lando Calrissian from Donald Glover, that would surely have Billy Dee Williams’ seal of approval, provides electric chemistry for Ehrenreich to bounce off of.
Director Ron Howard seems to enjoy playing with visually packed scenes to create a sense of overwhelming awe at times, however, it’s his action sequences here that steal the show. Much like his work with 2013’s Rush, Howard uses a charging suspense as his headliner in some of the most creative adventure pieces that Star Wars has seen so far.
Seeing the much-loved characters flung into such dramatic elements creates genuine edge of your seat moments, even with resulting survivals being predetermined, and strikes hard at the fantasy backstory that many presumed Han Solo may have had.
This small coming together is what makes Solo an enjoyable journey in the end. Howard has remained true to what fans have either wanted, expected or would accept as the legacy beginnings, and has painted it in a dazzling array of action blasts and retrospective elements.
It’s a film that has certainly planted itself firmly on the side of ‘safe creation’, with very little unexpected plot movements or breaking of new ground, but that doesn’t pull from the enjoyment of it.
Having to follow the charge on the freedom and emotion given to Rogue One, but being tied to fan expectations, may have creatively stunted Solo in some ways, and we, unfortunately, may never know what the full vision or difference was for original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
For the film we do have though, Solo blends high stakes heisting, outlaw Western, and sci-fi fantasy, in just the right proportions to make it one of the most enjoyable cinema views of the season. The light-hearted thrill ride may not become your go-to Star Wars film, but there’s no denying how fun it is.
Solo: A Star Wars is in cinemas May 24