As this is the tenth live-action “Star Wars” movie, it is becoming easier to please its loyal audience, but more difficult to actually wow them. We’ll all show up in droves to see whatever is put on the screen, but while the most rabid fans shriek in sheer delight, the mainstream audience will simply nod, smile and pleasingly chomp their popcorn.
Although that’s better than most movies can ever hope for, this is, after all, “Star Wars.” The bar has been set so high; it is a challenge to present something new and truly exciting to its sizeable and dedicated fan base. What “Solo: A Star Wars Story” brings to the table is a fascinating back story about the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy.
Not so surprisingly, Han Solo’s (Alden Ehrenreich) story started in a galaxy far, far away. It was a lawless time where crime syndicates ruled the worlds. Raised by space gypsies, Han grows up on the mean streets of Corellia, picking up his noted swagger. Solo and his friend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) are determined to move out and move on. Interestingly, Clarke is the eleventh actress from “Game of Thrones” to appear in a “Star Wars” movie.
After the swashbuckling Solo meets our favorite Wookie, the two of them eventually commandeer and co-pilot the renowned Millennium Falcon. Joonas Suotamo now plays Chewbacca. He sent a heartfelt letter to former Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, explaining how much he respected his prior work on the role.
Casting of Solo was one of the largest and longest processes Universal Studios had ever conducted. As it turns out, Ehrenreich was the first actor to audition. Possibly because he collected Han Solo toys as a boy, he credibly and seamlessly molds into the role of Solo, even if we never really believe he’s a young Harrison Ford.
Together with the gambler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the two rascals journey through a series of adventures, daring escapes and growing bromance in the criminal underworld. Solo asks, “I heard a story about you, I was wondering if it’s true.” Lando responds, “Everything you’ve heard about me is true.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller began the project as directors, but left halfway through production over irreconcilable creative differences with producer Kathleen Kennedy and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan. Ron Howard, who turned down a Star Wars movie almost 20 years ago, was brought in, and needed to reshoot 80 percent of the work. This is the first time an Academy Award winner made a “Star Wars” film.
Kasdan, working on his fourth “Star Wars” film, brought in son Jonathan to co-write. Although the film’s characters are charismatic, set pieces fantastic and action entertaining, the script is somewhat unremarkable and uninspired. It’s never boring, but there are not so many memorable moments in this feature.
We did enjoy many of the action scenes, including the car chase in a “Luke Skywalker hovercraft.” But mostly, the camaraderie between Ehrenreich and Woody Harrelson as his character’s mentor, Beckett, was a highlight throughout this mostly adequate feature. Harrelson was chosen over Christian Bale for the role, explaining to young Solo, “Assume everyone will betray you and you will never be disappointed.”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is 135 minutes and rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence. This is the first live-action “Star Wars” film not to feature R2-D2 and C-3PO. However Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) does have a minor role in this picture as Tak. Additional supporting cast includes Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany and Warwick Davis.
Coincidentally, director Ron Howard and Harrison Ford both appeared in George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” in 1973. As usual, Howard cast the quirky Clint Howard, sometimes known as “the brother from another planet” in a small role. If you’re wondering why the movie sequence has been IV, V, VI, I, II, III, in charge of the numbering, Yoda was.
Ron’s Rating: B-
Leigh’s Rating: B+