Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Movie Review By John Gray

Solo

Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover

Solo, a movie I neither needed nor wanted. Why demystify one of the most iconic characters in movie history? Does everybody need an origin story? Sufficient to say I walked into my local cinema with managed expectations, not just because I thought the movie was a bad idea, but because of its troubled production.

I needn’t have worried. Like Han swooping in last minute to aid Luke during the trench run, director Ron Howard arrived late to a tension- filled set and saved the day. Solo is an old- fashioned adventure movie in many ways, and that’s part of its charm. On the other hand Howard wisely strips away the main saga’s gravity and bombast. Those complaining Solo didn’t ‘feel like Star Wars’ are missing the point of these standalone films. They’re supposed to play with tone and genre a little. Rogue One was a gritty war film (although it was supposed to be far grittier) and Solo is perfectly pitched as a kind of heist- movie- space- western. 

Of course none of it would have worked without a good cast. When Alden Ehrenreich was cast he faced a Daniel Craig type backlash, and I’ll admit being skeptical myself. One doesn’t simply replace Harrison Ford’s effortless charisma and screen presence. Thankfully Ehrenreich doesn’t try, and gives us a performance rather than an impersonation. There are moments- facial expressions or vocal inflections- when we see and hear Ford, but these moments are wisely sparse, just enough to help us believe we’re really watching a young Han Solo. 

The rest of the cast are just as good. Donald Glover’s Lando almost steals the show. Amelia Clarke brings disarming charm to her part as Han’s first love, Kira. Woody Harrelson is great as world weary thief Beckett, and Paul Bettany manages to bring real menace to his limited role as villain. 

Aside from being immensely fun, its also rather funny, although this is perhaps the greatest weakness here. The humour, like the Falcon, doesn’t always land. What does land for the most part is the emotion. While the film’s twists and turns are hardly unpredictable, you feel for the characters involved. Oh, apart from that one twist that almost made me spit out my popcorn. That, I did not see coming.

Enjoyment rating: 4/5 

Quality rating: 4/5

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