Well, that’s the last time I ever believe the internet. See, going into the press screening of SOLO: A Star Wars Story, I’d heard that the film was going to be a mess. The film switched directors near the end of production. The lead couldn’t act. It was even said that Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy’s position was being threatened.
I’ll admit that even I had my doubts. I was one of those folks who wondered aloud why Alden Ehrenreich was cast as the lead when Harrison Ford-clone Anthony Ingruber was out there doing a killer Han Solo impersonation on YouTube.
But then I remembered River Phoenix as a young Indy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, giving a performance where he captured the essence of the character without really mimicking Ford. And that’s what Ehrenreich does with Han Solo in what is a fairly solid portrayal of everyone’s favorite Correllian scoundrel in his early years.
Along with Ehrenreich, we have Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett, a man who is a mentor of sorts to young Solo. Emilia Clarke plays Qi’ra, the love interest with a story arc that runs parallel to Solo’s. Donald Glover steals every scene as Lando Calrissian but is nearly outmatched by Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37, a pilot droid that brings plenty of laughs but is also involved in one of the film’s most poignant scenes. We also shouldn’t forget Joonas Suotamo who dons the Wookiee costume to reprise the role of Chewbacca as he did in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
Following a script by Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Silverado), director Ron Howard (Willow, A Beautiful Mind) gives audiences a relatively straightforward and fast-paced film that is full of background details intended to please long-time Star Wars fans. If you go into the movie with the expectation of simply being entertained, you’ll have no problem enjoying it while munching on your movie popcorn. There’s plenty of action and humor, with a few plot twists along the way. Ehrenreich and Clarke are serviceable as star-crossed lovers, but it’s when Ehrenreich works with Harrelson and Glover where the moments ring the truest.
For all the baggage and backstory SOLO must carry, the film handles it in workmanlike fashion. I should have known that when you have the an Oscar-winning director like Howard and a screenwriter like Kasdan working on your movie, it’s going to be a good time at the very least. While it may not have the highest stakes, SOLO still has enough thrills and humor to make it worth an evening out at the cinema.
Finally, SOLO is steeped in the lore of that galaxy far, far away, but folks who have never seen a Star Wars film before can enjoy this one without needing a whole lot of backstory.
I know I should have always done this, but next time I hear certain elements of fandom crying about a film they have yet to see, I’m just going to block them out. I’m also going to keep from being that kind of fan on social media. Punch me if I am.