SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
Director: Ron Howard
Screenwriters: Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, based on the characters created by George Lucas
Runtime: 135 mins.
Australian release date: 24 May 2018
Previewed at: Randwick Ritz Cinema, Sydney, on 17 May 2018.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is the third stand-alone film in the Star Wars universe. It purports to tell the backstory of how Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich here, Harrison Ford in the original series) met Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover, originally Billy Dee Williams) but the bigger story it tells is how Solo came to be the smuggler famed for making “the Kessel run in 12 parsecs”. Before he meets Calrissian he falls in with a criminal crew led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), and Beckett takes the eager kid under his wing and teaches him an important lesson, “Never trust anyone”. Of course we know from other Star Wars movies that Solo didn’t learn his lesson well.
To me, it’s odd that so much emphasis is being put on the relationship between Solo and Calrissian, unless market research has told the creators that they need to reach out more to a black audience. After all, Star Wars is a very white franchise. The character of Calrissian appeared first in The Empire Strikes Back and popped up next in Return Of The Jedi, and that was it. So why revive him now?
Anyway, leaving that aside the movie is a ripping yarn. The plot speeds along but not so fast that we don’t garner enough information about why the characters are doing the things they do. It’s a credit to father-and-son team Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan. The former is, of course, steeped in this world having co-written three of the SW films before this one. It’s something of a surprise that it all came together so well because it had a difficult shoot. Ron Howard took over the reins after the exit of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were responsible for The Lego Movie, and it would be interesting to know how much he changed the original premise. A major re-shoot was required because some of the earlier footage was deemed a bit too jokey by the producers. This is not to say there aren't laughs to be had. Whatever, it works as it keeps the atmosphere authentic and possibly more in keeping with George Lucas’s initial visualisation of the ‘feel’ of the franchise.
Alden Ehrenreich plays Han Solo and to his credit manages not to create a clichéd version of Harrison Ford. His initial meeting with Chewbacca (played by Joonas Suotamo) is great fun so perhaps the knack was to treat the plot seriously and the dialogue lightly. There are some great characters in Solo… Glover’s Calrissian is suitably charming, fitting for the role of a gambler, and Harrelson plays Beckett like he’s in a Western, which he is in a way. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has a very funny, clever part as a rebellious, feminist droid, L3-37.
Of course, Solo: A Star Wars Story looks great and the SFX are top notch. In the Star Wars pantheon this is the film that really introduces us to the Millennium Falcon, the flying freighter that becomes integral to Han Solo. Even if we’ve seen it before, we’ve never seen it like this, gleaming and new. There are some great visuals that hark back to the bar scenes on Tatooine in the original film of the series. The array of aliens on display is mind-blowing.
If nothing else, Solo: A Star Wars Story succeeded in drawing out the fans (resplendent in their various outfits) to experience yet another space journey, as was witnessed at the premiere in Sydney. You could feel the anticipation. There was a definite buzz in the air and the audience cheered at the end to show their approval. It just goes to show that if you are on a good thing, it's worth sticking to it, especially in Hollywood.