As Solo opens, Han is running for his life, or rather, driving for his life. We’re caught up immediately even before we know what’s going on. We soon learn he’s a slum kid on an awful planet with a monstrous ruler. All he wants is to somehow steal enough so he and his partner and true love, Qi’ra can escape. He wants to find away to buy a spaceship so they can roam the galaxy instead of surviving as petty criminals.
They think they can do it. After escaping the monstrous ruler, they make it to the spaceport. Everything goes wrong. They get separated. Qi’ra is captured and dragged away. Han does escape and vows to find away to come back and find her.
We skip over three years while Han acquires the name Han Solo and trains as a pilot by enlisting with the Empire. After three years, he’s sick of the Empire and desperate to find Qi’ra. So he meets Chewbacca and they become partners and team up with a con man who promises a big heist. Soon we have long dramatic scenes of trying to rob a train and then meeting a young Lando and the Millenium Falcon and a young Mo Eisley who dreams of owning his own cantina.
All this and the movie is less than half over. Whew! I’ve gone into this much detail to give the flavor of non stop action and incredible plot complications that include as many references to the other Star Wars movies and characters as possible.
I can’t go into further detail without spoilers. Alden Ehrenreich is superlative as a youthful Han Solo, just as Donald Glover is superlative as a young Lando.
The movie has been heavily criticized which is a shame as it’s a fun, slam bang action adventure with incredible twists and turns where you never can be sure who is a friend or a secret, treacherous foe.
In summary, Solo would be a great standalone movie even if it weren’t connected to the Star Wars universe.
Since it is however, good as Alden is, you can’t picture him turning into Harrison Ford. Donald Glover is a dynamic Lando, but he isn’t in enough scenes. James Suetano is good as Chewbacca but isn’t given enough to do.
Ironically, it’s the non Star Wars characters who are most vivid. Phoebe Waller-Bridge as an angry, rebellious droid electrifies every scene she’s in. Emilia Clarke plays a mysterious femme fatale. We don't know her motivations. Woody Harrelson is a wonderful con artist. Paul Bettany seems evil but you can’t be sure. There are more that I’ve left out or this review would go on too long.
So the final question has to be is whether this movie is Star Wars. My personal answer is a non-critical negative. It’s a well-done, rip-roaring action adventure but it doesn’t have the Star Wars feel to it at all.
So go expecting to have a good time but nothing more.
Reviewed by Marian Powell