Solo: A Star Wars Story (12A)

As one of the world’s most popular movie franchises it was inevitable that Disney would look to expand on the main saga of Star Wars.

Solo is the second of their anthology films, following  2016’s Rogue One, which is easily my favourite Star Wars film under the Disney banner. Despite the recent excellent record of the Disney films, I had some reservations going into Solo.

The film has had some well documented troubles during production and often this is bad news for the quality of the film however, I’m happy to say on this occasion my fears were misplaced.

Solo is a fantastically enjoyable heist film which despite its smaller scale in comparison to the main saga entries is a valuable addition to the growing Star Wars universe.

Essentially, Solo is the origin story of everyone’;s favourite scoundrel Han Solo, and despite a few nods to other entries into the Star Wars universe, it sticks pretty much to this concept.

Alden Ehrenreich has the unenviable job of stepping into Harrison Ford’s shoes. Despite the huge pressure he does an excellent job bringing a youthful optimism to Han which lies behind the cynical facade we meet in Episode 4.

Han’s arc across the course of the two hours plus run time of Solo is one of the film’s main strengths. The same goes for Chewbacca’s transition from
imperial captive to Han’s right hand man/wookie.

While the same level of development is missing from the other main players, there are still strong performances throughout. Donald Glover is especially good as Lando Calrissian, effortlessly suave 99% of the time and all excuses the remaining 1%. Woody Harrelson is solid as Han’s mentor Beckett and Paul Bettany is effectively creepy as antagonist Dryden Vos.

There is also the obligatory droid of the film, this time in the guise of “female” droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). L3’s schtick of equal rights for droids does have its moments of humour but compared to other new additions BB8 and K2-SO, is less endearing.

Emilia Clarke on the other hand is still trying to escape the shadow of Daenerys Targaryen, and despite her best efforts is hampered by the lack of development given to her character, Qi’ra. The focus on Han is understandable, the film is called Solo after all, but Qi’ra is seemingly so important to Han’s development she should have been given more attention by the writers.

Away from the performances of the cast there is some excellent action on show. High speed chases, gunslinging shootouts and space battles are all accounted for. Everything you would expect from Han’s origin story is here, including answers to how the Kessel run is measured and the answer to whether Han shoots first.

There is also some top notch fan service, from Clone Wars and Rebels references to classic musical moments. Speaking of the references to the Clone Wars and Rebels there is one pretty major one that will cause confusion to anyone who hasn’t seen them. While I’m not saying you need to watch 6 seasons of the Clone Wars or 3 seasons of Rebels before watching Solo (although you totally should) it might be worth reading up on these if you are scratching your head at the film’s conclusion.

If you are a Star Wars fan or you are looking for an easily watchable popcorn flick I would highly recommend checking out Solo: A Star Wars Story at your nearest cinema.

By Mark Jankowksi

★★★★☆

Read my other Star Wars reviews Star Wars: The Force AwakensRogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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