Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY arrives in theatres under the direction of Ron Howard, who reunites with Star Wars Creator George Lucas after working together in 1973’s American Graffiti. While laudable and entertaining, it might not the Star Wars installment some Fans were expecting.
The Movie opens approximately ten years before the events documented in Star Wars: A New Hope with Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) trying to escape from the planet Corellia with a vial of Coaxium, a highly-coveted fuel crystal alternative. He succeeds, although she doesn’t. Flash-forward three years. Despite being a brilliant pilot, Han has been dismissed from the Imperial Fleet and along with his new-found ally Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), join forces with Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio Durant, a multi-armed CGI thing voiced by Jon Favreau. They are space pirates working for Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and when their attempt to rob the expensive fuel crystal from an impressively-filmed train sequence goes tragically awry, they then have to regroup. Along the way, these misfits meet up with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) where Han wins the Millennium Falcon in a card game. Then, Han and Qi’ra reunite at a cocktail party where she is now romantically-involved with Vos’. Whereas there is still some chemistry between her and Han, we are never sure whether she can be trusted.
Whereas the Star Wars Franchise encompassed many themes, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is essentially a Heist Movie and perhaps it feels a little too familiar. Ehrenreich very ably captures the essence of a young Harrison Ford. His Han is all swagger and cockiness with a sardonic sense of humour – Ehrenreich stated simply, illuminates the screen. Clarke also gives a wonderful performance, giving Qi’ra depth, plus a sense of romance and mystery. Glover is entertaining, channeling beautifully Billy Dee Williams, and Paul Bettany is menacingly-effective. Harrelson, while ordinarily a standout, never quite finds himself here.
Among the many treats that SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY offers, we get a bit of backstory how Han got his surname and how his longtime friendship with Chewbacca began. Snippets from the original Star Wars Score interspersed throughout also bring back a bit of that nostalgia. Where this Movie is less successful falls on the plentiful and kinetic action scenes filmed under thick, oppressive clouds or in shadows or in dark hallways, making it challenging to see who is doing what to whom. In SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, that much-needed sense of danger is missing. Whenever we see Han in trouble, there is less emotional involvement on our part and this is the issue with having a Prequel to something so well-known and loved. Quibbles aside, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is an undeniably entertaining, standalone addition to the Franchise.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada release SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Friday, May 25, 2018.
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