Fasten your seatbelts and ride across the galaxy in screaming excitement? Well, not exactly.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a tried and tested, old wine in new bottle, box-office proof rendition of a popular, and lately, make-the-kids-happy franchise.
This one is strictly for the Star Wars franchise fans. Why are they fighting with tubelights? Why does the enemy keep shooting old video game pings and nobody is hurt? Why is the film title in preschool-crayon yellow? These are exactly the things that Star Wars fans love.
My confession, I am not a Star Wars fan. But The Last Jedi impressed me enough to catch Solo: A Star Wars Story in the theaters. Reason #2, the legendary director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Cinderella Man, In the Heart of the Sea) is captaining this one.
Solo: A Star Wars Origin Story
A young Han escapes an exploitative criminal mistress with his teenage lover Qi'ra. Han manages to escape to freedom, while Qi'ra is recaptured.
Years later, aspiring pilot Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) is expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy (for having a mind of his own). Fed up of the empire's mindless cruelty, Han chances upon a bunch of criminals, led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Despite their hostility, Han manages to charm them to make him an accomplice in stealing coaxium (expensive starship fuel) and earning "retirement" money.
Solo: A Star Wars Story doesn't disappoint, neither does it scale intergalactic heights. It does have an easy breeziness and atmosphere. The twists are well-etched into the screenplay, though the "surprises" are a set template now. The summation, Solo: A Star Wars Story makes for good, light entertainment, with a couple of impressive action set pieces.
Solo Performances, Music
Alden Ehrenreich is a chirpy, streetsmart Han Solo, but he lacks the Harrison Ford punch to endearingly dominate proceedings. Emilia Clarke is good as the mysterious Qi'ra, Woody Harrelson is competent as usual. Donald Glover gets some groovy gambling shades to work on and impresses. Paul Bettany oozes menace as Dryden Vos. Joonas Suotamo reprises a thankless costume-overshadowed role of Chewbacca with apt body language.
Composer John Powell builds on John Williams' legendary theme music. His background score sets the character and mood of several scenes, an amazing achievement.
The coaxium train robbery sequence could have been a rocking start to the movie. It ends up as effective but not awesome. "How Han and Chewbacca first met" must have been a historic, cinematic moment. Instead, it is watered down to a contrived quick friendship and escape.
The Han-Qi'ra chemistry never fires up, neither does the friendship sparkle between the good guys. An unusual robot-master relation is cut short. The alleged robbers (Enfys Nest) don't get enough impactful screen time
That 3D is barely put to use in the entire movie is just criminal. Lately, 3D has been an audience-attracting gimmick and nothing else.
Kid Audience Limits
That Solo: A Star Wars Story is a slave to a young target audience is too obvious. Nothing is too dangerous, cruel, dark or forbidding. The jokes too are feeble. The deaths seem plastic. Flattering a children's audience means older audiences hardly get any unrestricted fun moments.
Yet Ron Howard steals away, making a quick anti-war statement, a breathless surprise of a kiss, some magic in the Han-Chewbacca friendship and adds sanity to the action sequences. An airborne "yacht" gliding away stoneheartedly is a feeling that only Howard can achieve. Such moments are woefully rare.
Solo: A Star Wars Story doesn't rock as an origin story, it doesn't disappoint either. A passable three out of five stars.