Tuesday, May 29, 2018

[Review] Solo: A Star Wars Story

If it feels like it hasn't been all that long since a new Star Wars film launched into theaters -- that's because it hasn't been all that long. And the machine doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon. Up now is Han Solo's standalone film -- a blast from the past, if you will. Prolific director Ron Howard ends up taking the reins for Solo: A Star Wars Story, and despite being a clunky ride at times, it's an earnest and exhilarating dive into the early days of the iconic character.

Alden Erhenreich takes on the lofty role of Han. When we first meet the baby-faced, smooth-talking thief, he's getting shaken down in the mean streets of Corellia. Eventually, he teams with a group of kindred souls, including Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson, always great) and yes -- Chewbacca. And from there, Solo sets out to steal some interplanetary goods so he can get himself a ship.

This action-packed adventure wastes no time achieving liftoff, as it flaunts thrilling setpieces -- from hometown escapes to audacious train robberies amidst harsh and snowy mountaintops. With all the story's heists and infiltrations, it sort of plays out like a James Bond or Mission: Impossible flick in a galaxy far, far away. And along the way, there's a lot of swindling, questions of who can be trusted, and flips, twists, and surprises regarding allegiances. But it's still very much a Star Wars film, bringing the epic and operatic space battles we've come to know, while introducing bizarre settings, quirky creatures, and droids with a mind of their own (the standout droid here goes by L3-37, and she's a hoot). It also delivers those significantly sentimental, fan-pleasing moments -- like Solo's first run-in with longtime companion Chewie, his first gaze upon the Millennium Falcon, and his first meeting with Lando Calrissian -- who's played by the terrific Donald Glover. Also good is Emilia Clark ("Game of Thrones") as Han's... let's say "on-and-off-again" girlfriend. But her character plays a much bigger role in the grand scheme of things.

As for Alden Erhenreich, he's pleasantly swell. Impressive, actually. Filling the role of a young Han Solo is no easy endeavor, and he gets a lot of the vocal inflections and facial mannerisms down well. As the film progressed, I began to believe in him. He even wears that certain wide-eyed enthusiasm and high-stakes boldness of Solo that's parted with a lick of cockiness and a dose of vulnerability all at once. The film itself carries that same gambling, rough-around-the-edges spirit.

So while Solo won't leave the same impact as the latest two installments of the main saga, nor does it possess the tight focus or resonant themes of the other standalone story Rogue One -- it's still a welcome expansion of this universe where the risks are paid off. I'm all in.

( 8/10 )

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