Friday, May 25, 2018

‘Solo’ unites/reunites Han, Chewbacca in action-packed ‘Star Wars’ backstory

By Steve Crum
After 41 years (Can you believe it?!), Star Wars movie #10 warps into our space with Solo: A Star Wars Story. And it is a fun and exciting, though imperfect, addition to the Star Wars array. Solo is well worth seeing, particularly for fans. That is because only fans will pick up on all the references from the former nine flicks. Such is the built-in downside of any sequel, prequel or referential motion picture like those in the Star Wars franchise.
Solo: A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard and written by established Star Wars scribes Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, tells a portion of the backstory of Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). It is set not long before Star Wars Episode IV—A New Hope. The film is not considered a prequel to mainstream Star Wars episodes, but is a called a “stand-alone installment.” However, there are allusions to future events covered by Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Han. 
Incidentally, Ehrenreich is a very credible Han Solo without resorting to a plastic Harrison Ford impression. But like Ford’s version, the familiar Han Solo brash bravado and smart ass demeanor are clearly there. 
Nearly as anticipated as seeing a young Han is seeing a younger (not young, by any means) Chewbacca, the Wookie (Joonas Suotamo). We get the scoop on how the two met and became fast compatriots. Without divulging too much, let us say that they first cross paths in a sequence hearkening to the Luke Skywalker battle versus the underground cave creature in Return of the Jedi. By this point in the 135 minute film, we have also learned of the origin of Han’s last name. (Silly me, all the time I thought Solo was his family name.) 
Sandwiched between the action set pieces (a frantic land speeder chase; outmaneuvering a giant worm monster; and a dizzying monorail train battle among them), we witness Han Solo in love and lust with the stunning Qi’ra, well played by Emilia Clarke. Of course, this was pre-Princess Leia. 
Major screen time is given to Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett, who is not only Han’s mentor but a criminal with multiple allegiances. Also dubious is Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian, the smuggler and con man originally played by Billy Dee Williams. 
Solo is filled with a roster of characters, some newly introduced (Dryden Vos, Val Beckett, Lady Proxima) as well as some surprising oldies. (One of the latter drew shrieks of awe at the screening.) 
The primary plot point centers of Han and his compatriots aboard the Millennium Falcon as they execute the Kessel Run, a smuggling route in the Galactic Empire. This is Han’s bragging right he speaks of in A New Hope: “I made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” 
Solo’s drawback centers on dimly lit, talky sequences that slow the pace down to a near stop. Then again, the many action portions are spectacular and nail gnawing. On balance, however, Solo: A Star Wars Story is pretty grand sci-fi adventure. 
The studio labels it a “space Western film,” which makes more than horse sense. 
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GRADE on an A-F Scale: B

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