Movie Beat: Ron Howard’s “Solo” a delightfully entertaining romp
By Jenniffer Wardell
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence
Written by Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan, based on characters created by George Lucas
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt and more
Grade: Three and a half stars
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually in love with one of the “Star Wars” prequel movies.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which follows the life of a young Han Solo, is a surprisingly satisfying, delightful jaunt through the past of one of fandom’s favorite characters. Come for the entertaining heist movie, stay for great character moments with Han, Chewie and Lando. Watching it made me fall in love with them all over again, and when it was over I immediately wanted to go re-watch the original trilogy because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet.
The movie starts out with Han as a Correlian street kid, following him through the next several years and some of the early major milestones in his life. As with any prequel, there are certain events we already knew were coming – getting the Millenium Falcon, meeting Lando and Chewbacca – but there’s a good chance you won’t guess how they happen. Even if you do, they’re only a small part of a larger adventure that’s both a ton of fun and sheds light on the man we meet in later movies.
A large part of this is no doubt due to screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote Solo with his son Jonathan. The elder Kasdan, who co-wrote both “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” with Lucas, re-captures the adventurous feel of the original “Star Wars” trilogy beautifully. More importantly, though, he also has a solid sense of who Han Solo genuinely is as a person, and as a result carefully avoids all the easy stereotypes pop culture has tried to saddle the character with over the years. Yes, this is an earlier, more innocent version of the character, but it’s also the core of who he is. That doesn’t change, no matter what movie he’s in.
It’s true that Alden Ehrenreich is no young Harrison Ford (though not even Harrison himself is that, these days). Ehrenreich himself knows that, and instead of trying to mimic the earlier performance works on capturing the character’s essence in its earliest form. He manages it surprisingly well, from the cockiness that would later harden into confidence to the good heart that Han would try more and more to pretend he didn’t actually have. Donald Glover is also great as Lando, nailing the character’s effortless cool while also suggesting the character has fallen into a little bit of a rut.
The movie isn’t perfect, of course. The beginning feels tossed off, like the Kasdan’s were obligated to squeeze in the tragic street kid backstory before they got to the part of the movie that really interested them. And the central romance never really generates any sense of “grand passion,” which makes sense for the characters but lessens its overall emotional impact.
Honestly, though, the relationship we’re really here for is Han and Chewie, and on that front the movie is unexpectedly satisfying. Though nothing big and dramatic happens, the dynamic between them is sweet, often funny, and quite moving in light of their future relationship. A moment that will be pretty iconic for fans of the original trilogy happens so simply you might not even process the meaning at first, but the fact that Han also seems clueless about its significance somehow makes it all the more touching.
In the end, “Solo” is one blast through the past that’s definitely worth taking.