With the departure of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in the latter stages of filming, the Solo origin story started off on rocky ground and the reliable Ron Howard was quickly shipped in to take over directorial duties. Just like the rag-tag team of space thieves who feature in this enjoyable and entertaining adventure across a Galaxy, far, far away, Howard, his cast and the writers (Jonathan Kasdan and his franchise veteran father Lawrence) were thrown together in difficult circumstances but really start to rev their engines after a spluttery start.
We first meet Han attempting to flee Corellia and the clutches of Lady Proxima with his girlfriend, Qi’ra. They have romantic dreams of travelling to new places together until they are separated at the border. Fast forward two years later and Han is now trudging through a battlefield, and desperate to make his way back home to Qi’ra. He hooks up with a shady bunch of criminals hired to steal a precious energy source and hatches an escape plan, and in the process strikes up a bond with a furry friend. He’ll also need to enlist the help of Lando Calrissian and his droid, L3-37.
Important life moments such as the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs and the finer details of how Chewbacca and Han first meet are delivered with cheeky winks and the film has a lot of fun with the troubled relationship between Han and Lando. There’s plenty the film gets right, particularly in terms of the dynamic between each of the crew members. But not all the jokes land, especially in the early stages and it takes a while for Alden Ehrenreich to find his feet in the titular iconic role. It’s not an easy task to pull off the same charismatic flair as Harrison Ford but rest assured: he does get there in the end. It will be fascinating to see where Ehrenreich takes the character in future films as he makes the role his own.
Once the crew are formed and on their mission, the real fun begins. L3-37 chatting about the man in her life breaks the ice and from here on in the characters become much livelier and more endearing. Phoebe Waller-Bridge lands every line she utters with gusto as L3-37, whose endless protest for the rights of droids provides lots of comedy and passionate rebellion. She’s one of the best things in the film. Emilia Clarke has enough chemistry with Ehrenreich to sell their love story and she gets to lay down a few decent fight moves too, and Woody Harrelson plays it cool as Beckett, a mentor type to Han.
The swift action sequences lack some energy early on but playing with heist movie tropes makes for electric viewing as the film continues. An intergalactic train robbery is charged with momentum, an explosive raid delivers charming droid chaos and Han gets to show off his piloting skills.
Donald Glover is the alluring MVP of the cast, lording it about town as gambler and narcissistic bad boy, Lando. Once aboard the shiny Millennium Falcon where he stores his swish cape collection and records his live journal you can’t help but want to learn more about who he is and where his money comes from. That sly smile and sleek line delivery is shouting out for more screen time.
Let’s be honest, what we really wanted from this outing was Han and Chewie hanging out and getting to know one another and it has to be said that watching them interact is delightful. Watching a bromance that you’re already super invested in blossom before your eyes is genuinely heart-warming.