Ever since George Lucas’ decision to hand over the creative reigns of his massively popular space adventure, we’ve had three Star Wars films. Force Awakens introduced us to a new generation of characters, Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren, while Last Jedi saw the return of Luke Skywalker. In the first stand-alone movie the pre-Episode IV Rogue One, we saw Jyn Erso and Diego Luna fight against Orson Krennic and the Empire. We’ve also seen a host of threaded storylines appear in the animated series, Star Wars Rebels, while Star Wars Battlefront II introduced us to a post-ROJ tale starring the imperial commander, Iden Versio. Yet it’s Han Solo’s storied rise of a smuggler that gives us the best adventure since the rebellion days of the original trilogy.
Solo: A Star Wars Story works in a way that is unlike any Star Wars film we’ve seen before. In fact, watching it feels like it isn’t a Star Wars movie. And that’s a good thing. Things like the protective helmets of the alien slave owners reminded some of the Jaffa bodyguards of Stargate, and the regime-oppressed Corellian city channelled a little Bladerunner mystique. This and the level of detail in the world and surrounding characters, like the marauder leader of the Cloud Riders, is enough to give Solo its unique verve.
All these inspired elements enabled Ron Howard and the team behind the film to create something that was very much its own thing in a big way. There are moments that already have become iconic: an American Graffiti-styled speeder chase, a blaster battle with stormtroopers on a revolving train, and running into an imperial blockade in the middle of The Maw Cluster – a convergence of black holes close to planet Kessel.
Replacing Harrison Ford’s still-epic portrayal of the scruffy lookin’ nerf herder has long been a source of controversy for fans. A similar reaction happened when Shia Labouf, Chris Pratt and other younger stars were said to be taking on the role of Dr Jones a.k.a. Indy. But in this film, their fears can be put to rest. Not only does Alden Ehrenreich play the part without seeming to look over his shoulder, he completely nails it. Watching him befriend a seven-foot Wookie from Kashyyk and walk-and-talk his scoundrel ways effectively makes viewers forget Ford for a few spellbinding hours.
With respect to the rest of the cast, Woody Harrelson (as Tobias Beckett) becomes more likeable with time, attaching himself to some of the best modern films like Hunger Games and No Country For Old Men in much the same way as Paul Bettany (Dryden Vos) has done through Inkheart, The Da Vinci Code and his version of Vision in the Avenger series. As for GoT’s famous Kahleesi, Daenerys Targaren, played by Emilia Clarke, this is her best role yet. As for Donald Glover: more suavity and style like this please!
Solo happens to be the only film, excluding episodes IV to VI, that made me want to watch it again while I was already watching it. Suffice to say it is the best Star Wars film in decades. Stay watching for the surprise Phantom Menace character! J.K.A. Short
‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is in cinemas now.