Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Film franchises prompt that question on a daily basis, with every semi-successful character or creation plundered for as many sequels and spin-offs as audiences will watch. Solo is no exception, taking everyone’s favourite loveable rogue and finding out what made him so…loveable and roguish.
Much about this prequel feels lazy, from the checklist of iconic moments (meeting Chewie and Lando, flying the Falcon, taking on the Kessel Run), to the blundering exposition and backstory scrawled in along the way. It’s good that father and son writing team Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan are so keen to reach the action, but not if it simply means they chuck in a half-hearted prologue to give Han something to fight for.
Director Ron Howard, taking over from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, mostly chooses to underplay these iconic moments, a shrewd decision that sets Solo apart from the main Star Wars saga and fits the lead’s survival first attitude. He’s supported by some incredible photography from DoP Bradford Young which fulfils all the ‘gritty’ promises Rogue One made. He swathes the cast in smoke and dust, tinted with sumptuous sandy yellows and snowy greys, delivering some of the best visuals the series has seen.
Most importantly, Solo is a lot of fun, racing through some glorious action set-pieces that benefit from the rare novelty of being lightsaber-free. Alden Ehrenreich is no Harrison Ford but does a decent job putting his own stamp on the role. Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Donald Glover and every one of his capes are also superb, relishing the chance to cross and double-cross each other all day long.
Solo is a promising and entertaining franchise-builder, but never quite gets to the heart of what makes Han Solo so legendary.
CAST: Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Paul Bettany
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
WRITERS: Jon Kasdan (screenplay), Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay), George Lucas (based on characters created by)
SYNOPSIS: During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.