By Bradley Griffith
The latest entry into the suddenly crowded Star Wars universe is the origin story of one of the most beloved characters in all of cinema. Harrison Ford made Han Solo a household name like no one else could have. In “Solo,” Alden Ehrenreich tries to recapture the magic of Han Solo one more time.
Han (Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clark), are teenage slaves on the distant planet of Corellia. Orphaned children are captured and forced to lie, cheat, and steal to survive. Han and Qi’ra have plans to escape and begin a new life together. In a daring escape, Han is able to make it out of their life of indentured servitude, but Qi’ra is re-captured.
With no money and no way to rescue Qi’ra without a ship, Han joins the Empire. He signs up for the Imperial Navy so he can learn to be a pilot, buy his own ship, and then rescue Qi’ra. As often happens, Han’s plans don’t turn out the way he had hoped. He is kicked out of the navy and sent to be an infantry soldier, where he meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson).
Beckett is posing as a captain in the army but is actually a thief, outlaw, and smuggler. Han threatens to expose Beckett if he doesn’t allow Han to join his crew. Han is swiftly thrown in the stockade where he meets a giant Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). Han and Chewy break out and convince Beckett to let them join their crew and that easily Han and Chewy become best friends and outlaws.
Beckett needs Han and Chewy’s help to steal a shipment of coaxium – an element that powers hyperdrives – is very valuable, and very explosive. In the middle of the theft the shipment is attacked by another band of marauders who call themselves the Cloud Riders. In the struggle Beckett and his crew do not get the coaxium, but neither do the Cloud Riders.
Beckett had been hired to steal this shipment by a criminal syndicate known as Crimson Dawn. Beckett must devise a plan to make things right with Crimson Dawn, or he will be killed. Han is still looking for a big payday to buy his own ship and rescue Qi’ra, so he and Chewy are with Beckett.
In any movie where Han Solo is a character the most important question about the entire movie will always be, who is playing Han? Let’s get this out of the way, no one can replace Harrison Ford as the brash and daring outlaw that we all know and love. But Alden Ehrenreich does a good job in the title role. He has just the right combination of charisma and cockiness to play Han Solo. He’s no Harrison Ford, but he was well cast and performed well as the title character.
Speaking of characters, “Solo” is character driven rather than plot driven. The plot is straightforward and simple, Han must make (or steal) enough money to buy a ship and rescue Qi’ra. There’s a double-cross or two, but that’s all there is to the plot. At times the movie feels like it’s one long action scene, though the action is very good.
There are some colorful characters in the movie, starting with Lando Calrissian, played by Donald Driver. If it’s possible for a person to be more self-assured and arrogant than Han, Driver’s Lando Calrissian is that person. Han and Lando play well off each other as they try to best the other with skill, luck, or deceit.
Everything about the movie is not good. After the first five minutes of the movie I was worried that I had wasted my money. The beginning is bad, but it gets better from there. The movie was also too long. Two hours and 15 minutes is too long for a movie with very little plot and so much action.
Still, “Solo” is worth the money whether you are a Star Wars fan or not. If you want to find out how Han got his last name, got the Millennium Falcon, or began his life as a smuggler, “Solo” has the answers.
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Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-action/violence.