Solo: A Star Wars Story (MA15+)

In a Word: Engaging

 Solo

Old friends reborn. Alden Ehrenreich plays a younger Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo Chewbecca in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

"For the fans it's the answers to some of the many questions they've had about Solo, one of the most popular characters in Star Wars, since as far back as 1979 - when did Han Solo first meet Chewbacca (here played by Joonas Suotamo)?; how did Han 'win' the Millennium Falcon; just how tough was the 'Kessel run'? - that here bring the movie alive. And in the knowledge of that, writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan have plenty of fun in the revelations, even throwing in some red herrings."

The second movie to come out with a story skewing off the main Star Wars narrative (the first being Rogue One), Solo again delivers a film for the franchise fans with plenty of laser blaster action, new exotic characters and worlds to explore and a delightfully detailed narrative which successfully co-opts and adds to the Star Wars milieau.

Solo does work as a stand alone storyline - a young man, Han (played by Alden Ehrenreich), grows up in the criminal underworld of Corellia, a planet that's essentially one big ship-building yard, and with his girlfriend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), plots a life of freedom off-planet. But they're soon separated and Han joins the Imperial Navy as way to escape (and learn to fly) but his head-strong nature soon gets in the way and he finds himself in the infantry fighting in the mud on some far-flung planet for the Empire. It's there that he encounters the criminal Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelsen) and his band and, despite Beckett's best efforts to dump him, soon finds himself working as part of Beckett's crew in the hope of one day returning to Corellia with enough money so he and Qi'ra can escape on their own spaceship. Adventures ensue. 

For the fans, however, it's the answers to some of the many questions they've had about Solo, one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars franchise, since as far back as the late Seventies - when did Han Solo first meet Chewbacca (here played by Joonas Suotamo)?; how did Han 'win' the Millennium Falcon?; just how did Han complete the 'Kessel run' in 12 parsecs? - that here bring the movie alive. And in the knowledge of that, writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan have plenty of fun in the revelations, even throwing in some red herrings.

The actors do a good job of slotting seamlessly into the Star Wars world - Ehrenreich manages to pull off  a younger (although equally cocky) version of Han Solo, and Donald Glover does the same for the somewhat slippery character of Lando Calrissian - and mostly the new characters, including new bad guy Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and sassy droid and Calrissian's co-pilot L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), work well (the lessons of the much maligned Jar Jar Binks from Episode II are never far away). 

Director Ron Howard, who took over part way through, clearly had fun making this film which sits somewhere between Episodes III and IV of the main narrative and which also sets the scene for a sequel (apparently two are in the planning already) but doesn't take any great risks with it - which is both a positive in that it maintains the consistency of the universe - but perhaps could also be seen as a negative in that we don't walk away with anything incredible different (but then, it would be a very brave director who did mess with the formula).

It's a long film at 135 minutes but that shouldn't a problem with the plot twists and turns (as well as comic moments and reveals) continuing right to the end. A diverting and (for the fan) informative way to spend a couple of hours. Pure entertainment.