Solo

Total Film - - Contents -

It un­der­whelmed at the box of­fice, but how does Han’s solo story hold up?

There’s a sweet mo­ment in the Solo ex­tras when the cast thank Ron Howard for pulling the film’s ass out of the fire. Well, bit­ter­sweet, re­ally. A late-doors re­place­ment for dis­missed di­rec­tors Phil Lord and Christo­pher Miller, Howard stead­ied the ship, de­liv­ered to dead­line and earned re­spectable re­views. He snatched vic­tory from the jaws of de­feat – then stum­bled into the ran­cor pit of box-of­fice in­dif­fer­ence. Solo’s world­wide gross – wheez­ing to­wards $400m at time of writ­ing – is a de­cent chunk of change by most stan­dards, but not Star Wars’.

What went wrong? The (lack of) mar­ket­ing? De­but­ing so soon af­ter

The Last Jedi? De­but­ing so soon af­ter the (in­ex­pli­ca­ble) Last Jedi back­lash? Or sim­ply that it wasn’t the Star Wars film peo­ple needed right now?

What­ever the rea­son, Solo is a bomb… but one that’s full of fizz and flare. Its al­le­giance to the light side nicely con­trasts the dark­ness of Rogue One. Strangely, though, it takes that film’s murky pal­ette and grinds it even deeper into the mud; watch through 3D specs and your eyes may need as much

of a hose-down as those stormtroop­ers. At least the char­ac­ters are colour­ful. Alden Ehren­re­ich hooks your sym­pa­thy from the off - not least due to fac­ing the saga’s big­gest act­ing chal­lenge since Hay­den Chris­tensen had to find the miss­ing link be­tween whole­some mop­pet and geno­ci­dal despot.

Step­ping into cin­ema’s most iconic space-cow­boy boots, Ehren­re­ich – in­evitably – doesn’t make the role his own. But he takes good care of it; more happy-go-lucky than an­gry young Han, he flies ca­sual(ly) through the film, adopt­ing fa­mil­iar man­ner­isms with­out slip­ping into a hammy Har­ri­son Ford im­per­son­ation.

HAN AND EGGS

Ehren­re­ich’s jour­ney here from street rat to smug­gler doesn’t re­quire any es­pe­cially heavy lift­ing (no tragic con­fronta­tions with evil or pat­ri­ci­dal off­spring, for ex­am­ple). But it keeps him on his comedic toes: fi­nally bring­ing Star Wars’ oft-glimpsed un­der­world from the mar­gins to the cen­tre, this is a film crawl­ing with crime lords, pi­rates and, most of all, scene-steal­ers. There’s Chew­bacca (Joonas Suo­tamo), of course; true, there’s not much new we learn about the wook­iee wing­man (other than he looks cute in gog­gles), but he gets more to do than in the last two Episodes, and a meet-cute with Han that’s wor­thy of their four-decade bro­mance.

Bring­ing fresh swag­ger to Lando Cal­ris­sian, Don­ald Glover in­stantly de­serves his own spin-off… so long as it in­cludes his co-pi­lot/spe­cial friend L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Un­like most of the se­ries’ droid com­pan­ions, L3 seems to be miss­ing an obe­di­ence

chip, and is all the fun­nier for it.

If her lim­ited screen time dis­ap­points, a mi­cro-twist neatly and sweetly retro-fits her into Star Wars lore. Here’s hop­ing for an Episode IX Easter egg.

Talk­ing of which… have your bas­kets handy: this is one eggs-cel­lent ad­ven­ture. The plot – ev­ery­one in pur­suit of a Mad Max-y su­per-fuel macguf­fin called coax­ium – is al­most an af­ter­thought. The real story here is a se­quence of nods – big, small and ob­scure (Teras Kasi, any­one?) – to Star Wars his­tory. Thank­fully, Howard and fa­ther/son screen­writ­ers Lawrence/ Jonathan Kas­dan of­fer fan ser­vice with a smile. Many of the homages come in the form of gags, whether it’s a few bars of a cer­tain bad­die an­them or a twist on a clas­sic ex­change (“I know”).

Keep­ing things bright (vi­su­als aside) and breezy, the film­mak­ers have fun with mis­di­rec­tion (Han’s ac­qui­si­tion of the Mil­len­nium Fal­con) and rel­ish the chance to turn a tossed-off ref­er­ence into an all-quad-guns-blaz­ing set-piece. Ef­fec­tively the movie’s cli­max, the Kes­sel Run is surely big­ger, longer and louder than any­thing Ge­orge Lu­cas had in mind when he wrote Episode IV. That ac­tual wrap-up has re­duced im­pact, per­haps be­cause it teases se­quels we’re un­likely to see, at least in movie form.

NON-MILLER TIME

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Solo’s trou­bled pro­duc­tion (and per­for­mance) isn’t men­tioned in the ex­tras. The only con­ces­sion to cre­ative ten­sion is anec­dotes, back­story spec­u­la­tion and fash­ion cri­tiques (Glover’s take on Han’s style, or lack thereof, is a keeper). Other fea­turettes tackle de­sign is­sues (yel­low, red or blue for the Fal­con?), how to get a sound ef­fect out of a Gummi Bear and the ver­sa­til­ity of baguette warm­ers. There are also enough GIF-able Chewie mo­ments (danc­ing, fist-bump­ing, mak­ing a snow an­gel) to last the in­ter­net to in­fin­ity.

Hans’ love of fur was a sore point in the bro­mance. OLD AND NEW Glover, Ehren­re­ich and Suo­tamo take on clas­sic char­ac­ters, while Thandie New­ton, Woody Har­rel­son, Phoebe WallerBridge and Emilia Clarke join in the fun.

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