He’s no Har­ri­son, but young Han’s a star­ship trouper

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Solo: A Star Wars Story (12A) Ver­dict: Han the (young) man

THERE was plenty of barely con­tained delir­ium at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val on Tues­day night, sig­ni­fy­ing a ma­jor cin­e­matic event. Here was the one they’d all been wait­ing fren­ziedly for — ex­cept for those of us who hadn’t, es­pe­cially.

When Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens came out in 2015, it was the first visit for a decade to a galaxy far, far away. The hype was un­der­stand­ably thun­der­ous; the mer­chan­dis­ing sales alone could have put small debt-laden na­tions back on their feet.

But this is now the fourth Star Wars re­lated movie in less than three years. I duly took my seat on Tues­day with my per­sonal lightsaber of breath­less an­tic­i­pa­tion hav­ing de­vel­oped some­thing of a droop.

Not even the prospect of a Han Solo ori­gin story stiff­ened it up. Be­sides, who wants to see any­one but old wonky-lips him­self, Har­ri­son Ford, at the con­trols of the Mil­len­nium Fal­con as Solo?

On the other hand, no fran­chise rakes in more than $42 bil­lion, as Star Wars is es­ti­mated to have done since 1977, with­out be­ing able to keep a good thing go­ing. But that’s all that Solo: A Star Wars Story is: good.

It’s nowhere near as much of a blast as the last stand­alone film, 2016’s wildly en­joy­able Rogue One. And it is mys­ti­fy­ingly dark, in colour rather than con­tent, al­most as if the film stock has been washed in ditch­wa­ter.

The pro­duc­tion’s widely pub­li­cised trou­bles, with di­rec­tor Ron Howard com­ing in af­ter his two pre­de­ces­sors were re­port­edly fired, have per­haps taken their toll.

HOWARD is a fine film-maker, whose di­rec­to­rial ca­reer has been strong enough to stop us think­ing of him pri­mar­ily as whole­some Richie Cun­ning­ham from the TV sit­com Happy Days.

But in truth this movie could do with a Fonz: some­one to be­stride and own it.

No­body does, quite. The Amer­i­can ac­tor Alden Ehren­re­ich ap­par­ently pipped Bri­tain’s Taron Eger­ton and Ire­land’s Jack Reynor to the ti­tle role, and does a de­cent job, but he lacks Ford’s screen pres­ence, that enig­matic charisma he had even as a young man.

The film be­gins in Solo’s law­less home planet of Corel­lia. He is a grad­u­ate of the school of hard knocks, an or­phan and petty thief, a sci-fi Artful Dodger. But he

has grand am­bi­tions. He tells his girl­friend Qi’ra (Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) that he wants to be a pi­lot, the best in the galaxy. If he’s to achieve the life he wants for both of them, they need to get off Corel­lia.

This is the best phase of the movie, with some lovely se­quences ex­plain­ing how Han got his sur­name, and, es­pe­cially, how he came to meet his furry friend Chew­bacca (once again in­hab­ited by gi­gan­tic Fin­nish bas­ket­ball player Joonas Suo­tamo).

By the time he and Chewie hook up, Solo has been thrown out of pi­lot school for in­sub­or­di­na­tion and some­how ended up as a hum­ble foot sol­dier.

In the trenches he meets ras­cally To­bias Beck­ett (Woody Har­rel­son) and his part­ner Val (Thandie Newton), who rein­tro­duce him to a life of crime.

There fol­lows a gen­uinely thrilling train heist, which goes awry, earn­ing the gang the wor­ry­ing dis­ap­proval of Beck­ett’s villainous pay­mas­ter, Dry­den Vos (Paul Bet­tany, ex­cel­lent as ever). The aim of the heist was to steal Coax­ium, the cov­eted star­ship fuel. To pla­cate Vos, they must get it from some­where else.

But where, and how? First, they need a re­li­able star­ship. Fans of the orig­i­nal tril­ogy will rel­ish the in­tro­duc­tion at this point of Lando Cal­ris­sian, the first owner of the Mil­len­nium Fal­con, here played by Don­ald Glover. Lando has a side­kick too, a droid called L3, voiced by a scene-steal­ing Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

To­gether, this un­likely band plunge into a se­ries of mis­ad­ven­tures, which, with­out wish­ing to give any­thing away, leads them into at least one close en­counter with a mon­strous oc­to­pus thingy the size of a planet.

The ac­tion zips along, with the help of some pre­dictably ter­rific spe­cial ef­fects, but as a whole it feels more func­tional than ex­hil­a­rat­ing. To mix fran­chises: it’s Star Wars, Han, but not quite as

we know it. SOLO: A Star Wars Story opens here on Thurs­day.

Solo flight: Alden Ehren­re­ich with Joonas Suo­tamo as Chew­bacca

Snappy dresser: Don­ald Glover as Lando Cal­ris­sian

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