Han’s hum­drum solo run

It’s a car chase movie. It’s a heist movie. It’s a poker movie. It’s an okay movie

The Irish Times - - Friday Life Film & Music - TARA BRADY

SOLO: A STAR

WARS STORY ★★★ Di­rected by Ron Howard. Star­ring Alden Ehren­re­ich, Woody Har­rel­son, Emilia Clarke, Don­ald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. 12A cert, 134 mins

It’s weird to find a Star Wars film at Cannes (though it’s not un­heard of). Well, Solo may be a Star Wars Story, but it’s not re­ally a Star Wars film. So the Cannes purists can put down their burn­ing torches.

It’s a car chase movie. It’s a heist movie. It’s a poker movie. Dur­ing the pretty good open­ing 20 min­utes, it ac­tu­ally prom­ises to be a space ver­sion of Howard Hawks’s Only An­gels Have Wings. Hard-talk­ing male fly­ers trade quips with smart fe­male ob­servers.

The film may have had a trou­bled pro­duc­tion. Ron “safe pair of hands” Howard was brought on af­ter ini­tial di­rec­tors Phil Lord and Christo­pher Miller fell out with the man­age­ment over what we used to call mu­si­cal dif­fer­ences. But at first it looks as if they’ve re­ally pulled it off.

Young Han Solo (Alden Ehren­re­ich), who longs to be a pi­lot, zips about the streets of a dumpy planet with his girl­friend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) until cir­cum­stance flings him into the Im­pe­rial army. Year later, he falls in with a tough crew of hus­tlers led by To­bias Beck­ett (Woody Har­rel­son) and they em­bark on a scheme to rob bar­rels of some­thing dan­ger­ous for one Dry­den Vos (Paul Bet­tany at his slip­peri­est) and his dodgy sky-bound car­tel.

(Dry­den? Beck­ett? Did some­one ma­jor in English lit­er­a­ture here?)

What do you know? Qi’ra is here as Dry­den’s lieu­tenant. I don’t know what sort of “lieu­tenant” dresses as she does at that time of the day. Lieu­tenant of sex work­ers, per­haps.

What a shame in a film with some very strong, orig­i­nal fe­male char­ac­ters. Any­way, Qi’ra is dis­patched with the gang to keep an eye on them.

Sadly, some­thing goes a bit wrong here, and the film slides off into semi-in­co­her­ence.

The joins in the “trou­bled pro­duc­tion” show through as char­ac­ters spend min­utes on end ex­plain­ing un­nec­es­sary de­tails of the plot. The ac­tion se­quences be­come in­creas­ingly hard to fol­low. The war­ring fac­tions mount up like the ri­val re­bel­lions in Life of Brian.

Once Chew­bacca re­turns and we are re­united with the Mil­len­nium Fal­con, Ehren­re­ich’s in­ad­e­qua­cies as a proto-Har­ri­son Ford be­come more and more ev­i­dent. Don’t get us wrong. He’s a good ac­tor and he fires out the lines bet­ter than many con­tem­po­raries could man­age. But faced with the un­en­vi­able (per­haps im­pos­si­ble) chal­lenge of echo­ing the gor­geous, ex-car­pen­ter cool of Har­ri­son in 1977, he falls short. Who wouldn’t?

Solo is not the dis­as­ter many feared when news leaked out of those fir­ings and hir­ings. But it’s very much a film of

‘‘ Ehren­re­ich’s in­ad­e­qua­cies as a pro­toHar­ri­son Ford be­come more and more ev­i­dent

good bits and bad bits. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, cre­ator of Fleabag, has great fun as L3, a robot that yearns for au­ton­omy in a de­light­ful echo of Ben­der from Fu­tu­rama.

It hardly needs to be said that Don­ald Glover rocks as a younger, even more laid-back Lando Cal­ris­sian. But Emilia Clarke is des­per­ately un­der­pow­ered, and even the char­ac­ters them­selves seem to even­tu­ally give up on the back-of-an-en­ve­lope plot.

I’ve got a hum­drum feel­ing about this.

Solo is very much a film of good bits and bad bits ■

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