‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ mixes action, nostalgia with likable characters
I knew the exact moment when “Solo: A Star Wars Story” hooked me — and it didn’t take long.
His first interaction with perpetual sidekick Chewbacca is a classic “Star Wars” moment that had me all up in those feelings that gripped me in 1977, as a 12-year-old seeing it for the first time.
The scene captured the nostalgia — which is what part of this is about — and some of the whimsy of that film all while making 50-something me want more.
The charm in “Solo” comes more from the cast than the story. It’s a rogue’s gallery of likable characters who fit remarkably well in the “Star Wars” universe, each with appeal and offering something beyond caricature.
Of course it begins with the classic movie anti-hero Han Solo, portrayed with uncanny Harrison Ford-like charm by Alden Ehrenreich.
As part of this origin story, we see the roots of his and Chewbacca’s (Joonas Suotamo) friendship. It’s strangely gratifying to see everyone’s favorite Wookie not lumbering around the film, instead possessing agility and fighting skills. Much like Darth Vader’s appearance in Rogue One, it thrills you to see.
And what of t hose Lando Calrissian rumors? Yes, they’re true. Donald Glover, entertainment’s everyman, brings his own version of cool to a role Billy Dee Williams made famous, and illuminates and relishes every moment.
Remarkably, all of these new portrayals of classic characters work well and with ease together.
More important, however, they blend seamlessly with newcomers like Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), a ne’er-do-well who takes a young Han Solo under his wing, training him in the art of smuggling, among other things, a trade Solo is drawn to after deserting the Imperial Army.
After several years, Solo still can’t get beyond the fact that he left his true love, Qi’ra (“Game of Thrones”’ Emilia Clarke) on their home world while he managed to escape. He views his desertion and the lucrative opportunity Tobias and his crew present as a chance to get back there to rescue her.
They set up a for-profit venture for noted gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) only to have it go off the rails, literally. After they fail to live up to their end of the bargain, Vos agrees to give them another chance, setting up an even more dangerous scenario.
Don’t take your eyes off the players, because discerning who may be double- crossing whom provides much of the fun in “Solo.”
What’s ultimately surprising: A movie in a franchise as significant as “Star Wars” that had overwhelming production issues — directors were switched halfway through filming — is able to deliver what it needs to satisfy an audience.
Oscar- winner Ron Howard, who assumed those duties, is no stranger to blockbuster films, but the task he completed was monumental. While “Solo” has moments where it may lag, they are few, and Howard finds the correct rhythm and tone for the most part.
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo with Chewbacca, played by Joonas Suotamo, in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”