‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ mixes ac­tion, nos­tal­gia with lik­able char­ac­ters

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - MOVIES - TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE BY GE­ORGE M. THOMAS

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.”

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