‘Solo’ flight is pure fan fun

New York Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - BY ETHAN SACKS

THE LIKE­LI­HOOD of mak­ing a suc­cess­ful Han Solo pre­quel were ap­prox­i­mately 3,720 to 1.

There was also the ba­sic ques­tion: Is there even a pur­pose to make “Solo: A Star Wars Story”?

Like Princess Leia, we swooned over Har­ri­son Ford’s smug­gler over the course of his ap­pear­ances in four “Star Wars” movies be­cause he was a scoundrel. And an enig­matic one at that. If his mys­te­ri­ous past was sud­denly re­vealed, would he re­main as in­ter­est­ing?

More­over, it didn’t in­still con­fi­dence when di­rec­tors Phil Lord and Christo­pher Miller (“The Lego Movie”) were fired dur­ing pro­duc­tion of “Solo” — even if they were re­place by the tal­ented vet­eran Ron Howard.

Some of us had a bad feel­ing about this. But never tell Lucasfilm the odds. Be­cause the stu­dio some­how suc­ceeded — mostly, any­way.

In the sci-fi heist movie open­ing May 25, a young Han (Alden Ehren­re­ich) es­capes servi­tude on his home planet to set out to earn his for­tune. He latches on to a gang of thieves led by Beck­ett (Woody Har­rel­son) out to steal a ship­ment of the ex­plo­sive fuel, coax­ium, for a crime lord (Paul Bet­tany).

That brings him into the or­bit of a femme fa­tale from his past (Emilia Clarke) and a cou­ple of fa­mil­iar faces from the fu­ture in fel­low out­laws, Lando Cal­ris­sian (Don­ald Glover) and Chew­bacca (Joonas Suo­tamo).

The Kes­sel Run that the film takes from ac­tion set piece to ac­tion set piece is al­most fast enough to ob­scure sev­eral con­ve­nient co­in­ci­dences and plot holes. Of those there are too many, con­sid­er­ing that the script is by Lawrence Kas­dan — who wrote the best in­stall­ment in the fran­chise, “The Em­pire Strikes Back” — and his son, Jonathan.

For­tu­nately, “Solo” is fu­eled by a stronger power source than mere coax­ium — nos­tal­gia. For “Star Wars” fans, it’s an en­joy­able love story — be­tween a boy and his Wook­iee.

It’s not, how­ever, a univer­sal love story. A lot of the ref­er­ences (and a ma­jor plot twist) will sim­ply go over the heads of tourists who are only pass­ing through this gal­axy far, far away. (Knock a half-star off the re­view if you fall in that camp.)

De­spite mid­pro­duc­tion re­ports of stu­dio dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Ehren­re­ich, the “Hail, Cae­sar!” ac­tor fills Ford’s boots — both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively. Ehren­re­ich man­ages the right bal­ance of chan­nel­ing Ford with­out mim­ick­ing him.

Glover chews his way through the scenery of sev­eral star sys­tems with such aplomb and charisma that one can only hope for a “Lando: A Star Wars Story.” But Clarke isn’t given enough to do, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing how high­im­pact the fe­male char­ac­ters have been in the last three “Star Wars” films.

The movie’s real hero, how­ever, is Howard. He man­aged to bring a fun, if slightly scuffed up, joyride into the­aters — against the odds.

As ti­tle hero of “Star Wars” pre­quel “Solo,” Alden Ehren­re­ich finds bud­dies in Chew­bacca (main photo and left) and Lando Cal­ris­sian (Don­ald Glover, in­set with a two-headed, shrimpy alien).

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