Solo: A Star Wars Story
A long time ago in a galaxy pretty close by, Han Solo first appeared on our cinema screens in the original Star Wars film. I was 10 years old and thought he was the coolest thing imaginable – as did millions of others around the globe.
Small wonder, then, that the career of Harrison Ford shot into the stratosphere after Star Wars: A New Hope, while Mark Hamill’s more serious, Force-driven character of Luke Skywalker didn’t grab our interest quite as much.
Han Solo was a cheeky, irreverent bad boy makes good with courage in a tight place, and we loved him for it, so stepping into those boots was always going to be a big ask. Would the actor playing Han try and mimic Ford in word and action – and be roundly criticised when he failed – or take the character in a completely different direction?
Alden Ehrenreich as the young Han Solo seems to strike a middle path, and it works pretty well. The Han of Solo: A Star Wars Story is confident and plucky but hasn’t quite developed the swagger and cynicism we see in A New Hope, and that’s okay. He’s still a teenager, after all (and don’t ask me how I know that… suffice to say that the online world of Star Wars fandom is filled with many strange things).
The film begins on Han’s home world of Corellia, where he and other parentless kids are given shelter, taught crime from the cradle and live in virtual slavery. Han and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) hope to steal enough to run away together, but it doesn’t go entirely as planned, and Han ends up making an unexpected choice to save himself.
The story is long and complicated, and die-hard fans will find plenty to rejoice in. There are only minimal spoilers in saying we see the unlikely first meeting between Han and his eventual first mate Chewbacca, the card games between Han and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the first appearance of the Millennium Falcon and the famous “Kessel run”. There’s also a big reveal near the end of the film, which had a major aficionado near me beside himself with delight. But my lips are sealed.
I did find the film over-long at 135 minutes – perhaps one too many action sequences (and there are plenty of those!). The length may be more of an issue for those who have never seen a Star Wars film and don’t care as much about extra story details, although having said that, a complete newbie could follow pretty much all the action.
There’s a load of entertainment value, lots of excellent special effects, some very enjoyable new characters – particularly Calrissian’s feisty droid, L3-37 – and weird creatures/planets galore. If that’s your thing, you’ll be happy, even though some of the action ideas have been seen before.
For those seeking something deeper, the film considers power, greed and their negative effects along with the oppression of people groups and individuals – all very topical in today’s world. And, like many a Star Wars film before it, Solo also tackles love, loyalty and betrayal. Who are we when no one is looking? What does it mean to belong? Is real love and trust possible? What makes us who we are? Is redemption from our past possible?
The Force is never mentioned in this film as, like Han Solo himself, it’s about action, adventure, taking crazy risks and travelling through the stars. And even if it does take a little long to get you there it’s not a bad ride.