SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

It’s exactly what you think.

In Solo’s far and above best sequence, when one character tells another “don’t improvise,” you know what is going to happen. Both a highlight and cautionary tale for the film itself, it’s Producers, infamously having to juggle competing visions of the now second standalone Star Wars entry, have, bar one notable exception, delivered a feature that is in almost every respect unapologetically predictable.

A risk-adverse action-adventure about a risk-taker with nothing to lose, for every moment Solo manages to surprise you there’s two more to fill in blanks that never needed filling. Ultimately credited to Director Ron Howard, not Phil Lord nor Christopher Miller, who were unceremoniously booted from the project, fans will not be disappointed by Solo, and that is the point.

From meeting Chewie to a high-stakes parlay to getting acquainted with his ship, there’s no course, including one taken by the Millenium Falcon, that will come as a surprise to even casual followers. Connecting dots all over the galaxy, Solo is at it’s sparing best when steering the plot a little further into hyperspace.

The aforementioned sequence, involving one of the film’s two very good heists and an especially memorable droid, distinguishes itself by not only jettisoning the fan-service that otherwise characterises Solo but for, in the saga’s best traditions, being unabashedly fun. An elaboration here on the genesis of the Millenium Falcon, as significant a franchise character as almost any else, stands as one of Solo’s more elegant additions to the canon. Something that will have you never quite looking at the ship the same way again, a similarly shrewd reference to Han’s later encounter with Guido, itself the subject of much fan consternation, will leave many beaming.

Joining the few thankfully none too obvious call-backs, what could readily be interpreted as a sly refrain to the now famous “don’t get cocky” aside too stands distinct amongst all too many blatant instances where the filmmakers all but pause to make sure the reference registers. Leaning heavily on sure-footed fan favourites, very few of Solo’s lines have the organic chemistry teeming in the original trilogy, save one notable attempt at directions from Lando, played here by an excellent Donald Glover who scene after scene nails his role.

Veering ever so slightly further in his depiction, Alden Ehrenreich’s Han is not a bare rehash nor imitation of Harrison Ford’s. Instead imparting his own brand of roguish charm, Ehrenreich manages to stand shoulders above Solo’s largely derivative misgivings. Paul Bettany’s villain is surpassingly memorable despite his brief screen-time, while Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke, lacking the range and presence of her co-stars, fares less well. Clarke’s emergence within proceedings, in such a manner that would make Zaphod Beeblebrox blush, remains one of the most frustrating elements of this whole venture.

And then there’s that character. Yes, THAT character. The one you never expected to see, or never thought you would. And yes, that is who you think it is, and before you say that isn’t canon and they shouldn’t be there know that Star Wars fans everywhere are rejoicing and that far from being cheap fan-service this is an advent, at least on film, that is very, very welcome.

Solo’s most closely-guarded reveal will have a lot of viewers scratching their heads, or moaning in frustration. For many fans of the series, this author included, this is somewhere we never thought they’d go and are so glad they did. It bodes well for the next entry and those to come, not just for the much-anticipated stories yet to be told, but as a signal, despite much that transpired this time around, that our yearly doses of Star Wars are ready to go in new and very exciting directions.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas now