Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Thandie Newton
It's a placeholder that fulfils its duty but there are no surprises here
First you have to adjust to Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, the swashbuckling character that Harrison Ford immortalized. Solo is a cool and cocky cowboy. He is a unique alchemy of smug and sincere. This man had swag 41 years ago in the first Star Wars film – decades before any of us had even heard the word. These are big shoes to fill. Ehrenreich has the good looks and charm but it takes time to warm up to him. And until the end, I had trouble imagining him evolving into Harrison Ford.
Ehrenreich doesn't get much support from the story. Writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, who happen to be father and son and also co-producers on the film, create a packed plot that begins on the planet Corellia, where Han and his girlfriend Qi'ra plan an escape. We are told that it is a lawless time. Crime syndicates loom large. Han dreams of breaking free and becoming the best pilot in the galaxy.
From here we embark on a few heists and encounter various characters ranging from the unimaginative villain Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany to the slick Lando Calrissian played by a scene-stealing Donald Glover. The usually reliable Woody Harrelson doesn't add much spark because we've seen him do this too many times. Instead, look out for the non-human characters – I enjoyed Lando's partner robot L3-37, voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who wants to end machine slavery, and confidently says that if she and Lando were to be in a relationship, it would work – physically at least!
There is also some satisfaction in seeing the blossoming of the friendship between Solo and Chewbacca. I got a genuine kick watching them pilot the Millennium Falcon together for the first time. But these highs can't sustain a two hour, twenty-three-minute film. Solo has been directed by Ron Howard, who replaced the film's original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The film's troubled production history has made news for months and we can only wonder what might have been.
What's onscreen simply isn't magical enough. It might please die-hard fans to know how Han got the last name or how he made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs – which incidentally is a reference to distance not time. But I think even they might be disappointed with such an unadventurous take on the galaxy's favorite rebel.