Alden Ehrenreich ably apes Harrison Ford in this straightforwardly rollicking adventure, which betrays little trace of its troubled production
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a crackingly enjoyable adventure which frankly deserves full episode status in the great franchise, not just one of these intermittent place-holding iterations. Ron Howard was born to direct it. Whos next for the saga? Zemeckis? Spielberg?
Theres a terrific ensemble cast-dynamic and an effortless channelling of the spirit of Episodes IV to VI from father-and-son screenwriting team Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan who should really be allowed to get their teeth into the stories daddy issues and Freudian anxieties.
Solo: A Star Wars Story moreover has a glorious origin myth meet-cute to set up one of cinemas greatest bromances: the stoic wookiee Chewbacca and the insolently handsome freebooting rebel pilot Han Solo and Alden Ehrenreich absolutely crushes the role to powder, swaggeringly reviving the memory of the young Harrison Fords romantic gallantry. And theres another meet-cute, come to think of it: the love that flowers between man and machine, between the reckless pilot and the sleekly iconic Millennium Falcon.
Ehrenreichs Han is a handsome scallywag and cute no-goodnik who is oppressed like everyone else on a tyrannised planet. He is in love with beautiful Qira (Emilia Clarke) and they plan to bribe officials with a stolen phial of ultra-valuable fuel crystal Coaxium to get smuggled out. Han makes it, Qira doesnt and Han swears to come back and find her someday. A few years later hes a brilliant pilot who has been booted out of the imperial fleet for insubordination, and has made common cause with a notorious thief, Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who with his associate Val (an underused Thandie Newton) works for a terrifying crime boss, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Thats right: the two intergalactic male robbers are called Beckett and Dryden. I like to think the Kasdan screenwriting team also experimented with Pinter and Davenant, and Stoppard and Marvell before settling on those.