By Richard Bonaduce
There was only one new film at theaters countrywide this past Memorial Day holiday weekend. No other studio wanted to compete with Solo: A Star Wars Story, which pretty much guaranteed its box office dominance, even with Deadpool 2 in its second week and Avengers: Infinity War in its fifth. These Star Wars Stories can be considered spin-offs; additional tales that don’t necessarily fit sequentially with the rest of the Star Wars cinematic universe. Or cash cows for Disney.
Or way too much milking, considering expectations for Solo are low (even though pre-show ticket sales are high) and Disney has already planned at least six more such films centered on characters like Obi Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett. But arguably, Harrison Ford’s iconic Han Solo (played now by Alden Ehrenreich) is the safest bet for a spin-off.
But production problems have plagued Solo including a late change in directors to ‘ol reliable Ron Howard, who required massive reshoots which ballooned the production budget to somewhere between $250 million and $300 million. Han Solo’s charm had better be up to the task of at least covering the costs.
But Ehrenreich has failed to excite audiences and was even rumored to need acting lessons on-set. Luckily, we also catch up with other classic characters like Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), along with newcomers like Solo’s love interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and Beckett (Woody Harrelson). And even though fan favorite Glover is great as Lando, it’s Chewie who stands out, and not just because of his height; no, he finally gets more to do than just hang out next to someone else and growl. But actually, the whole cast does well under Howard (who has always been strong with actors), with even Ehrenreich growing on me well before the credits rolled.
Of course, the Extended Universe Fans will find much to grouse about, but for the rest of us, Solo presents a young Han (some three to five years before the 1977 Star Wars) who still seems optimistic; yearning for an unfettered life of interstellar travel with his ladylove…until the Empire gets in the way.
After having to team-up with scavengers led by Harrelson’s Beckett, Solo learns a few life-lessons that slowly turn him into the more familiar cynical rouge of A New Hope. Along the way, some questions are answered (How did he get his famed blaster? How did he get his beloved Millennium Falcon?), while others are raised, in addition to a last-minute surprise that have fans giggling with joy.
Ultimately, it’s this combination of story, cast performances and fan service that combine to make Solo: A Star Wars Story the most enjoyable of the latest bunch of modern Star Wars flicks. Sadly, it does this by also pulling some emotional punches to keep things on the lighter, sci-fi adventure side. But after so many cinematic disappointments following the original trilogy, I’ll take a high-flying one-off Star Wars story over worthless prequels or erratic sequels any day.
This review comes from our sister site, Salt Lake Magazine.