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“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a fun origin story set in a galaxy far far away

HOLLYWOOD HEROES™: Among cinematic characters, there’s almost no one out there who matches the love that has been bestowed upon Han Solo. What Harrison Ford did with that part for George Lucas and company is the stuff of history and legend. So, having someone new take on the role was always going to be a tricky thing for Disney and LucasFilm to pull off. After all, Solo: A Star Wars Story is the first time since the franchise re-emerged where they’ve really gone and recast one of their beloved players. Throw in the turmoil behind the scenes and there was a chance that this could have been a mess. Luckily, that’s not the case. Opening this week, Solo: A Star Wars Story is disposable and completely unnecessary, but it’s also a ton of fun. The good definitely outweighs the bad here.

The film is an origin story for Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), set well before he joined up with the Rebellion or came into contact with The Force. Here, he’s initially just a fugitive, one who escaped servitude on his home planet and fell in with a band of criminals. At the start, he’s just looking for a quick buck in order to get home and rescue his girl Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). His group of bandits is led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and includes Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio Durant (voice of Jon Favreau). While taking up shop with them, he’ll meet Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) for the first time, as well as begin to set his moral compass. Through it all, he encounters his iconic blaster, Millennium Falcon, and other seminal moments in his history. Ron Howard directs (taking over for the departed Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who retain Executive Producer credits) a script by the father son duo of Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan. The rest of the cast includes Paul Bettany and Warwick Davis, along with the voices of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Linda Hunt, among others. John Powell handles the score (with a little John Williams sounds thrown in), while the cinematography comes from the emerging master Bradford Young.

Solo: A Star Wars Story represents the highs and lows of the series. The movie is at its best when we’re just on adventures throughout the galaxy. In some cases, had these just been completely original characters, that would have made it even more fun. Ehrenreich takes some getting used to as Han, but he wins you over before long. Glover is terrific as Lando and probably deserved more screen time. The moments of humor work, and it’s often thrilling. On the other hand, if the prequels taught us anything, it’s that this franchise doesn’t need to answer questions. The fill in the blank moments for this character’s backstory are the weakest parts of the film. More with the world, less with the history of these icons would have made this good movie into a great one.

There isn’t much left of the vision that Lord and Miller had, presumably, but having seen the flick, their version intrigues me. Certain set designs, creature looks, and droid interactions have a feel of more of a lark. It seems clear that the filmmaking duo would have made something decidedly un “Star Wars” in the end, whatever that means. Howard seamlessly fit in with what Kathleen Kennedy and company are pursuing. In the end, it definitely works, but the thought of what might have been is interesting to ponder. If we see more Han centric adventures, and we almost certainly will, it seems likely that they’ll be doubling down on the action and backing off on the humor. Make of that what you will.

In just a few days, fans will be treated to Solo: A Star Wars Story when it hits cinemas. Though unlikely to end up anyone’s favorite Star Wars outing, it’s better than the prequels and basically on par with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. If these Story flicks are going to be on this level, that’s perfectly alright with me. They’re better than the average blockbuster, which many a studio can’t even pull off these days. For now, Star Wars fans should dive right in. There’s fun to be had a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…

Be sure to check out Solo: A Star Wars Story, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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