Disney, the new owners of the Star Wars universe are keen to squeeze every last dollar out their purchase. Not content with creating new films using the original series as a starting point, they have decided to generate “Star Wars Stories”, spin offs from the characters created by George Lucas.
Following the critical and commercial success of “Rogue One”, a prequel featuring a Han Solo origin story was an obvious choice, potentially the first of many such stories (i.e. Boba Fett, Obi Wan etc).
Bravely filling the iconic boots of Harrison Ford’s “Han Solo” is Alden Ehrenreich. We meet a young Han on the planet Corellia, much in love with his girlfriend “Qi’ra” (Emilia Clarke). The couple desperately want to relinquish their life of servitude and leave the planet behind.
Circumstances conspire to get Solo enlisted as a infantryman for the Empire, which may be a shock to some Star Wars die-hard fans. Complicated plot devices lead him to criminal scoundrels “Beckett” (Woody Harrelson) and “Val” (Thandie Newton). This path eventually leads to the much celebrated card game with the man with a wardrobe of colourful cloaks, “Lando Calrissian” (Donald Glover), owner of the “Millennium Falcon”.
Of course, the real bromance is touchingly pieced together, we are also treated to some backstory for everyone’s favourite Wookie “Chewbacca” (Joonas Suotamo), including an amusing shower scene.
Acting wise, Alden certainly does well enough, Clarke is a bit bland, Glover does not get enough to do, Bettany conjures up enough evil for a PG13 movie but Harrelson really steals the film, apart from scenes containing Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) of course, he’s still a star.
The new droid L3-37 also gets a mention and a silly sub-plot, not voiced by Gwendoline Christie as first thought but Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
The story rips along and also covers the the famous “Kessell run in 12 par sec’s” line in the earlier films, with many other nods to the earlier classics. The film is essentially a heist movie albeit with characters we have some affinity for, all set in a well familiar Star Wars environment.
The film was received somewhat coolly by critics which arguably followed a very public falling out of the films original directors, before landing in the safe yet uninspired hands of director Ron Howard.
The film is fun, full of action and not entirely predictable, with a reasonable villain in the form of “Dryden Vos” (Paul Bettany), aboard his rather swanky spaceship.
Whether Disney has spread the “Star Wars” brand too far is debatable. There is no question “Star Wars” films should be an event, something to really look forward to. If films come off the production line once a year, arguably audiences might react “meh”, which represents a danger to the main franchise.
Fun, exciting and mostly enjoyable, albeit largely forgettable. The film does test audiences desire for a constant stream of Star Wars films.
Worth watching but box office and audience reaction may have stalled any further spin-off movies for now at least.