Solo: A Star Wars Story is a swaggering space adventure

During the troubled production of this new prequel spin-off in the Star Wars saga, following the backstory of beloved space rogue Han Solo, the original directors left over creative differences mid-way through shooting.

Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 1:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 1:51 pm
When Han met Chewbacca: the iconic space-faring duo are seen in their younger years (Photo: Disney)

As Solo himself might say: "I have a bad feeling about this."

And yet, if there were any rough edges resulting from the abrupt change of director (which lead to multiple reshoots), they have been entirely smoothed over. Lead actor Alden Ehrenreich perfectly captures the spirit of a young Harrison Ford in this thrilling stand-alone Star Wars adventure.

Set several years before the events of the original trilogy, the film serves as a Han Solo origin story, detailing how he got his name, his first meeting with Chewbacca, and his first flight aboard the Millennium Falcon.

Donald Glover is a stand-out as Lando (Photo: Disney)

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However, it's also a story of space piracy that's entirely enjoyable on its own terms, even if you've never seen a Star Wars film before.

Smuggling scoundrels

Directed by Ron Howard – a late replacement for Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – the film begins with Han (Ehrenreich) and girlfriend Qi'ra (Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke) plotting their escape from the crime-controlled planet of Corellia, only for the pair to become separated and for Han to be drafted into fighting for the Empire.

Three years later, after a fortuitous meeting with imprisoned Wookiee Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Han hooks up with a gang of space pirates lead by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and is reunited with Qi'ra when he agrees to undertake a smuggling job for sinister playboy gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).

Yes, the Falcon plays a major part (Photo: Disney)

However, in order to do the job, Han and Beckett need a ship. So they secure the services of flamboyant space scoundrel Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the captain of the Millennium Falcon.

Han and Chewie are still the ultimate space bromance

Ehrenreich's performance is nothing short of extraordinary – he effortlessly captures Harrison Ford's cocky swagger, ridiculously wide grin and distinctive speech patterns, while still making the part his own and never lapsing into a straightforward impression.

Admittedly, Ehrenreich has more chemistry with Suotamo's Chewbacca than he does with Clarke's Qi'ra, though perhaps that's as it should be.

The rest of the cast is packed with colourful characters and pitch-perfect performances, with Glover the stand-out in a wonderful turn as Lando and hilarious comic support from Phoebe Waller-Bridge as his pilot droid L3-37, who's obsessed with obtaining equal rights for robots.

Exciting action

Howard orchestrates a number of great action sequences (a train-based heist is impressively executed) and captures a lively and diverse group dynamic aboard the Falcon that harks back to the original Star Wars film.

There are also, predictably, multiple call-backs and references to the other films that will delight long-term fans of the franchise.

Indeed, the main thread of the plot stems from a boast Solo makes in the original Star Wars, about the Falcon "making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs". Here, we get to see that famous run, and it's every bit as exciting as you might imagine.

Combining epic space action, colourful characters and delightful performances, this is a welcome addition to the Star Wars franchise that leaves you wanting more.

★★★★

By Matthew Turner