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The ride for Hans Solo and his crew hasn’t exactly been the smoothest. The original directors were fired after at least ¾ of the film had been shot, the script was reportedly “unworkable” and Alden Ehrenreich was struggling to get a grip on Harrison Ford’s legendary character.
Not exactly the Disney-happy image the company like to project, but then again, making a movie is mostly a series of on-the-spot solutions coalesced together to make a cohesive whole. Ron ‘Safe Hands’ Howard was handed the keys to the Falcon and the salvage job began.
What Howard has patched together, in the end, is unremarkable enough to safeguard the $250m Disney ploughed into production. Solo: A Star Wars Story seems to take place somewhere close to A New Hope, catching up with a young and optimistic Han (Alden Ehrenreich) looking for a way off his run-down home planet of Corellia with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke).
Only Hans makes it out and he enlists in the military to learn how to become a pilot. We jump forward 3 years where he joins forces with mercenaries Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton) and embarks on a mission under the watchful eye of Crimson Dawn bigwig Dryden (Paul Bettany). Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon are all eventually introduced and its full (light)speed ahead to connect all the expected dots.
It’s estimated that about 70% of the film was shot under Howard’s direction and as such he has to take the blame for most of its faults. There is barely a moment to catch your breath in the 135 minutes we spend hurtling across the galaxy and with so many new faces being introduced hardly any time is spent getting to know them.
One action sequence quickly follows on from another and jammed in-between are a few character moments that seem like an afterthought rather than giving us an insight into the various dynamics playing out on-screen. Much of it feels weightless and inconsequential – which is an inherent problem for prequels because the audience already knows who will pull through in the end.
Alden Ehrenreich is on something of a hiding to nothing taking on a role as well defined as Solo. He wisely chooses to avoid mimicking the cynical, dry-humoured, Harrison Ford-style performance and aims for something closer to the essence of the character. That said, it’s hard not to keep projecting Ford onto Ehrenreich and calling back to the original version from the Lucas films.
The similarities between Rogue One and Solo extend beyond the troubled production into the undistinguishable cinematography which looks murky and dull. Aesthetically it fits into the Star Wars universe but there isn’t much pop or vibrancy to support the action set-pieces.
As you would expect, the ending lays the ground for a sequel and with the number of Star Wars films currently stuffed into the pipeline you can be sure the saga will continue. Solo ensures all the key backstory questions about our hero are answered but it’s a safe bet that lacks the nerve to take the risk that made The Last Jedi such a thrilling experience.