An entertaining and fairly exciting ride albeit predictable. Ron Howard capably delivered a summer popcorn flick that paid service to the franchise but not necessarily adding much new fans. Nonetheless, it still had its share of moments especially whenever the familiar Star Wars theme play up or when Chewie and Han have a moment. After his star-making turn in the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, Alden Ehrenreich cements his leading man status here with an old-school, cinematic charisma and swagger that was highly reminiscent of a young Harrison Ford except for the annoyingly constant hands on hips/thumbs hooking pants, power-posing.
The rest of the cast were all competent with Woody Harrelson again reprising the gruff, yet fatherly, mentor role (see: “Hunger Games”) and Emilia Clarke still coasting on her fame as Danaerys and trying to act beyond her emotional range (perhaps Ehrenreich’s much-buzzed about acting coach should have worked on Clarke too). Paul Bettany continued the Star Wars trend of having non-American actors be the villains and chew on the scenery, and then we have poor Thandie Newton who got short-changed in a thankless role (lucky we will always have Maeve). At least we have the scene-stealing Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Go. Watch. “Killing Eve”) and Donald Glover. These two deserve their own spinoff á la Han and Chewie.
The first act was rather relentless and exhilarating as Howard raced through one action sequence after the other, dumping exposition in media res as we go straight into Han’s formative journey aka the story. But then, the second act slowed, ostensibly for the narrative to breath. However, it was a long breath that dragged on saved for the introduction of Waller-Bridge and Glover and the Millennium Falcon. That ultimately ended with an exciting chase and a ridiculous climax. Which then brought us to the final act that finally dovetailed this standalone into the greater mythology (fanboy moment) which really deserved to be explored rather than have it hanging.
The score by John Powell carried John Williams motifs and served to complement the action; Bradford Young lensed the film and there were some visual similarity in the early scenes with his Oscar-nominated work on “Arrival” but otherwise there were not any standout scenes, not even the climatic moment at the end of the second act.
“Solo” was a good standalone film and summer blockbuster on its own with nothing new to add other than introducing new actors (and characters) to the franchise and hopefully making bona fide stars out of some of them.