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Dear Star Wars fans: Stop pretending you don't want to see Solo

16 May 2018

The moment I realized "Solo: A Star Wars Movie" wasn't for me was toward the two-hour mark of the movie, when I realized we were nowhere near the end. It's a film whose base level is "fine".

Those who can't wrap their minds around Ehrenreich's portrayal may find some pleasure in watching this Ford's version of a younger Han Solo.

For all the ways Solo could have gone wrong, it wisely aimed for a solid double rather than a grand slam on the first pitch.

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As far as the relationships in this film go, none is as interesting as the one between the charismatic, swaggering gambler Lando Calrissian (Danny Glover) and L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a female droid with exceptional navigational skills. It's awesome how much just playing Star Wars music can make nearly any roughly assembled scene work on a visceral and emotional level - and Solo seems to know that, relying on sentimentality and a shorthand understanding of this universe and its legacy characters to paper over its narrative defects.

It'd be fair to say it's been quite a bumpy journey to get this far, most notably when Lucasfilm parted company with original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller well after shooting had begun. Woody Harrelson is fine but unsurprising as Tobias Beckett, playing firmly into type here as the grizzled mentor and shady thief who takes Han under his wing. Nearly as big a let-down is Donald Glover, replacing Billy Dee Williams as the suave gambler Lando Calrissian; it's an amusing but superficial performance, made up mostly of wardrobe. It was also reported that the lead actor, Alden Ehrenreich, was given an acting coach to improve his performance. Kasdan has a way of imbuing so much dense backstory in character interactions in nearly throwaway lines and the story turns every ten minutes or so with new complications, raising the stakes higher and higher. "And people loved it", Newton said after the premiere. What this line-up lacks is a proper villain, but the entertainingly smarmy gangster who employs the crew to carry out a "hyper-fuel" heist is named Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).

There were fears that the Disney/Lucasfilm empire couldn't pull Solo off, because original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie) were abruptly fired over "creative differences" past year, necessitating major reshoots of the story by Howard, and there had been other rumours of on-set tensions. Lucasfilm preferred Howard's approach, it seems clear.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story might be the tenth movie in the Star Wars franchise, but it feels like the first film in the series that isn't essential to the franchise's mythology. But while Ehrenreich's Solo proves adept at maneuvering the Millennium Falcon out of some tight spots, the picture itself follows a safely predictable course. "Thrilling set-pieces, spine-tingling iconography and a Han/Chewie bromance to savour".

Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters May 25. The character gets capes, boots, and a nice style of costumes.

Which is fortunate, because Solo really only works if you care a whole lot about Han - either because you're a diehard fan from way back, or because you're a newbie who simply likes the cut of Ehrenreich's jib. A strong director with seemingly no outstanding personal traits, he is perfectly suited for safe studio movies, as he rarely brings anything new to the table.

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Dear Star Wars fans: Stop pretending you don't want to see Solo