‘Solo’ falls short of why it needs to be at all
Within my universe of "Star Wars" geek pals, I cannot say that even one of us was eagerly anticipating the arrival of "Solo," the spinoff that promises to provide us with the early life of our favorite stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder, Han Solo.
We are used to having some anticipation building – sometimes waiting years between releases – but "Solo" marks the fourth film since 2015 in the franchise, and although it does not really fit directly into the latest trilogy, it felt like a celestial saturation.
Then came the reports of problematic production, from the ejection of its original directors ("The Lego Movie's" Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) after apparently much of the film had been shot, to the rumors that star Alden Ehrenreich was asked to undergo acting lessors to hone his Solo skills.
Also, it was announced director Ron Howard was brought aboard to clean up the mess and deliver the goods by the Memorial Day weekend deadline. Granted, Howard is capable of producing solid entertainment, but he had churned out a number of duds as of late (are there really that many "DaVinci Code" devotees out there?).
After all the strain and strife, "Solo" turns out to be much better than it has any right to be, but it still cannot elevate to the level of feeling necessary.
We first meet young Han on the planet Corellia; he's a young street urchin running shady deals to appease crime boss Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt and looking like the offspring of Jabba the Hutt and a centipede).
His scams are for a greater good: to pave the path for him and his girl, Qi'ra (played by Emilia Clarke) to escape and live together in a galaxy far, far away. When Qi'ra is captured during their getaway, Han enlists with the Empire in order to return and enable her release. While on duty, Han encounters a trio of smugglers who are using their military time to plot their next big score.
They are led by Tobias Beckett (played by Woody Harrelson, who seems to be contractually obligated to have a part in every franchise film released in the last decade) and bring Han into the service of one Dryden Vos (played by Paul Bettany), who has little time for excuses if the jobs are not executed correctly.
Along the way, we witness Han's initial meeting with familiar faces such as wookiee sidekick Chewbacca (here played by Joonas Suotamo) and intergalactic hustler Lando Calrissian (played by Donald Glover). All of it brings about a nostalgic grin, and there are several scenes that are energized and engaging, but also quite episodic and overall irrelevant.
For example, a running "Star Wars" gag is the time it took for Han to make the Kessel Run. For the majority of my life, I had no idea what the hell a Kessel even was, and I did not really care.
It was what defined Han, and I was comfortable with leaving it to my imagination. But now with "Solo" we get it in great detail, and though it's occasionally diverting, it will not occupy a corner of my memory long after this review is written.
There are countless unnecessary bits (like how he got his last name, which seems quite contrived), but that does not mean there is not a good time to be had overall. At 2.5 hours, it can overstay its welcome, but it never lingers too long before bouncing to its next scene.
"Solo" rises to the level of being better than it needs to be, but it falls short of justifying why it needs to be at all.