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Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ an adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes.
I am a huge Star Wars fan and I never know what to expect when a new Star Wars (ish) movie comes out. This one had a bit more promise behind it because of the title and the main character...Han Solo. Since Han is certainly one of the more popular characters in the Star Wars franchise, my hopes that this would be an extra-good "Star Wars Story" were high. And, I was not disappointed.
At the beginning of the film, I briefly thought this was going to start in Han's childhood since he looked really short on screen and it was sort of an adolescent introduction to the younger version of this uber popular character. However, it took no time at all before Han was in the middle of some crazy incident and it was easier for me to buy into this smuggler-in-training. The story was a little rocky getting started, but once it caught its stride, I was hooked and enjoying an incredible ride.
For big Star Wars fans, you will notice a lot of subtle references to other films in the Star Wars saga. Fortunately, these references were not "in your face" like some of the Star Wars movies that have come before. These references were mixed in in a way that was very matter-of-fact and you had to really be paying attention to catch them. I liked that.
I remember back in the 70s when the Star Wars saga was almost a religion for me. There were the rumors of the "Nine Movies" that would be eventually be released and, at the time, there was talk that some of the movies would be more "back story" for some of the characters in the franchise: maybe a movie that told how C3PO and R2-D2 ended up in the hands of Capt Antilles; maybe a movie that covered the background of Chewbacca and the history of Wookies; maybe a movie of how Darth Vader became the Dark Lord of the Sith. Some of these story lines were addressed in Episodes I, II and III, but some of these story lines were never really addressed...until now. Both "Rogue One" and "Solo" are movies that help to fill in the gaps of the massive Star Wars story universe. And, I think they do a pretty darn good job of filling in those gaps. I don't want to give any spoilers so I'm not going to go any deeper than that. I'll just say this: As a huge Star Wars fan, I found the story in "Solo" to be an excellent mixture of known Star Wars lore and new story content. It was fresh, yet still comfortingly familiar.
Of course, the magic of any movie often comes in the form of the cast, and I really loved this cast. One thing you need to understand about me is that I do NOT prepare to go see a movie. I want to know as little as possible about a movie before I go see it, so that it can be as much of a fresh experience as possible. So, if you're like me, you would not be reading this review prior to seeing the movie. I just don't do it. And, as always, I'm glad I didn't do it with this movie. One of the best surprises for me in this movie (no spoiler) is that the Mother of Dragons herself (Emilia Clarke from "Game of Thrones") plays the female lead. And, what a great surprise that was. The entire movie I'm trying to place her familiarity and I just couldn't do it (which is rare for me). I guess it was the drastic change in hair color that really threw me off. As the movie progressed, I was falling more and more for this character, not realizing that it was Daenerys Targaryen the entire time. I suppose I feel less guilty now, since I know that I was only falling for someone I have long been smitten with.
But, don't let my enthusiasm for Emilia Clarke paint a picture that she carried the movie. Definitely not. She was absolutely great as "Qi'ra", but her fellow cast members also turned in some really outstanding performances. I wasn't sure how anyone could pull off a young Han Solo, but I have to admit that Alden Ehrenreich did a really nice job. It's a bit of a stretch to mentally leap from Alden to Harrison Ford, but I finally made that leap somewhere in the last half of the movie. Now, I have to mention my main man Woody Harrelson, as he is an actor that I love in just about everything he does. I was thrilled to see him in the trailers that came out over the past several months and he added his usual rich flavor to this eclectic cast as Tobias Beckett. I also think that Donald Glover did a great job portraying the young Lando Calrissian. There were times when I almost felt him channeling Billy Dee Williams. It was really fun to see the banter between Han and Lando, since you know there is a backstory in Empire, but you never really know much about it...until now. It's sad to report that Chewbacca is no longer played by Peter Mayhew (we still love you, Peter!), but Joonas Suotamo does a nice job filling in for the 7-ft Wookie. I'd also like to throw shouts out to Thandie Newton, Jon Favreau, Clint Howard, Paul Bettany and Warwick Davis. It was a thrill to see each of them as a part of my favorite film franchise (again for Warwick).
As I mentioned before, I don't do any research before going to see a movie. Somehow, I didn't realize that Ron Howard was directing this picture. It wasn't until I saw his brother Clint in one of the scenes that I started asking myself "Did Ron Howard direct this movie?" Of course, the answer was yes and I'm glad for it. I think Ron did an amazing job with this movie and I hope they give him another one in the future.
I'm sure it's no surprise that I'm going to recommend this film. It's not for everyone. If you don't like Star Wars, don't waste your time or money. But, if you do find yourself a fan of Star Wars and Han Solo (and Chewbacca), I don't think this is one you're gonna want to miss. And, I would recommend you see it while it's in theaters. Star Wars movies are ALWAYS better on the big screen.
I give this movie 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.