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Movie review: Solo: A Star Wars Story is an absolute blast


The Han Solo origin story is still best known for the fact that its co-directors were fired towards the end of filming, and that Ron Howard was brought in to replace them and essentially started from scratch.

Thankfully, there's no hint of those production problems in the finished product, a charming romp that provides a pleasantly upbeat counterpart to the relentlessly dour The Last Jedi.

We meet young (seemingly late teens) Han (Alden Ehrenreich) as a low level criminal on the rough streets of ship-building planet Corellia, which he dreams of escaping from with his partner Kira (Emilia Clarke).

A three-year time jump leaps ahead to after Han has been thrown out of the Imperial Flight Academy. Now an infantryman for the Imperial Army engaged in ground combat on a muddy battlefield, Han aligns himself with a group of bandits lead by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and together they plot a daring heist on a mining planet. Along the way he encounters a certain tall hairy fellow.
About half the movie remains at this point, and while the latter sections can drag somewhat, enough goodwill has been earned by then to carry you through.

The Chewbacca introduction is incredibly satisfying, and the relationship between him and Han is the strongest in a movie filled with complicated character dynamics.

The trench battle seen early on is probably the closest thing to actual recognisable warfare ever portrayed in a Star Wars movie, and the space train heist is vertiginously thrilling. Donald Glover is a hoot as young Lando Calrissian, and although Kira is clearly supposed to have more of an impact than she does, Clarke acquits herself with dignity.

The fan servicing here is subtler than in Rogue One, although I'm still struggling to make sense of a surprise cameo from an iconic Star Wars character which appears to contradict established timelines.
There has been much debate around Ehrenreich's suitability to play a young Harrison Ford - undoubtedly a thankless task for actor to attempt – and that debate will likely continue after this film. I personally think he does an impressive job of playing a slightly less assured Han Solo, effectively evoking Ford's laconic charm on more than one occasion.

As with all modern Star Wars films, it's hard not to think about what might have been, but there's no denying that Solo: A Star Wars Story is, for the most part, an absolute blast (er).

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