Director: Ron Howard Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, Thandie Newron, Jon Favreau, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo Running Time: 135 minutes
As we settle into the reality of Star Wars as a tentpole Disney franchise, with a new film every single year and a television series in the works, it’s understandable that Kathleen Kennedy and co. would want to solidify the appeal of the spinoff films by featuring one of the property’s most popular characters. Once Solo: A Stars Wars Story finishes cleaning up at the box-office, they can start to plot a whole line of films to put the spotlight on your favourite characters from across the Galaxy. Lando Calrissean? Why not, says Kathleen Kennedy, that Donald Glover is so hot right now. Boba Fett? Maybe, if it will finally shut you fans up about him. That one lad in A New Hope that looks like the devil? Okay, maybe not him. Han Solo though, ‘everyone’s favourite’ from the original trilogy, was supposed to be the safe bet, and the exec’s adamant desire to keep it that way was partly what led them to axe original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, apparently too madcap and wacky in their ambitions for the film. They were replaced with the experienced, steady hand of Ron Howard, who reshot almost everything and presented a friendly face behind a marketing campaign nervously encouraging the somewhat sceptical viewing public that yes, they do need to know Han Solo’s origins. What Howard, veteran screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and the rest deliver is indeed the safe bet, in a film that’s far too middle of the road to be essential viewing. What we have here is one square unit of Star Wars movie, mostly milquetoast with a few rough edges born from the inelegant ‘creative differences’ and perhaps a meeting too many in the boardroom. If you’re looking for any noteworthy insights into Han Solo as a character, you’re not likely to get them here. If you’re looking to know where he got his apparently iconic blaster though, this is the film for you (somebody hands it to him).