I was born into this world in 1977 and have never known a life without Star Wars. The original trilogy loomed like a monolith over my formative years and brought science-fiction into the mainstream.
And the coolest guy to be a part of all this was Han Solo. The role took Harrison Ford from a virtual unknown to one of the most iconic actors of his generation. It’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone else as Han Solo, or why anybody would even want to try to take a stab at it.
But since it was purchased by the Walt Disney Corporation, the Star Wars universe has begun expanding rapidly in all directions and it was decided that Han Solo’s origin story needed to be told.
Fortunately, the result is actually worthy of the loveable rouge’s legacy and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” delivers a fun-filled heist flick that is a blast to watch.
Accepting the thankless task of playing a young Han Solo is Alden Ehrenreich, who certainly has the smile and the swagger to carry Ford’s blaster holster while finding a way to put his own spin on the character.
Han is an orphan, bouncing around the galaxy on the fringes of the law and polite society. He falls in with Beckett (Woody Harrelson, who seems just as surprised as anybody that he’s in a Star Wars movie), a mid-level criminal in the employ of crime boss Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany, who happily chews every bit of scenery that’s not on a green screen).
Since we’re following the basic structure of a heist movie (which I have to admit, I’m a total sucker for) we’re going to see a crew of crooks pulling a job.
Joining Han and Beckett are some familiar friends, like Han’s bosom mate Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and frenemy Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover, channeling Billy Dee Williams suave, cape-wearing charm). New faces include Han’s childhood sweetheart Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and robot L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a droid-rights champion who would make C3PO blush.
Venerable director Ron Howard took over “Solo” midstream after Disney parted ways with the film’s initial directors. This usually spells disaster for a movie, but Howard is a pro and he delivers his most dynamic film in years with an assist from a lively and slick screenplay (penned by Star Wars vet Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan).
There are plenty of Easter eggs to thrill Star Wars fans (and a Clint Howard sighting to thrill Ron Howard fans), but “Solo” doesn’t wallow in nostalgia and manages to live and breathe as its own movie that can be enjoyed even if you can’t tell a lightsaber from an Ewok.
It’s kind of nice to see the Star Wars universe let its hair down, free from the destiny-laden Skywalker family drama or the suicide-mission grimness of “Rouge One.” It turns out there’s room for some swashbuckling in a galaxy far, far away as “Solo” shoots first and sweats the details later.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.