Solo: A Star Wars Story

RATED - (PG-13) - 135-MIN-2018

                           Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun and entertaining ride

This is the second film in the Star Wars movies, that branches off from the main storyline that George Lucas had envisioned.As fans, our wish, is that they will be made by filmmakers who bring some fresh ideas. Lucas has set the table with a wonderful and vast template to grow out from. The first entry: (Rogue one: A Star Wars Story) was a great start, as it gave a back story on how the rebels stole the Death Stars plans and found its weakness. I really like it.

(Solo: A Star Wars Story) had a bumpy start, as the original directors: (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), left the project midway through, apparently clashing with Disney brass on where they were taking their movie. In to the rescue comes veteran director (Ron Howard) to take control of the Millennium Falcon and steer it home. Where the one started and the other ended, will never be known, but Solo is well done, and a solid entry into the Star Wars lore. I didn't love it, but if you like Star Wars, I have a hard time believing that you won't enjoy this entertaining movie, even though it lacks the gravitas of the other films.

Not as good as (Rogue One), Solo still is a fun, well made addition.

How did Han Solo (a very good Alden Ehrenreich, doing his own take on our favorite smuggler) become who he is? How did Solo and Chewbacca meet? Why doesn't he trust anyone? How did he become friends with the savvy Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover, also good) and get his ship: The Millenium Falcon? This movie answers those questions, and with Star Wars veteran writer (Lawrence  Kasdan, and his son Jonathan) at the helm, at least you know, that they know, the universe they are flying in. Apparently, Kasdan has wanted to do a story about Solo for quite some time.

Basically an old-fashioned heist movie, the movie starts on the grungy planet of Corellia, where Han, an orphan, grew up. Han and his girl, Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) have stolen some precious energy like substance called coaxium which they hope is their ticket off of this crappy planet with thieves and thugs. Solo, who fancies himself a pilot has big dreams for him and his girl. After a run-in with a local worm leader, who they were supposed to give the coaxium too, they try to flee in a crowd of refugees who are being screened by The Empire's Stormtroopers and they are spotted. Solo makes it out, by Qi'ra is left behind. He promises to come back for her, and with little options, he joins the Empire with hopes of being a fighter pilot, even though he doesn't believe in their growing cause against the slowly dissolving republic. Instead, he is dropped on a war torn planet, in the trenches as a grunt. There he meets a ragtag group of soldiers who are there for their own reasons. There is the leader: Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), his girlfriend Val (Thandie Newton), and the multiarmed pilot  Rio  (Jon Favreau). Solo wants to join them, but Becket turns him in, saying he is a deserter. To say more about that would ruin an important introduction, but Solo does join the group and they are off to the next job.

Becket says that they have found a big score of coaxium that is being delivered on a train, high between mountains on a snowy planet. This sequence is thrilling and very well done, as the band of outlaws, travel on top of the train, which rotates horizontally to clear the mountain trenches, and also have to fight off pirates, who have come to steal the coaxium from them. This is where Solso gets to show Beckett his chops as a pilot for the first time. When the outcome is not quite what they expected, Beckett has to deliver bad news to his boss: Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), head of the Crimson Dawn syndicate. Vos resides in a flying yacht, where it is a perpetual party and those who cross or fail him come to a quick death.
He has markings on his face that appear to become blood red when he is pissed. (Bettany) is good in the role, mixing charm with menace effectively.

It turns out that Qi'ra, now is a worker for Vos, and Han is thrilled to see his girl again. Eventually, this group is forced into a dangerous job, where they have to travel to mines of Kessel ( Yes, that one) and steal a whole bunch more of this coaxium. It is a suicide job, but with Qi'ra now back with him, and a certain ship owned by the gambler Lando Calrissian, they are off on their mission. Lando's copilot and kind of love interest, the robot L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who is a hoot), is another fine addition to the wonderful collection of Star Wars droids. It is a fun group, and all the actors are good.

What makes Star Wars so compelling: (the small band of good guys going up against the powerful bad guys) is present in this movie also, but there is a certain precise efficiency that had me engaged, but not completely invested. I'm not sure if the mid-production director replacement had anything to do with it, but I felt that. This is a competent branch off the main tree for Star Wars.. not great, but very good. It also has a few  twists and turns, and one big surprise. I also must point out that the score by John Powell, mixed with some of the Master John William's classic material is very good, with a couple of excellent movements. I particulary noticed and liked the track: Lando's Closet and there are many good one liners from all involved.

It's these extra touches that make Star Wars better than most fare.
Go see Solo, and in IMAX if you can.
It deserves the big screen.

watch the trailer: