'Solo: A Star Wars Story' spinoff as slick as Han Solo

Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in SOLO A STAR WARS STORY

Ron Howard has a well-deserved reputation for being a workmanlike director who understands the mechanics of filmmaking and the psychology of the audience. This sort of relief is similar to what I felt after Justice League - it's nearly like trying out a shady new eatery and not getting an upset stomach three days later - although the cracks were more pronounced in that film.

Over the years Maul conquered and took over the planet Mandalore, got revenge on Obi-Wan by killing one of his friends, fought and was captured by his former master Darth Sidious/Chancellor Palpatine, escaped again, lost control over his organisation and newly-conquered planet and disappeared once again, only resurfacing years later during the events of Star Wars Rebels, a series set between Episodes III and IV (but a few years after Solo) that follows a group of freedom fighters taking on the Empire.

It was widely reported that the original directors, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, were encouraging an improvisational tone on set - something that might work for a Judd Apatow comedy starring A-list improv pros, but hardly the house style at Lucasfilm. It takes a while getting used to, but he has that glint in his eye and that smile across his face - and before long, you know you have one on yours. It identifies in no uncertain terms what the breaking point is. Although no character is so precious that they can't break from the actor who made them memorable, it's still not an enviable position to be in. Together with Chewbecca (whom Han rescues from captivity at the hands of some shit-ass Empire soldiers), the ragtag team must find a way to repay the slimy crime lord or, presumably, pay with their lives. But as in "Rogue One", many scenes in "Solo" are stolen by an android known as L3-37 (Brit Phoebe Waller-Bridge of TV's "Fleabag"), who demands equal rights and has a amusing relationship with Lando that's suggestive of a sci-fi screwball comedy. Granted, it's an uphill battle. What I love about Dryden is that, unlike me, who is riddled with neurosis and guilt and all sorts of things, he's got absolutely none of that. (No need to draw you a picture.) Ultimately the film is created to fill in the blanks about what we know about Han Solo - except that, besides knowing he completed a kessel run in 12 parsecs, not much of it has any bearing on the actual film.

So for now, it's unclear exactly how Maul will fit into the weird and wonderful new world of Star Wars spin-offs - he could always be in a Lando film, or even his own spin-off, we suppose - but don't be surprised if we see him in action again very soon. But most came to the conclusion that it is satisfyingly, entertainingly average. Solo is sometimes breezy and hilarious and sometimes aggressively unfunny and workmanlike, particularly in the shading on the edges of the frame. It could have moved the story forward with new characters and stories aimed at a new, more diverse generation of young fans.

Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in SOLO A STAR WARS STORY
Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in SOLO A STAR WARS STORY

A smuggler named Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) gives a piece of advice midway through Solo: A Star Wars story: "Assume everyone will betray you and you will never be disappointed". Though he often flashes an nearly irresistible 84-tooth smile, Ehrenreich doesn't quite have the natural swagger of a young Harrison Ford in the original trilogy. And by the end, Ehrenreich has made Han Solo's "trust me" smirk all his own. Han Solo's (Alden Ehrenreich) origin tale is livened up with the addition of a hilarious new droid, L3-37, voiced by "Fleabag" actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

No movie is "useful" or "justified" in the grand scheme of things. He takes full advantage and has a blast with the role, as does Donald Glover as Lando.

It turns out the unique look of the Millennium Falcon is partly because of a mistake during the design of the famous "Star Wars" ship. As time wore on, the odds that this movie stood any prayer of making a positive impact with critics - let alone one of the most passionate fanbases in film - seemed to go from "long" to "infinitesimal". Then when we were told to form an orderly queue, something weird was noticeable: these people weren't Star Wars fans. Never happens. So I just soaked that up.

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