Movie review: “Solo”

Brad Keefe

Always be wary of meeting your heroes.

It's hard to overstate the importance of Han Solo on my formative years. When my friends and I played “Star Wars” on the monkey bars at recess (which doubled as the Millenium Falcon, of course), I always got to be Han.

I have a history of, shall we say, tumultuous romantic relationships that may be the result of subconsciously idealizing Han and Leia as a great love story. I'm still waiting for the right moment to respond to “I love you” with “I know.”

And “The Force Awakens” introduced a paternal version of Han that reminded me of my late grandfather, my own father figure.

So, yeah, “Solo” definitely holds more emotional baggage with me than your average summer popcorn flick, but I still knew to keep expectations in check, which was the right move.

The second spinoff tale since Disney acquired the Star Wars universe, “Solo” follows a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) on some early escapades that set up iconic moments.

We get a bit of background, basically establishing that Han's brash and cocky tendencies started early. We meet his current love interest, Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke of “Game of Thrones”). Han joins a crew under the leadership of Beckett (Woody Harrelson), a character who foreshadows more than a little future Han.

But also we get some of the great moments in Han Solo lore. We see the beginnings of the best buddy duo in the galaxy when Han meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). We get his first encounter with the Millennium Falcon, as well as its owner, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).

For this “Star Wars” fan, I'm still processing “Solo” and where it fits. “Rogue One” was the first foray away from the core trilogy, but its story was one involving mostly new characters, detailing an interesting side story in a larger war.

“Solo” returns to the absolute core characters. Ehrenreich has an impossible task, and he gets more right than not, since it's unfair to expect the charisma of a young Harrison Ford. He gets the essence of Han, a wannabe scoundrel who's more good-hearted than he'll admit. He also has that smugness that covers up the fact that he's making it all up as he goes.

Director Ron Howard, who was enlisted after the project had kicked off under directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, doesn't take many risks. “Solo” is an effective and entertaining space western, although my first viewing was less than memorable.

This is among the lightest offerings yet for “Star Wars,” fully entertaining if not engaging. It's good, not great, but I'll give it a second viewing now that I've got my hero worship out of my system.


Opens Thursday

3 stars out of 5