24th Sep2018

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Jon Favreau | Written by Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan | Directed by Ron Howard

solo-blu-cover

Fans of the Star Wars movies could be forgiven for having “a bad feeling about this” when it was announced that director Ron Howard would be replacing The Lego Movie duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller several months into shooting Solo: A Star Wars Story. Fortunately, Howard proves a dab hand at the Star Wars game, delivering a thrilling space adventure that pulls off a tricky balancing act, a story that’s rich in references and callbacks to the previous Star Wars film, while still managing to stand as its own thing.

Set several years before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, the film begins on the crime-infested planet of Corellia, where young Han (Hail, Caesar’s Alden Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) are attempting to escape the clutches of crime boss Lady Proxima (Linda Hunt). However, things don’t quite go according to plan and Qi’ra gets captured, while Han is conscripted into fighting for the Empire.

Three years later, the pair are reunited, when Han – together with his new furry friend Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and a gang of space thieves lead by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) – agrees to undertake a dangerous mission, stealing and smuggling volatile hyperfuel for Qi’ra’s boss, playboy gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). And when the team decide they need a suitable ship for the mission, Qi’ra suggests they secure the services of space scoundrel Lando Calrissian, the flamboyant captain of the Millennium Falcon.

Aldenreich is superb as Solo, delivering an extraordinary performance that somehow becomes more and more like Harrison Ford before your eyes, accumulating delightful new details (a grin here, an eye twinkle there) with every scene. He also sparks captivating chemistry with Suotamo’s Chewbacca, to the point where they could easily have retitled the film “When Han Met Chewie”. Sadly, the chemistry between Ehrenreich and Clarke can’t quite match the same standard and is one of the film’s few disappointing notes as a result.

As for the rest of the supporting cast, they are a constant source of joy, from Donald Glover’s scene-stealing, foppish Lando (and his prized cape collection) to Bettany’s charming-but-deadly Dryden and an inspired comic turn from Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) as Lando’s co-pilot droid L3-37, a vociferous campaigner for equal rights for robots, who’s convinced her captain is in love with her and laments that they’re “not compatible”. The only disappointing element is that two characters (Thandie Newton’s Val and Jon Favreau’s Rio, both members of Beckett’s gang) are sadly under-used – their brief appearances are so good that you end up hoping for a prequel prequel.

Howard’s pacey direction is extremely impressive throughout, encompassing both genuinely thrilling set-pieces (an imaginatively-staged train-based heist is an early highlight), a consistent tone and an engaging group dynamic aboard the Falcon that recalls that of the original Star Wars film. This is augmented with a number of playful little details, like the appearance of the Falcon’s holographic chess set, or an explanation for why the ship has those two prongs out in front.

On a similar note, the production design has a lot of fun riffing on pre-existing scenes and moments, whether it’s a clever scene like Chewbacca’s first introduction, or smaller details, such as the party on board Dryden’s pleasure yacht, which plays like an upmarket version of Star Wars’ Cantina scene. In addition, a lot of thought has gone into the various supporting creatures, particularly in the card game scene between Han and Lando, which has great comic pay-offs with some of the other players.

In short, Solo is a thoroughly entertaining space adventure that skilfully blends heist thrillers and westerns while satisfyingly ticking off all the eagerly-awaited checkpoints of Han’s origin story along the way. Let’s hope there’s a sequel in the works, because it definitely leaves you wanting more.

**** 4/5

EXTRAS INCLUDE:

  • Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable
  • Kasdan On Kasdan
  • Remaking The “Millennium Falcon”
  • Escape From Corellia
  • The Train Heist
  • Team Chewie
  • Becoming A Droid: L3-37
  • Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures And Cards: Welcome To FORT YPSO
  • Into The Maelstrom: The Kessel Run

DELETED SCENES:

  • Proxima’s Den
  • Corellian Foot Chase
  • Han Solo: Imperial Cadet
  • The Battle Of Mimban: Extended
  • Han Versus Chewie: Extended
  • Snowball Fight!
  • Meet Dryden: Extended
  • Coaxium Double-Cross

Solo: A Star Wars Story is out on DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and 4K Ultra HD now.

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