“Solo: A Star Wars Story is, all faults-aside, arguably the best Star Wars-related film since The Return of the Jedi.” – Wayward Wolf.
Even given Hollywood’s current tiresome obsession with playing the identity politics and female empowerment cards, (something that continues unabated in Solo: A Star Wars Story), this latest instalment of Disney’s increasingly bloated Star Wars franchise, has to go down as something of a hit.
Ron Howard takes the Director’s chair on this occasion, regaling to us the backstory of just how it was that Han Solo came to be such a loveable rogue, and iconic film character of the 1980’s.
First and foremost, a bold statement:
Solo: A Star Wars Story is, all faults-aside, arguably the best Star Wars-related film since The Return of the Jedi.
But before you strike me down with your light sabre and throw me into the Great Pit of Carkoon, I insist that you hear me out.
The loose ends were all tied up in 1983 with Return of the Jedi‘s feel-good conclusion, waving goodbye in the process to the concept of Star Wars as we knew it, and for what we presumed would be the final time. One of the great cinematic trilogies – unquestionably – was at an end.
Though taking something of a lengthy sabbatical, the whole notion of Star Wars, it turns out, was very much not at an end, and has since spawned any number of additional chapters. But I’d say it’s fairly inarguable that the franchise has continued to find itself in something of a rut, weighed down by the huge expectation of its own making that has been almost entirely impossible to fulfil.
Interminable musings regarding ‘the dark side’, ‘the force’ and the nigh on impossible quest to reach Jedi status, has become enormously tiresome and produced a whole raft of inferior sequels that lack both originality and any sort of impact; each almost duty bound to adopt both painfully predictable story lines and tried and trusted character sets, something that has, to a large extent, mired the Star Wars franchise in a sort of cosmic quicksand of its own making.
With the release of every new (yet painfully old) film, the franchise’s faithful, bordering on obsessed fan base is provided with its bi-yearly fix of Star Wars-related morphine to keep them ticking over until the next time, or until such point as they can finally admit to themselves that Star Wars ‘just ain’t what it used to be.’
No matter the director, the screenwriter or indeed any significant advancements in technology, nothing ever really seems to change. There’s been a real sense of Groundhog day when it comes to all things Star Wars.
Until now, that is…
Don’t get me wrong, Solo: A Star Wars Story does not exactly redefine the whole concept of Science Fiction. Far from it. And it too owes much to what has preceded it.
But there definitely is something that feels a little fresher, less predictable and laborious about Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. This is a film that puts aside the Star-Wars-by-numbers narrative guide, setting this film free – to some extent at least – from the shackles of Star Wars expectation.
Han Solo, Lando Calrissian and the big Wookie himself, Chewbacca, aside, Solo: A Star Wars Story resists the temptation to shoehorn in pointless cameo appearances of the established Star Wars characters of yore, though we are treated to the usual smattering of bizarre weird and wonderful life forms congregated, as ever, in seedy drinking and gambling dens.
Bar the understandable intrigue as to how Han Solo initially hooked up with his furry friend, Chewbacca, Solo: A Star Wars Story, thankfully has the feel of a film that’s not actually dependent upon the over-riding Star Wars narrative.
This is an effective, simple tale of smugglers, scheming rogues and villains, enhanced through some fun performances from the likes of Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany and in particular Alden Ehrenreich, whose lead performance is loaded with a convincing blend of both cheek and charm, something that Harrison Ford himself would no doubt be proud of.
Solo: A Star Wars Story may be but a small piece of the ever expanding intergalactic Star Wars jigsaw, but unlike so many pieces before it, this one more than ably stands alone.
A thoroughly entertaining high energy romp, and something for which Ron Howard should be roundly applauded.