Most of the questions you never desired to have answered, in regards to the background of one of cinema’s most beloved characters, are unveiled in the latest addition to the Star Wars universe. Solo, of course, is the story of Han Solo, the outlaw space pilot for hire we first came to know forty-one years ago in the original Star Wars. For those who wanted to know how the great Han and his sidekick Chewbacca came together, you’ll find it here. If you want to know the history of Han and his comrade Lando Calrissian, you need look no further. The trouble is that I’m not totally sure what the demand was in terms of knowing the answers to these questions. Only box office receipts will tell that tale but regardless, Solo is a totally serviceable entry that gets the job done and is surprisingly involving for most of its running time. This, in spite of its obviously having been manufactured more for the sake of commerce than anything else which, of course, is the way of the movie world these days.

Alden Ehrenreich, an actor mostly known for having previously worked with such directorial talent as the Coen Brothers (Hail Caesar), Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine) and Warren Beatty (Rules Don’t Apply), has been saddled with the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Harrison Ford. One doesn’t need to be reminded what a tall order that is, but in spite of looking nothing like we imagined Han Solo might appear to be as a twentysomething, the actor eventually grows into the role as the film unspools. Donald Glover, in his performance as Lando, has a striking physical resemblance to a younger Billy Dee Williams (the original Lando), which makes his burden a little easier to carry throughout the film. The supporting performances by Woody Harrelson (Solo’s partner) and Emilia Clarke (the love interest) compliment Ehrenreich and Glover’s work without stealing their respective thunder.

The script, by Star Wars alum Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan, mostly gets by by simply dramatizing backstory elements that were alluded to in the original trilogy of Star Wars films. Here we have the young Han, along with his new friend, 196 year old wookie Chewbacca, escaping his hardscrabble beginnings by getting involved with pirate/gangster, Dryden Vos (Harrelson). The duo team up to steal a coveted fuel known as coaxium. When the duo manage to screw up their first mission they embark on a second to set things right, enlisting Lando and his female robot counterpart to help them. Along they way, things are complicated when a band of pirates seek to take the coaxium before the mission can be completed. I’ll stop there in the interest of keeping things spoiler free.

The thing that makes the non sequel Star Wars entries as enjoyable as they are is that the filmmakers are forced to forge a different story.  That was the case with Rogue One and it is also the case with Solo. It may not break any new ground but it’s breezy enough to remind us why the Star Wars universe continues to resonate.

This movie is playing everywhere.

Alden Ehrenreich as Solo, Joonas Suotamo as Wookie in Solo: A Star Wars Story

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