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Monday, May 28, 2018

Solo

Much to my disappointment, Solo is not the story of American soccer goalie Hope Solo, but instead another Star Wars spin-off. I was going to type stand-alone, but at the end of the film it's clear that they intend a sequel (given the soft box office, we'll see).

And much to my surprise, I enjoyed Solo, which shows us the early days of Star Wars character Han Solo, now played by Alden Ehrenreich, who manages to capture Harrison Ford's smirk and cocky attitude. A lot of the movie is sop to Star Wars fanatics--how did he get his name, how did me meet Chewbacca, how did he get the Millennium Falcon, etc., but at the base is a solid adventure movie, one that reaches back to the serials that inspired George Lucas in the first place.

Han lives on Correlia, a planet that is full of dark alleys. He and his girlfriend (Emilia Clarke) salvage for the local crime boss (a large caterpillar called Lady Proxima). He longs to get away and be a pilot. He manages to escape, but Clarke does not.

Three years later he's in the Imperial Navy and runs across a band of crooks, led by Woody Harrelson. Reluctantly they take him and Chewbacca on (I won't spoil how they meet) and spend most of the move trying to get a shipment of coaxium, or hyperspace fuel. Harrelson works for a creepy guy with scars played by Paul Bettany, and there's a lot of twists, as you can't be sure who is gaming who.

"Trust no one," Harrelson says to Han, and if that line is familiar, it's the basis for the film. Director Ron Howard, who took over late in the game, directs with an obvious touch--he's no auteur--but at least he doesn't get in his own way. Some of the action scenes are too murky--I'm thinking of one where Han guides the Falcon through a maelstrom and they are almost consumed by a giant octopus, but for the most part the film is engaging, if not a little too long.

Most of all, Solo is fun. There are some pirates that dress like Oakland Raider fans, a wisecracking, four-armed pilot, the immensely talented Donald Glover as a young Landro Calrissian, and most of all a new robot, L3, who has the voice of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and is always in a bad mood. In a wonderful sequence, she tells Clarke that Lando is in love with her, but she doesn't feel the same way about her.

There's also a cameo by a character long thought dead. I imagine it will be spoiled before too long.

I also think Harrelson is the glue that holds the film together. He's really a terrific actor, something I wouldn't have thought while he was playing dumb Woody Boyd on Cheers. Lately he's done great dramatic work, in Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but he's also latched on to several franchises, such as The Hunger Games, The Planet of the Apes, and now Star Wars. A role in a Marvel film surely awaits him. Clarke, for her part (she looks pretty fetching), is now in two of the pillars of nerddom: Game of Thrones and Star Wars. Her future signing at comic book conventions is secure for the rest of her life.

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