(out of 5)
Harrison Ford became a movie star playing the irascible Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie, his wry smile and sarcastic manner balancing out Mark Hamill’s sincerity so that we could be invested in the adventure without getting obnoxiously self-important about it. Solo’s personality turns out to be much more interesting than his back story, as we learn from this passably entertaining prequel that comes up with little that is memorable in filling out the details of his past. Escaping from the planet where he grew up as an indentured servant to a monstrous crime boss (voiced by Linda Hunt), young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is forced to leave behind the woman he loves (Emilia Clarke) and strike out on his own, joining a group of thieves (headed up by Woody Harrelson) who are looking to steal a shipment of intergalactic fuel in a dangerous heist. The sequence of trying to obtain the payload is a creative and exciting one, a highlight of what is otherwise a lackluster trip through the Star Wars universe with a serviceable but not exciting plot that is merely a collection of either unnecessary explanations (Han Solo’s friendship with Chewbacca) or ludicrous ones (try not to burn the theatre down when you discover how Han got his “last name”). Harrelson plays a good guy with a bitter twist (big surprise), Paul Bettany is a lanky, erudite villain (yawn), and, most surprising, Ehrenreich gives a lackluster lead performance despite usually displaying far more charisma in other films. Where Harrison Ford was an adorable rascal, his younger counterpart is humorless about Han’s constant desire to colour outside the lines, showing none of the star power he had in Hail Caesar‘s few fine moments. Donald Glover fares slightly better as Lando Calrissian, particularly his imitation of Billy Dee Williams’ velvety voice, but there’s not much he can do about the fact that Ron Howard, who is phoning his direction in from the beach, gives him little to do; we already knew that Han won the Millennium Falcon from Lando in an intergalactic poker game, seeing it actually happen adds nothing of value to the anecdote. The very young will still be amused by this one, which also includes a cameo by Warwick Davis reuniting with his Willow director.
Directed by Ron Howard
Cinematography by Bradford Young
Music by John Powell
Production Design by Neil Lamont
Film Editing by Pietro Scalia
Cannes Film Festival: 2018