I WASN’T as annoyed as I previously predicted I might be about Solo: A Star Wars story.
I think because I approached it as a suggested telling of young Galaxy rascal Han’s early days as oppose to the definitive, Disney force-feeding us a dose when the appetite is not necessarily there right now for an instalment.
It was like an A level assignment had been set; Produce a script imagining Han Solo as a young man. A+ for the attention to Star Wars detail and references that would I imagine have left the fanatical writers doing a lot of smug nodding and back slapping.
The film is helped by the casting of Alden Ehrenreich (plus reportedly the intensive acting coach input provided) as the swashbuckling cosmic bad boy, where he has (eventually) nailed Harrison Ford’s mannerisms (all roguish grin and swaggering wisecracks) to provide something of a tribute to arguably the most-loved character of the franchise.
The story centres around Han’s escape from the slums of Corellia under somewhat traumatic circumstances, vowing one day to return for Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), the love he had no choice but to leave behind. After, that is, he has somehow managed to get himself a ship and make a load of dosh.
Along the way, he takes up with a gang of scurrilous criminals including Beckett and Val – ably brought to life by Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton – who are plotting a daring high-speed monorail smash and grab.
Although a ravishing creature, even channelling her inner Audrey Hepburn in some of the latter scenes, Clarke fails to spark with Ehrenreich and you just don’t buy that they are soul mates.
But fear not, there is another relationship that is far more satisfying to watch as it develops. When Han and his Wookiee first meet, they are tussling in a mud pit before joining forces against their tormentors. Chewbacca quickly falls into place as Han’s towering, hairy conscience.
Then there is the other unbreakable bond in the movie: Han and his beloved ship, the Millennium Falcon, complete with the golden dice. Solo is as much the Kessel-running star craft’s origin story as it is the title character’s, and without wanting to give away too much, it is good to see how the Falcon looks before she is turned into a hyper-spacing bucket of junk: all shimmering and white and with an escape pod neatly filling the gap between those two front prongs.
Previous Falcon owner, caped charmer Lando Calrissian, is played with smooth-talking panache by Donald Glover, albeit his screen time is not enough. His right-hand sassy activist droid L3 – voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge – has decent one-liners, but still feels awkward and forced.
There is a lot of spectacular imagination on show here as we appreciate further glimpses of life under the giant jackboot of the Galactic Empire. (Interestingly, we learn that the Imperial March is actually the theme-music for the Empire’s holographic recruitment ads.)
But it does all whip by a tad fast and becomes too tangled in the crosses and double-crosses during the closing act as we lightspeed toward the tidy cliché denouement.
Will I watch it again? Probably not. It neither really gives nor takes away from everything that is Star Wars.
Deadpool 2 is not too bad for a film which, according to its own opening credits, is directed by “one of the guys who killed the dog in John Wick”.
For those who need catching up, Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is a burns victim with a bad attitude and worse jokes whose superpower is superfast healing, rendering him basically indestructible.
A personal tragedy involving his girlfriend (who, in a ‘romantic’ gesture, presents him with her IUD in a velvet box) lands him in an emotional funk before he is set on a redemption curve.
Teaming up with cyborg time-traveller Cable (Josh Brolin) and lucky charm Domino (Zazie Beetz – just a little bit fabulous) among others, Deadpool’s team sets out to protect fire starter Russell (bright little Kiwi actor Julian Dennison), a teen mutant of the X-Men variety.
The quips come quicker than you can process at times and are knuckle-grazing once the cogs do turn, causing sharp intakes of breath here and there. There is genuine wit in the script and it rides on the shock factor, but it does feel wearisome and dated in places (dubstep anyone?).
I won’t be bothered about watching this one again either. Get me the listings for next week.