This second Star Wars spinoff after 2016's Rogue One prequelizes Harrison Ford's charismatic outlaw from episodes IV through VII, Han Solo... the original rogue one.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke and Donald Glover
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne
PG, 135 minutes
2-1/2 stars out of five
While a movie very much defined by the world according to George Lucas, the whole thing is reminiscent of a scene in... wait for it... Chaplin starring Robert Downey Jr.
In the scene in question, Chaplin recalls his discovery of the hat and cane he employed to create his Little Tramp character in terms that suggest an almost mystical bestowal by God.
In actuality, of course, they were just random props he happened to grab with no notion as to how they would later define him.
Director Ron Howard goes heavy on the canonical approach in telling Han's back story. Howard never fails to hit the momentous-occasion button in scenes that would have otherwise lived only in the imagination: Han meets Chewbacca. Han receives his first blaster. Han fills an empty seat at a gambling table with young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Han sits down behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon. And so on.
In the Star Wars universe and beyond, few characters are as cherished as everyone’s favourite smuggler and scoundrel, Han Solo.
Was it Harrison Ford’s charismatic portrayal of Solo, and his delivery of umpteen clever bits of dialogue, that has made the character a favourite among fans? That remains to be seen — and with Solo: A Star Wars Story opening this weekend, fans won’t have to wait long to finds out.
With the universe’s most notorious swaggering smuggler blasting off in his own entry in the Star Wars cinematic canon, here, in no particular order, are 10 of Han Solo’s best lines.
“Look, your worshipfulness, let’s get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me.”
After rescuing Princess Leia on the Death Star, Han reacts to being told what to do.
“Laugh it up, fuzzball” and “Who’s scruffy looking?”
Han responds to Leia calling him a “stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder," and voices his displeasure after Chewbacca chuckles at one of Leia’s insult's
“Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy.”
Pursued by the Empire, Han puts Luke Skywalker in his place as they try to escape.
“Great, kid — don’t get cocky.”
Luke is quickly silenced after celebrating shooting down an attacking Tie fighter.
“Never tell me the odds.”
Han reacts to C-3PO’s calculation while piloting the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field.
“I can arrange that. He could use a good kiss!”
Han responds to Leia’s exclamation that she’d rather kiss a wookie than kiss him.
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
Han downplays the force’s effectiveness as Luke learns from Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“You’re all clear, kid. Now let’s blow this thing and go home!”
Having sent Darth Vader’s Tie fighter careening through space, Solo encourages Luke to destroy the Death Star.
Solo responds to Princess Leia’s “I love you” as he’s about to be frozen in carbonite.
It's intended as a big, sustained sop to Star Wars fans, of course. But when it comes to carrying the narrative forward, all these cues tend to suck the air out of the pod. At times, it feels like we're watching the world's most expensive fan film.
It's a shame because the story itself — by Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan — is sound. We meet Han (Alden Ehrenreich) as a young man rebelling at his lot in a den of juvenile thieves working for a giant water bug named Lady Proxima, but let's call her Space Fagin.
He attempts an escape with his one true love, fellow foundling Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), but instead finds himself doing military service for the Empire in an attempt to realize his dream of becoming the best pilot in the galaxy.
That doesn't appeal, so Han deserts to take up with a master thief named Beckett (Woody Harrelson) to help hijack a shipment of super space fuel at the behest of a crime syndicate middle-management blackguard named Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
When he's not treating Han Solo's origin tale like a Bible story, Howard takes pains to frame this adventure as an amped-up western, with its saloons, showdowns and poker-table intrigue.
It pays off in a centrepiece sequence that's basically a train robbery — except the train travels both above and below the tracks, making for a fun new twist on the train robbery clichés.
Ehrenreich does servicable work, but he's no Harrison Ford. Emilia Clarke plays her character a little too enigmatic for her own good: It's hard to rouse much feeling for this blank slate.
For Donald Glover's sake, one wishes the character of Lando was more fun. It doesn't help that he's saddled with an activist droid forever complaining about robot rights. In a franchise that aims for timelessness, a woke cybernaut is very 2018.
Solo sets itself up for a sequel, and one anticipates more of the same referential stuff in the next instalment including, presumably, a meet-up with a certain blobby kingpin on Tattooine.
But if there had to be Star Wars spinoffs, one respects the direction taken by Rogue One, which spun a new story out of whole cloth instead of one long exercise in filling in the narrative blanks and connecting the dots.
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In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.