'Solo: A Star Wars Story' Review: Prepare for an Unexpectedly Bold Adventure

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Solo is not the Star Wars story you are anticipating. It's a fun, unexpectedly bold adventure that reaches edges of the Star Wars galaxy never thought imaginable on the big screen.

It may not seem like it on the surface, but exploring what made Han Solo the charismatic smuggler we meet (and who absolutely shoots first) in Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope is a gutsy thing to do. Much like its anthology predecessor, Rogue One, Solo: A Star Wars Story is not about the Jedi, the Sith, the Force or lightsabers. It does not have an opening crawl or a score by John Williams. New actors portray beloved characters we've known most of -- if not our entire -- lives. These aren't necessarily criticisms, but explain why it takes a hot minute to recognize that you are, in fact, watching a Star Wars film.

Solo takes a solid 30 minutes or so to find its footing, but once it does -- right around the time Donald Glover's Lando Calrissian comes into play -- this adventure makes the jump to lightspeed and doesn’t slow down.

Legendary screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens) teamed up with his son, Jonathan Kasdan, to script the Han Solo flick, which is directed by Ron Howard, who stepped in after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller departed over "creative differences." Despite behind-the-scenes drama, the combination of Howard and the elder Kasdan brings a sense of nostalgic warmth to this space western-inspired heist flick.

Much like Han Solo himself, the film isn't without flaws, but none stem from actor Alden Ehrenreich's portrayal of the iconic outlaw. Any apprehensions should quickly melt away, as the 28-year-old captures Han Solo's roguish charm without impersonating Harrison Ford. As you might expect, Glover's take on the suave Lando Calrissian (and his many capes) is the scene-stealer throughout. In fact, some of the biggest laughs of any Star Wars film to date come courtesy of Lando and his sassy droid and co-pilot, L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Let's just say she is...not shy. 

Newcomers Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), Val (Thandie Newton), Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) all bring something new to the holochess table, but the heart of Solo, at least for me, lies within the blossoming friendship between Han and Chewbacca. Hats off to Chewbacca actor Joonas Suotamo, who discreetly stepped into the franchise to take on more action-intensive scenes for original Chewie actor, Peter Mayhew, in 2015's The Force Awakens and has since assumed the reigns almost entirely. Solo lays down the foundation of what brings Han and his Wookiee first mate together, with some true tug-at-your-heartstrings moments due to Ehrenreich and Suotamo’s seamless chemistry.

When bringing to life the story of Han, Chewie and Lando's younger years, I anticipated the movie would touch on well-known beats like the Kessel Run, Chewie's life debt and Han winning the Falcon from Lando. (Some of these things happen, some don’t). And it's not that Solo is lacking in familiarity, but it goes to some unexpected places, for better and for worse.

The ending, in particular, takes Star Wars lore to a bold place that potentially might not land with casual and diehard fans alike. Solo challenges viewers to dive deeper into the mythology and it will be interesting to see how these gutsier moments are received -- and whether or not fans are onboard with the direction this potential franchise could be taking. After all, Solo appears to be a jumping-off point for a series of films, though director Ron Howard told ET that wasn't necessarily the plan. (More to come on that later).

I wasn't terribly worried about spoilers ahead of Solo. But having seen it, I urge you to avoid them at all costs. We'll dive into spoilers after release, as there is plenty to unpack. But first, buckle up, make the jump to lightspeed and enjoy the fun adventure that is Solo: A Star Wars Story, out May 25. 

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