Solo: A Star Wars Story ★½

There are precisely two moments where this film shows a spark of life, and both of them come early. One finds Han, an Imperial recruit, running scared through a field deployment modeled after WWI trench warfare, colossal ditches and artillery craters overrun with laser fire and the massive machinations of Imperial machinery. It's so compelling, but it lasts mere minutes. Then there's a train heist, which lasts longer but is fun for even less time, mainly as the Star Wars-y score clashes with the jauntier nature of the action and Howard's dull direction makes it feel more like a filler scene than a major moment. Everything in this feels like filler, a series of callbacks to dialogue and actions that technically have not happened yet, all to serve the grand purpose of expanding this universe by shrinking it. It's one thing to use a recurring cast of characters and their various relations to provide an access point to understanding a larger universe; it's another to suggest that literally everything noteworthy that happens in that universe is either the result of or influences those characters. Feels like a horror film, in that it ends with the ominous suggestion that I might have to see any of these insipid new characters again.