Solo: A Star Wars Story ★★½

This movie has no right to be as good as it is. It's not great - not by any means is it even remotely great - but considering its production troubles and ensuing media circus, this isn't the mess it could, and probably should, have been. It's just... fine. A fun, predictable space adventure that's competent but completely unchallenging in doing anything new for a franchise that needs it, especially if it's going to refuse to explore characters outside of the original trilogy. Ron Howard was a very safe choice as replacement for Lord and Miller, and it shows. Expectedly, all of the aspects and moments we know of this character's past that this movie reveals in greater detail are either contrived (the way Han gets his "name" made me cringe) or just can't live up to the mysterious precedent set by Lucas forty years ago (the Kessel Run being as standard as it is makes me want to cry). And despite the last Star Wars movie's insistence to "let the past die," the way these moments are played up come with little subtlety, as if you can feel Ron Howard nudging you in the ribs each time (drink each time Howard focuses on Han's dice). The aspect of the film that comes as a surprise in terms of expectations is Alden Ehrenreich himself. Like the narrative overall, Ehrenreich fumbled a bit in trying to channel just the right amounts of Harrison Ford's charisma, but by film's end, he has the swagger and mannerisms mostly down pat. Likewise for Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, granted he doesn't have nearly as much screentime as you might expect. Emilia Clarke is fine, Woody Harrelson is fine, and Paul Bettany, in all of his two scenes, is - you guessed it - fine. Phoebe Waller-Bridge's blunt, individualistic droid is fun though, but like Glover, doesn't grace the screen all that much. I expected worse, but oh how I wish it was better.

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