Thrilling addition to Star Wars canon

Solo: A Star Wars Story, with Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Paul Bettany. Directed by Ron Howard.

4.5/5

ORIGIN STORY: Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, now showing at Rosehill Cinema

WHEN it was announced there was going to be a Star Wars prequel featuring a young Han Solo, it must have elicited mixed reactions from many fans who hoped it would be great, but also feared it would be disappointing.

After all, how can you fill a role so definitively played by Harrison Ford?

I wanted to like Solo: A Star Wars Story, and I did. The actor playing the young Han, Alden Ehrenreich, does a good job setting up the character who could likely grow into the cynical but witty adventurer we all know and love. And he accomplishes this without trying to imitate Harrison Ford.

All the backstory that has only been alluded to in previous films takes place here – how Han met Chewbacca (and actually spoke Wookie!), his first encounter with Lando Calrissian, how he won the Millennium Falcon in a bet and became a smuggler, and making the Kessel spice run in 12 parsecs.

Young Han has an Oliver Twist-like start to his life, surviving as an orphan on the spaceship-building world of Corellia by stealing for a living and working for a Fagan-like mobster.

He plans an escape off-world with his girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), by bribing a customs and immigration official with stolen coaxium (starship fuel).

Pursued by the mobster’s minions, Han manages to get through customs but Qi’ra is grabbed by the criminals. He reluctantly leaves her behind and secures passage off-world by signing up with the Imperial Navy. Travelling alone, he is assigned the surname “Solo”.

Three years later, we find he has been expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy for insubordination and is now fighting as an infantryman for the Empire in a war he doesn’t believe in. But he sees a chance to escape with a gang of criminals posing as Imperial soldiers, led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson).

Arrested for desertion, he is thrown into a pit with a “beast”, which turns out to be Chewbacca. After fighting for his life Han persuades the Wookie to join him in an escape.

After intending to abandon them, Beckett has a change of heart and they join his misfit crew for a planned heist of a shipment of coaxium on the planet Vandor.

With such crooked company it’s hard to know who to trust and you can expect there’ll be double and triple-crosses, and a hint of a date with destiny on the planet Tatooine.

But they have competitors for the prize, space pirates called Cloud Riders. The heist goes wrong and two crew members die.

Beckett is distraught, but more so over the fact he was doing the job for Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), a high-ranking crime boss in the much-feared Crimson Dawn syndicate

Han and Chewbacca volunteer to help him steal another shipment and appeal to Vos for another chance. They travel to Vos’s space yacht where Han is stunned to find Qi’ra, who has joined Crimson Dawn and become Vos’s top lieutenant.

Han suggests a risky plan to steal unrefined coaxium from the mines on the planet Kessel and then have it refined on the planet Savareen.

Qi’ra joins them on their mission, and recruits the aid of accomplished pilot and smuggler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), who also happens to cheat at cards.

With such crooked company it’s hard to know who to trust and you can expect there’ll be double and triple-crosses, and a hint of a date with destiny on the planet Tatooine.

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