When I saw the title Solo, I hoped that it might be about Napoleon Solo, a far more interesting character than Han – but what can you do when cinema is addicted to sequels and prequels and whatever is guaranteed to make a buck? Blokes in their twenties remain the largest target audience at the box office. Girls will go with them to see their boyfriend’s preferred flick, but rarely vice versa – check out the gender ratio at the upcoming Mumma Mia! Here We Go Again (itself a sequel). In any case, Ron Howard had moved on from Mayberry, North Carolina, and just directed his first feature film, Grand Theft Auto, when the original Star Wars was unleashed on the world in 1977. Alden Ehrenreich, who is cast as the young Han Solo in this umpteenth incarnation of the franchise, was not yet even a glint in his father’s eye. But together they have contributed to George Lucas’s original idea (we need to face an awful truth; the Star Wars production line is like an infestation of cockroaches – you just can’t get rid of the bastards) a cohesive, uncomplicated storyline and a wise-cracking, cocksure hero in the Tom Cruise mould. Solo is provided with a love interest in Qi’ra (Amelia Clarke), but the relationship that holds it all together is the one he has with the loose cannon Beckett (Woody Harrelson), as they tool around space in search of a precious source of energy. Visually it is very dark – if it were on TV you’d be continually wanting to adjust the brightness – but the CGI is as fantastic as you’d expect (the train heist is particularly impressive), as are the weird and wonderful characters from galaxies hither and yon (although Chewbacca still just looks like a bloke in an ape suit). John Powell’s score, with regular references to John Williams’s mighty theme, is used as an assault weapon and, after a cluster of double crosses, it concludes with a nod to first-world politics, girl power a set-up for the next instalment. Diverting but forgettable.
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