SPOILER ALERT. Stop now if you haven’t seen SOLO: A Star Wars Story.

Well, kind of. Despite my concern that:

1. Han Solo didn’t look anything like Han Solo. Prolly if I took my glasses off, I guess.
2. The original directors were dropped by Lucasfilm due to creative differences.
3. Five weeks of reshoots when Ron Howard took to the director’s chair.

The teaser and final trailer somewhat gave me a sigh of relief as to what the story would be like, although I have to admit that I am glad I didn’t watch every single featurette and TV spot that Lucasfilm released on YouTube prior to watching the film, as it felt like you’d have seen pretty much half of the film. Albeit sans context, of course.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Didn’t expect to see that. Howard started the film with this but without the crawl. The film starts in industrial Correlia, Han’s birthplace. A young(er) Han and his girlfriend Qi’ra appear to belong to a group of young street rats slaving under the grip of Lady Proxima – collectively known as the White Worms. Think Oliver Twist and Fagin if you will.

I really enjoyed the speeder chase towards the space port as high octane car chases aren’t really a staple of this franchise. At this point, I gathered that anything Star Wars becomes the backdrop of this story of Han – half-built Imperial Star Destroyers in the sky, factories building deflector shield generator domes for said Star Destroyers, droids, stormtroopers… you know the rest. Interestingly, I didn’t expect the first act to poignantly reveal the origin of Han’s surname. As we all know, it was at this point Han entered the Imperial Naval Academy in Carida to become a pilot. Well, until three years later when he was demoted to being an infantry with the mudtroopers in the trenches reminiscent of WW1 on the swamp planet of Mimban.

The names of the other planets are sometimes not clearly described even in the characters’ dialogue. Well, it’s either that or I was busy paying attention to other details in the film. The name Mimban was ever so familiar, and on looking up Wookieepedia, it’s the planet where Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was set[1]. So, whilst plotlines from said novel wasn’t included in the film’s storyline, it was interesting that this was an Easter egg for keen-eyed fans. And this wasn’t the only one.

Han’s first encounter with Chewie was reminiscent of the Rancor pit at Jabba’s palace in Tatooine, but was quite funny, really. It was the first time I’ve seen Han (the character) speaking in Shyriiwook[2]. Makes me wonder how Chewie went from helping out Yoda escaping Kashyyyk a few years/decades ago to this Imperial cesspit[3].

After hooking up with Tobias Beckett’s motley crew, they were off to Vandor-1 to steal a shipment of coaxium, a valuable hyperfuel, from an Imperial conveyex train. First it was a high octane ‘car’ chase, and now, a train heist.

Superbly done, it was so enjoyable to watch as this is another new concept in a Star Wars film as far as I am concerned. The attempt at stealing the coaxium came with a cost after a rival group known as the Cloud Riders, led by Enfys Nest, swooped in after the same coveted hyperfuel.

We are then introduced to Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos, a crime lord from the Crimson Dawn syndicate. It did feel strange seeing Bettany as a Star Wars villain especially I had just watched him in Avengers: Infinity War a few weeks earlier. Anyways, Vos’ ship seems a posher version of the cantina, complete with an alien chanteuse singing what is in the OST a song called Chicken in the Pot. Don’t ask. It was also here that Solo is reunited with his childhood love, Qi’ra, who happens to be working for Vos.

More importantly, it was this chance reunion that led Han to finally meeting the debonnaire Captain Lando Calrissian. Oh, Han didn’t win his first sabacc game with Lando. But it was at this joint (the place/planet where this took place wasn’t named) that we first meet L3-37, Lando’s droid co-pilot. I just love her to bits, as she’s a bit nuts.

The next named planet was Kessel and I saw that SW: Rebels episode. I think this was my favourite part of the film just because of the droids. Remember that “sent to the spice mines of Kessel and smashed into who knows what” speech by Threepio? Han and the gang managed to get the raw coaxium, but at a very sad price. But this price would explain why the Falcon has a great navicomputer that Threepio would comment “has a most peculiar dialect” on ANH. And that Kessel run segment was great in a non-Star Wars way. I’d say this part was very Star Trek. Think Scotty being under intense pressure trying to save the Enterprise kind of intense.

Last planet – Savareen. This was described as a planet with a vast ocean expanse at the end of the Kessel Run where Han could get the raw coaxium refined. Kinda like a large version of Tioman, I guess[4].

As expected, the Cloud Riders have caught up with Han and the gang, and on a closer look, I swear Nest looks like Briareos from Appleseed. It is at this point, double/triple crosses and a few revelations on who’s who/what happen in the story, worthy of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. Especially that revelation. Yup, now I really need to finish watching my Clone Wars and Rebels blu-rays.

I really enjoyed this. If Rogue One was a war film, this was a fun-filled Western in space. And I’m sure I remembered that Solo was described as one before. I admit that I was one of those fans that preferred a more Harrison Ford-like actor (like this guy), but Ehrenreich nailed it without looking like Ford, from the smirk on his face to his tone of voice. The bit where he was surprised that Chewie was 190 years old (at 0:28), he sounded just like Ford’s surprise to hearing Luke was a Jedi knight when he was defrosted in Jabba’s palace at the beginning of ROTJ.

And I really love the John Powell (and one John Williams piece) soundtrack. Sorry, I thought it was somewhat better than Rogue One. Probably because of my love for William’s TIE Fighter Attack and The Asteroid Field, both of which receive nods to in Powell’s work. Actually, you could hear the Asteroid motif in the spot above.

Ron Howard did a good job of taking the helm of this, and Solo had a nice ensemble cast. I’m sold, despite my slight concerns a few months ago. Can’t wait for Boba Fett now. Just don’t make it a musical.

[1]Didn’t read the Alan Dean Foster-penned novel, but I did read the graphic novel.
[2]The wookiee language. Yup, just learnt it was called that.
[3]The answer can be found in the official guide book.
[4]The shooting location was the Canary Islands.