Will Solo: A Star Wars Story create franchise fatigue or new fans?

If you’re going to build a cinematic universe, you’ve got to do it right. Marvel, for example, manages to maintain the excitement and freshness with each film by shaking things up every so often – for every Iron Man 3 there’s a Guardians of the Galaxy, or an Ant-Man. With Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, we start to see the first glimpses of Star Wars fatigue – but that’s not to say it still isn’t a good time.

As with Rogue One, the previous Star Wars anthology film, Solo is an attempt to fill in the gap between Episodes 3 and 4, this time telling us how everyone’s favourite rogue became the character we know from the Original Trilogy. I’m not sure anyone really cared that much about what happened to Han Solo before he met Luke in the Mos Eisley Cantina – and yet here we are. This time round, it’s not Harrison Ford stepping into the Millenium Falcon, but Alden Ehrenreich, who manages to step into Ford’s huge shoes. Physical differences aside, he nails a lot of Ford’s gruff nuances and intonations.

Fleshing out the supporting cast are a range of new and returning characters. There’s Lando Calrissian, played with relish by man of the moment Donald Glover, in a surprisingly spot-on impersonation of Billy Dee Williams. Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett, a criminal and mentor of Han. And Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, a love interest and friend. Of course, there’s also Chewbacca, who’s a scene-stealer, as is Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37, a droid companion of Lando. I was disappointed in the lack of threat Paul Bettany posed as the villain Dryden Vos. It’s not to his discredit, but I was expecting something more alien and frightening.

There’s not much I can say about the plot without giving things away, but needless to say it’s a lot of fun. The Star Wars universe is always going to be a visually rich and exciting place to be, it’s just that Solo doesn’t really present much of a case for its existence in the first place. That being said, with all the reshoots and recasting, Solo is still better than it has any right to be. It’s gripping, has an excellent cast and rips through its more than two-hour runtime in a flash.

Solo adds little to the quickly expanding Star Wars universe, but fans won’t be left disappointed with the ride.

Reviewed by Stewart Sowman-Lund

3.5 stars small