Review / ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ (M) *

IN 1977, writing for another paper, I ventured the opinion that George Lucas’s initial film in the obscenely-imitated, inflated and impossible “Star Wars” franchise was at best an outer space Western of scant merit. In the subsequent four decades, nothing under the “Star Wars” banner, not feature movies, TV series, video games, has persuaded me from this view.

Yes, I know there’s a cohort in the population, many of whom weren’t even a gleam in their parents’ eyes in 1977, for whom “Star Wars”, its ongoing characters and its repetitious themes and issues are the greatest thing in movies since George Melies launched his rocket on a trip to the moon in the 1902 film of the same name at a cost of 10,000 francs, then a big budget even in black and white!

When I watched “Solo: A Star Wars Story” as one of perhaps 20 in a large multiplex cinema, the audible enthusiasm was muted. The principal response was occasional laughter. They saw a collection of episodes scripted by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan telling how Han (Alden Ehrenreich, a pretty young man) with ambitions to become a pilot, signed up for the military, acquired the surname Solo, three years later found himself an infantryman on a battlefield strongly evocative of the Western Front in World War I, got tossed into jail where he met Chewbacca the Wookie and formed a friendship that has endured for several sequels to that 1977 original.

What ensues is about two hours of episodic mish-mash of the same-old same-old in the careers of the pair down to the death of crime lord Vos (Paul Bettany), the death of Han’s traitorous companion in arms Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Han’s accumulation of the funds to buy him a spaceship. That pair comprises the film’s acting competence. Emilia Clarke plays Qi’ra, a femme of variable fatality. And Donald Glover plays the gambler Lando. What looks like a prototype R2D2 makes a brief appearance, but C3PO doesn’t. The CG graphics are the film’s best element.

The “Star Wars” franchise now belongs to the Disney empire. Is it the most expensive film ever made? According to industry pundits, it is; or maybe it isn’t. Frankly, it doesn’t look like it is. But it could have been.

At all cinemas

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