Alden Ehrenreich heads up the cast of Solo as the titular character (he did have a small part in an early episode of Supernatural, but this is probably his best known role). Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) is beside him as Qi’ra, Woody Harrelson (my parents known him as Woody Boyd from Cheers, I sort of recognize him as Haymitch from Hunger Games) joins as Beckett. Donald Glover is the young Lando Calrissian and Paul Bettany (Vision in the MCU and Chaucer in Knight’s Tale. Also Silas in Da Vinci Code and Dr. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander) seems to have a bit of fun as Dryden Vos. Warwick Davis (Professor Filius Flitwick and Griphook in Harry Potter, Nikabrik in Prince Caspian. He’s been in other fantasy films but his first role was Wicket in Return of the Jedi, and he’s played roles in all of the recent films) even makes an appearance. Ron Howard directs.
Crime Syndicates thrive under the Empire, especially on Corellia, where we meet a teenager attempting to flee. A young Han wants to escape Corellia and take his girlfriend, Qi’ra [totally not the way I thought it was spelled because it sounds like “Kira”] with him. First, they have to flee their warden (voiced by Linda Hunt who is amazing as Henrietta Lange in NCIS: Los Angeles), then attempt to bribe their way through Imperial officers. Han makes it through, Qi’ra does not, but she shouts at him to run. Han decides to join the Imperial Navy so he can become a pilot and once he’s accomplished that, he’ll return to Corellia for Qi’ra. When the office asks Han for his last name, “who are your people?” Han tells him he doesn’t have any. So Han becomes Han Solo.
Three years pass and we catch up with Han on a battlefield where he questions orders. There is a company he wants to join, but they aren’t really Imperials; they’re thieves about to make off with Imperial equipment. Well, questioning orders gets Han thrown into a pit with a “beast.” A very muddy Wookie appears and attempts to pummel Han to death, but Han knows a bit of Shyriiwook and persuades the Wookie to not kill him. Instead, if they work together, they can escape. They manage to hitch a ride with the thieves afterwards and the Wookie introduces himself as Chewbacca. He’s searching for his family, but for now, he’ll stay with Han and Beckett as his crew.
The crew’s next target is a train heist for coaxium, a superfuel. There is competition for the fuel from Enfys Nest. Han manages some fancy flying, but only Chewie, Han, and Beckett survive the heist. And Han has to dump the cargo to save them from crashing into a mountain. But this was a job for Crimson Dawn and its leader, Dryden Vos, is not a forgiving man. Beckett has to come up with a way to make it up to Dryden, or they’re all dead. While they wait, Han pleasantly discovers that Qi’ra is no longer on Corellia; she works for Dryden. She is his top lieutenant and admits that Dryden also works for someone; someone who will demand the coaxium. Han steps in and suggests they retrieve raw coaxium from Kessel, then process it somewhere else in order to escape Imperial notice. For that, they’ll need a fast ship.
Qi’ra suggests a great smuggler, Lando Calrissian. They find him in his den, surrounded by fans. Han plays sabaac (space poker) against Lando in order to gain his ship, but Lando cheats in order to win. But Qi’ra and Beckett smooth things over, except they have to retrieve Lando’s ship from the impound lot. Han is instantly taken by the Millennium Falcon (we hear a bit of the original soundtrack at this moment; and just look at the face on Han); it’s a style ship his father worked on when he was alive on Corellia.
In order to make it to Kessel, a spice mining planet reliant upon slave labor, they must travel through the Maelstrom. Lando’s first mate droid is an excellent navigator…and proponent for driods’ rights. On the trip, Han tries to catch up with Qi’ra, but Beckett warns the young man to trust no one; expect everyone to betray you and you’ll never be disappointed. He’s also insistent on sticking to the plan; no improvising. And at first, everything goes according to plan (and recognize that mask from Return of the Jedi?). But a prison riot gets started and that throws a wrench into the works. Chewie goes off to rescue some Wookies and Han has to get the coaxium by himself. But Chewie of course comes back, but there is a battle going on outside between them and the Falcon. They’re almost ready to leave, until Lando rushes off to save his copilot, then Han rushes off to save Lando [and the actor has got the Han Solo stance down]. Once they’re above the planet, they run into an Imperial cruiser. With Lando injured, Han takes control of the Falcon and Chewie quickly becomes his copilot. And Han proves every boast he’s made about his piloting skills. They evade TIE fighters and he even comes up with a plan to quickly make it out of the Maelstrom, but they need the navigation system from Lando’s droid. They are admittedly almost eaten by a giant space monster and almost get sucked into a gravity well, but they make it out, true Han Solo style (and why the Falcon is missing a few pieces). He even has a good feeling about this! And that is how he made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs [explaining how the Kessel run is a specific distance and Han managed to find a shortcut, rather than a unit of time…which as someone who is not well-versed in science, I just always assumed it was a space measurement of time].
They’re almost away until Enfys Nest shows up and wants the coaxium. And they may be pirates, but they’re just people who have been pushed out of their homeworlds by the Crime Syndicates, like Crimson Dawn. They want the coaxium for the Rebellion. Qi’ra knows that Han is a good man and tells the female leader of Enfys Nest that Han will try to help them. Han tries to convince Beckett to help him, but Beckett chooses to leave. Han can look him up later on Tatooine. Han and Qi’ra go before Dryden, but he’s been warned about their plan. By Beckett. Proving his statement about betrayal. But Han is smarter than he looks; he already figured Beckett would double-cross him and so it is the real coaxium, so Beckett takes it and Chewie. Leaving Qi’ra and Han to fight against Dryden, since Beckett helpfully took out the other guards. Qi’ra kills Dryden to save Han. She kisses him, then sends him after Chewie. She’ll stay behind to steal the jewels so they have money.
But Qi’ra doesn’t follow Han. Instead, she takes over Crimson Dawn. And her ultimate boss is revealed: Maul [a surprise to anyone who hasn’t watched the animated series Clone Wars and Rebels; we hear a few strains of Duel of the Fates and see the mechanical legs]. He orders her to Dathomir after she lays the blame for the mess with Beckett. And she does protect Han; she never names Beckett’s allies and claims they’re all dead. So Maul won’t go after Han. Han meets up with Chewie and Beckett, then shoots Beckett. Because Beckett would have shot him, though Han seems genuinely sad about the older man’s passing. They give the coaxium to Enfys Nest and decline joining the Rebellion. The leader muses that Han may someday feel different. Then Han and Chewie find Lando again and play for the Falcon. This time, Han was on to Lando’s trick, so he stole the extra card Lando hides. But he didn’t need it to win the final hand; he won the Falcon fair and square. And thus, a beautiful team flies off into the galaxy.
Ok, I like this movie better than the sequel trilogy, but there are still elements that I miss from the Legends canon. Though I will admit that this was written close to the general plot points of that timeline. In the book trilogy from the late nineties, Han grew up as a street urchin and pickpocket on Corellia before joining the Imperial Navy as a pilot. There is a young woman that Han becomes attached to, but it doesn’t work out. What I loved about the trilogy the one time I read it was the female Wookie cook that treated Han like a son and that is where he learned the language. This film is written in such a way that that aspect may have happened, but was never shown, so I appreciate that. There’s just part of me that wishes they had done something more with this film. I applaud Alden on his performance.
Next Time: Rogue One