Alden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo. Image Credit: AP

Hold the blaster pistols! There may yet be hope for Han Solo and his ragtag team of scoundrels, as evidenced by the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story — the origin story that we didn’t know we needed, but one that we can definitely learn to love.

Part space heist, part Western and part romcom, Solo admittedly takes its time finding its footing, but once it makes the jump to light speed — which happens at the exact moment Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) bumps into Chewbacca (Joonas Suotumo) in what is probably the funniest extended sequence in the movie — there’s no looking back.

The events of Solo take place some time after Star Wars Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (2005), and before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the other franchise stand-alone film from 2016, and Star Wars Rebels, the recently concluded animated series. This makes Solo the first movie in the chronological timeline since the rise of the Empire, when Darth Sidious and Darth Vader are traipsing about the galaxy, putting the Sith back into power.

But don’t go holding your breath for any appearances or even mention of the Skywalkers. This one’s all about Han and the relationships and events that turned him into the scoundrel smuggler that we met for the very first time at the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars — Episode IV: A New Hope, all the way back in 1977 — then played by the iconic Harrison Ford.

Ehrenreich (Hail Cesar!) fits into Ford’s shoes comfortably enough, especially because he doesn’t try to emulate him off the book. A smile here, a swagger there, and you see glimpses of the Solo we’ve known and loved for more than 40 years. But most importantly, Ehrenreich makes Solo his own. There’s a wide-eyed vulnerability to his performance that leaves him room to explore the growth of the character in possible subsequent sequels.

I won’t reveal the plot or premise because it’s best to go in as blind as possible, but know that Solo is more than the sum of its scenes. Solo is about a raging spirit of adventure, fuelled by a desperate need to survive in a world that’s being run by an autocratic regime. While the shadow of the Empire looms large, Solo busies itself with the politics of the streets. There’s crime syndicates and smugglers, bounty hunters and pirates, rebels and social justice warrior protocol droids (the unexpectedly brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37), and while the intricacies can get a bit mind-boggling, rest easy knowing that the movie is less about the details, and more about capturing Han’s fledgling legacy.

Solo also benefits from its rich cast. Donald Glover (Atlanta) as Lando Calrissian, the smooth-talking get-rich-quick schemer, takes Billy Dee Williams’ portrayal of the character and somehow makes him even more slick, funny and all the more lovable. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan gives some of the best lines in the movie to fuel Han and Lando’s banter, and it’s positively electric.

Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, a mysterious character from Han’s childhood on Corellia, his home planet, steps out of her Game of Thrones aura and shines. While Clarke, like Ehrenreich, takes some time to come into her own, some of her most powerful scenes come towards the tail end of the movie.

Director Ron Howard holds a steady but light hand over the proceedings of Solo. While the unfolding events vary in importance and seriousness, but mostly ranging towards the more sombre, he doesn’t lose sight of the campy humour that made the original Star Wars trilogy such a classic. In that sense, Solo is a closer cousin to the original source material, than to the new crop of trilogies and standalone films.

The movie’s only failing is that it miserably tries to cater to, both, hard-core Star Wars nerds and franchise newbies/indifferents. Swinging from excruciating exposition to nerdy references (Scarif! 12 Parsecs! Tatooine!) at regular intervals, the ride through space gets a little bumpy along the way.

But for the ones who wept when Ford’s Han Solo met his premature death in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Solo brings relief, if not closure. And for the ones who couldn’t care less about his history (like ‘what’s the story behind the golden dice hanging in the Falcon?), head to Solo for the a rip-roaring trip through the galaxy.

Don’t miss it

Solo: A Star Wars Story releases in the UAE on May 24.