'Solo: A Star Wars Story' Has A Long Buildup But Offers More Background On Han

May 15, 2018
Originally published on May 16, 2018 10:24 am
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Like every film that comes from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, "Solo: A Star Wars Story" has been kept tightly under wraps before its release. Well, the wraps are now coming off. Even though the movie doesn't open to the public until next week, the embargo that the studio had placed on reviews ended just this afternoon, so our critic Bob Mondello can now tell us about it - nothing spoilery of course, just where and how it fits or doesn't.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: With "Star Wars" story films as opposed to the nine "Star Wars" saga films that dealt with the Skywalker family, the assumption is that you have lots of questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY")

ALDEN EHRENREICH: (As Han Solo) Is this seat taken?

MONDELLO: Maybe not that question. That's a youthful Han Solo sitting down to gamble.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY")

DONALD GLOVER: (As Lando Calrissian) Nobody's in the seat. Then it ain't taken, friend.

EHRENREICH: (As Han Solo) So this is Sabacc.

GLOVER: (As Lando Calrissian) Sabacc.

MONDELLO: Now, if you're a "Star Wars" fan, you know that Han won the spaceship Millennium Falcon in a game of Sabacc, and he won it from...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY")

GLOVER: (As Lando Calrissian) Captain Lando Calrissian.

EHRENREICH: (As Han Solo) Han Solo. Looks like you're having a good day.

GLOVER: (As Lando Calrissian) I'm a lucky guy.

MONDELLO: You'll find out a lot about Lando and other characters Han was already pals with when we met them because in "Solo," we get to see him meet them.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY")

EHRENREICH: (As Han Solo) Since when do you know how to fly?

JOONAS SUOTAMO: (As Chewbacca, vocalizing).

EHRENREICH: (As Han Solo) One-hundred-ninety years old?

SUOTAMO: (As Chewbacca, vocalizing).

EHRENREICH: (As Han Solo) You look great.

EMILIA CLARKE: (As Qi'ra) Chewie, get in.

MONDELLO: There's fun to be had in this, especially if you've been curious as to, say, how Han got the last name Solo or what's with Lando's colorful capes. That said, this is not quite backstory on the level of "Rogue One's" how they made the Death Star. And laying it all in seriously slows down the film's first third. The story takes forever to build up ahead of hyper-fuel, and it's not as if there's nothing going on - two separate heists, narrow escapes, lots of double-dealing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY")

WOODY HARRELSON: (As Beckett) Assume everyone will betray you, and you will never be disappointed.

MONDELLO: There may have been folks on the film's creative team who felt that way since the original directors were fired several months into production and steady hand Ron Howard was brought in to do reshoots and right the ship. How much of the turmoil is visible onscreen?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY")

EHRENREICH: (As Han Solo) What do you think?

SUOTAMO: (As Chewbacca, vocalizing).

EHRENREICH: (As Han Solo) Well, what do you know?

MONDELLO: There are certainly moments when you sense a scene developing one way and then shifting gears. But what audiences are more likely to care about is whether Alden Ehrenreich lives up to Harrison Ford's original Han since he's been signed to a three-picture deal.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY")

EHRENREICH: (As Han Solo) You might want to buckle up, baby.

MONDELLO: Things do feel shaky at first, but there's spunk to Ehrenreich's delivery. And once he settles in - a twinkle in his eye. And when he slips in a trademark Solo smile, you'll say, yep, there he is.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY")

HARRELSON: (As Beckett) Good going, Han.

MONDELLO: The surrounding cast is fine, too. Woody Harrelson is a pied piper of a smuggler, Phoebe Waller-Bridge voicing a droid that's more than the sum of her parts and Donald Glover doing such a terrific Billy Dee Williams impression that absolutely no one is going to be surprised if Disney announces it's making "Lando: A Star Wars Story." In the meantime, "Solo" will do in a pinch for those who don't want to just look up the answers to their questions on Wookieepedia. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.