Growing up watching Star Wars movies, I don’t remember ever wondering how Han and Chewbacca met. Nothing in this origin story of one of my favourite cinematic bromances enhances it or gives it a more powerful meaning. There is a lot of obedient connecting of dots going on in Solo: A Star Wars Story when those dots just do not need to be connected.
This is a charming enough intergalactic romp that does entertain, much more so in the third act than the fairly dull earlier stuff. While the backstory of Han, Chewie and Lando is only mildly interesting, there are other additions to the Star Wars universe and its lore that are really cool. It’s also refreshing to have one of these sequels not feature The Force and lower the stakes to a small group of characters rather than the fate of the whole universe.
But there is also a lack of the spectacular set-pieces that define this franchise. There are some minor thrills from the chase and fight scenes, which is an achievement considering this is a prequel and we know the heroes survive. But there’s no epic showdown or triumphant, jump-out-of-your-seat-pumping-your-fist moment. The early train heist and climactic cunning plan are a lot of fun, though.
The worst thing about Solo isn’t its lack of amazing action or its dutiful telling of a backstory we don’t need to be told, but rather the high bar set by its predecessors. The Empire Strikes Back is a movie so beloved, so sacred to a large section of the world’s film fans, that all Star Wars movies are cursed to forever being compared to it. The latest might be an above average action adventure, but it sure as hell ain’t no Empire.