Solo: A Star Wars Story

solo_a_star_wars_story_ver17STARS3.5Solo: A Star Wars Story is number two in the Star Wars anthology installments.  2016’s Rogue One was an unqualified success. It earned $532 million in the U.S. alone so expectations were that this would do similar business.  It didn’t come close to even the lowest industry projections.  Where Rogue One earned $155m in its opening 3-day weekend, Solo earned $84.8m. $103m if you want to count Memorial day but coming up short even with an extra 4th day makes its performance seem even worse.  I’m surprised.  I’ll say right off the bat that I enjoyed this adventure. So did most critics according to the aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes where it currently holds a 70% approval rating. However, I think the box office is a necessary introduction to a detailed discussion of the film.

Solo explores the early adventures of Han Solo and how he came to meet the Wookiee Chewbacca, the charming smuggler Lando Calrissian, and acquire the Millennium Falcon.  So yeah it’s another origin story.  Apparently,  one that nobody really needed based on its chilly reception at the box office.  The events precede 1977’s Star Wars. That’s A New Hope to anyone too young to remember the original title. It’s a very dependable production thanks to two veterans: director Ron Howard and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The former stepped in after original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, after having completed at least three-quarters of principal photography, were fired by Lucasfilm.  The latter wrote The Empire Strikes Back so Kasdan’s presence needs no justification.  In fact, both of these stalwarts belie the quality of this solid achievement.

After Han’s love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is captured, he decides to enlist as a pilot for the Empire.  In time, he is apprehended as well and thrown into a pit where the monster there is none other than Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). The two bond over Han’s ability to speak the Wookiee’s language. The two break out together and meet up with three thieves posing as fighters: Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), his girlfriend Val (Thandie Newton), and the alien Rio Durant (Jon Favreau). They are working for a well-dressed crime lord named Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Han agrees to aid in their efforts to steal a hyperfuel known as coaxium.  Given that the starship gas is being transported aboard a vehicle, the chronicle becomes a high-speed train heist on the ice cold planet of Vandor. Han reunites with Qi’ra who introduces him to Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and his sassy politically correct droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). She is both Lando’s navigator and apparently companion as well.

Solo is at heart an inessential tale. It plays to those who crave a backstory to one specific character. I’ll invoke the term “fan service” because that is exactly what this is. Crowd-pleasing details for The Empire Strikes Back obsessives. I see nothing wrong with giving aficionados what they want. Granted the focus does limit the potential audience though. I saw Empire in a theater back in 1980 so I consider myself the intended audience.  Both actors Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover do a commendable job of invoking the cadence of their future selves. I appreciated the elementary plot and breezy atmosphere. The meticulous, although dark, production design is quite impressive as well.  The drama will still keep you in suspense. The narrative plays with the allegiances of certain people. It’s not always clear where the loyalties of a supporting cast member may lie. Still, the screenplay keeps things rather straightforward. There is a refreshing simplicity that permeates Solo that makes this saga very satisfying. Our modern era has a tendency to overexplain things.  Compare this to Rogue One if you need an example. Convoluted minutiae, a dense plot and ever-shifting time frames doesn’t add to my enjoyment. The restraint shown here is an admirable feat. This is good old-fashioned fun. Nothing more unfortunately, but also nothing less.

05-24-18

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

  1. Agreed. This was a surprisingly entertaining installment that actually really got me to like Alden Ehrenreich that little bit more. He’s no Harrison Ford, that much is clear. But man, I went in not even as a big fan of Star Wars (fan enough, I guess) with the presumption that the mystique of the world’s most famous space smuggler would end up ruined. That wasn’t my impression leaving. There was room for this story. Maybe it’s best enjoyed as a casual fan. But you enjoyed it and your relationship with these films stands much longer than mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said. It’s difficult stepping into the shoes of such an iconic character. Alden Ehrenreich is perhaps too nice. However, it could have been much worse.

      Tell me if I’m crazy, but if this film had come out in like say 1996, I’d cast Timothy Olyphant in this role. His career was barely just beginning so it’d be a dream part, but I think he’d be perfect. He has that sarcastic, smug quality that this character needs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a wonderfully written review that makes some salient points about the nature of “fan service.”

    I think that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fascinating inversion of the burgeoning adolescence theme of the saga. Unfortunately, in execution, the theme has no emotional resonance due to a deficient central performance. But, the film picks up the slack with its world building and cinematic craftsmanship.

    You can find out more by reading my review below.

    https://sgsonfilm.net/2018/05/25/review-solo-a-star-wars-story-2018/

    If you find the piece to your liking, then please comment and follow.

    Like

  3. I really wish this was a bigger hit cause I liked it. It wasn’t great, but just a lot of fun. “Refreshing simplicity”. Exactly what I thought too. 3 1/2 stars

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: