Sunday, June 3, 2018
RECENT WATCHES: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
just recently got a director. An Obi Wan adventure. And a young Han Solo movie. So when “Solo: A Star Wars Story” was officially announced, it was no surprise. Production, however, was far from smooth. Chris Lord and Phil Miller, the directors quickly becoming famous for turning bad ideas into inspired films, were fired while filming was all but complete. Ron Howard, who is not exactly well known for his overriding auteurist vision, was brought in to finish and re-film much of the movie. But you already knew all that. Is this Star Wars story one worth listening to?
In the time after the Galactic Empire came to power but before the Rebellion began their effort to fight back, a young boy named Han and his girlfriend Qi'ra live on the backwater planet Coreilla. After running afoul of a local gangster, they attempt to escape. Han succeeds, signing up with the Galactic army. Qi'ra is left behind. Three years later, Han deserts the army and joins up with a band of smugglers led by Tobias Beckett. Along with his new wookie friend, Chewbacca, Han is wrapped up in a scheme to steal hyperspeed fuel for the gangster, Dryden Vos. On the mission he will encounter familiar faces, new friends and enemies, and a very fast ship.
Han's last name is especially eye-rolling. The rhythm feels entirely off in the scenes set on Coreilla, giving the film a halting, jumbled beginning.
Once we get through the tedious prequel phase, “Solo” manages to turn into a pretty decent adventure flick. Uniting Han and Chewbacca, one of the few prequel elements that are actually satisfactory pulled off, helps a lot. Making the iconic duo part of a team helps motivate the plot. The interaction between this ensemble are a lot of fun, the new and old faces fitting into easily understood archetypal roles. Like the mentor, the smart-alack pilot, the embittered rival turned friend. Now Han is a young outlaw, on a mission to make his next big payday. The complications of an intergalactic crime plot – involving rival smugglers, fatal deadlines, gambling debts, and self-sacrifices – are much more interesting than learning how Han got his last name.
Lando's trademark coolness and while showing a little more vulnerable than Billy Dee's original.
Most of the new additions to the cast are likable as well. Woody Harrelson is obviously having a really good time as Tobias Beckett, Han's mentor. With that slightly dangerous glint in his eyes, Harrelson excels in the part of an experienced space outlaw. Emilia Clarke, an actress I still haven't been entirely sold on, play Qi'ra. Clarke does a good job of balancing the cuteness of a childhood friend with the sultry quality of a femme fatale. Thadie Newton is entertaining as Beckett's girlfriend and partner in crime, sharing a strong chemistry with Harrelson. Paul Bettany plays Dryden Vos, the film's villainous gangster with gnarly facial scars. Bettany can go from glad-handing to completely ruthless quickly, which works very well for the character.
his required cameo. Eloquent and extremely self-assured, L3-37 actively resents the humans around here. She believes Lando is in love with her but is trying to dissuade his advances. While on a mining planet, she successfully instigates a robotic revolution. All this stuff is great fun and represents “Solo” at its most creative and freewheeling.
As an action movie, “Solo” is pretty entertaining too. Inevitably, we see the legendary Kessel run performed on-screen. It involves Han piloting the Millennium Falcon through a spinning storm-cloud around a desolate world. There's some clever shots here, like when the ship is used to bat an attacking TIE Fighter away. The sudden appearance of a many tentacled Lovecraftian abomination is a great surprise too. I think the film's last act contains some pretty big problems but there's definitely some cool action there. A fight involving a fancy sword and a pair of laser-bladed brass knuckledusters is well choreographed. Sadly, a few of the action scenes, such as a blaster sortie on Kessel, are a bit shaky in their direction.
a last minute cameo from a famous “Star Wars” villain is baffling, even if you're up-to-date on what that character's been up to recently. It feels totally forced-in, an unnecessary attempt to link the film to the wider “Star Wars” universe. A lot of “Solo” has that problem. It's hard to say if this is Howard, Disney, or Lord/Miller's fault. I'm more inclined to blame the former two.
Over its opening weekend, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” made over 172 million dollars. Which seems like an obscene amount of money to normal people like you and me but, because of “Solo's” massive 250 million dollar budget, the film has already been declared a financial failure. (Shooting the whole movie twice probably had something to do with that bloated budget.) This reception, and the film itself, has caused it to be wrapped up in the extremely dumb, current debate over the direction of the new “Star Wars” films. Who would have thought that George Lucas' silly space movies, and the sequels they've spawned, would become touchstones of the culture wars? But thus is life in 2018, a nightmare none of us will wake up from. As for the prequel itself, it is entertaining in fits and starts but doesn't quite come together as a satisfying whole. [6/10]