Solo: A Star Wars Story May 26, 2018 15:07:35 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on May 26, 2018 15:07:35 GMT -5
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Directed by: Ron Howard
Directed by: Ron Howard
Han Solo and Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
When it comes to needless prequels, Solo: A Star Wars Story is far better than it was ever suggested to be on paper. Given how The Force Awakens fatefully concluded, in part solidifying that a bold new turn of events were coming for the Star Wars franchise, doubling back to focus on a character whose saga had ended was peculiar, even if you consider the separate timelines of "new" Stars Wars films and spinoffs/prequels. Yet Solo justifies its existence by providing longtime fans an amiable distillation of what they love about the series; as well as being the classic example of a film that plays with its characters, so to speak, as opposed to expanding them and unintentionally misconstruing details.
Solo arrives at an appropriate time because it gives those who haven't written off the franchise after the controversial Last Jedi six months ago a chinet plate of comfort food. One of my common gripes with Star Wars fans once again surfaced when I saw vocal condemnation for Episode 8 adopting what offended fans described as politically correct propaganda with an overarching agenda: they want it both ways but will ceaselessly gripe when they get what they ask for. They want the same old formula that echoes the films of their childhood, yet complain when The Force Awakens is too structurally similar to A New Hope. Then they'll follow suit and grovel for something game-changing and unique ala The Empire Strikes Back, but then attack The Last Jedi for daring to take on a new direction.
The dichotomous controversies of the past films makes Solo that much more of a partisan picture; it should come with a guarantee seal of approval that it won't offend anyone. It's so committed to being a "greatest hits" compilation of familiar characters and moments that it doesn't concern itself with things like subtext that might push it into that touchy territory. Its much-publicized director-shakeup, which came after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie, 21 Jump Street) were fired and replaced by Hollywood veteran Ron Howard, could've possibly had a hand in the film remaining aesthetically and spiritually classical in its approach — a fact that makes it all the more capable of being the mutually agreed upon "okay" installment in the community. The intriguing detail is that for all the "playing safe" Solo does in addition to playing around, it's a largely amusing and competent retread of formula.
We're plunged onto the junkyard planet of Corellia, which has become hijacked, along with a good portion of the galaxy, by crime syndicates who are looting the world for all its valuable resources. It's during this tumultuous time that a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) are separated just as they are trying to leave Corellia. Three years later, Han is booted from the Imperial Flight Academy, but not before meeting both Val (Thandie Newton) and Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who would become his informal teachers in the art of smuggling. Han also meets Chewbacca, and later discovers both his and fellow petty-crook Lando Calrissian's (Donald Glover) appetite for gambling in two sequences as memorable as they come in this "how it all started affair."
Alden Ehrenreich, who I recognized as an interesting novice in Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply from a couple years ago, is an ideal choice for Han — a decision that was made and defended by Lord and Miller before their departure. Despite reportedly needing an acting coach amidst the directorial shakeup and a change in vision, Ehrenreich's own youthfulness brings about some defining traits in a younger Han Solo. Ehrenreich downplays the cynicism and shows idealism as the character's preceding ideology, and his slickster ways as ones that grew and developed overtime as opposed to being in place from the beginning. Screenwriters Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan avoid temptation in making Han out to be the character we already know by giving him quips and observations fit only for Harrison Ford and no one else. The co-writers understand the most fascinating aspect of watching a prequel is seeing the characters as how they were, and Ehrenreich realizes a young Han in a manner that's engaging.
Ehrenreich is also greatly aided by the talented ensemble around him — something I was worried would only shine light on his relative inexperience. Going back to Solo being a serviceable distillation of many of the attributes people enjoy about Star Wars, the action spectacles give rise to the recurring inclusion of teamwork. Consider a scene that takes place on a monorail, which winds and curves all around the crags of a mountain, one of the various details that makes Solo feel like a western (the monorail itself might as well be horses and Han Solo and company cowboys). While capturing the harrowing moments of peril on this rickety train, Howard's camera swoops around to show character actions. We see Beckett command on top of the train-cars, while Chewie and Han Solo struggle to avoid the sharp edges of the mountain in hopes to detach the rapidly accelerating vehicle. The fun of seeing a team work together makes the strengths of Harrelson, Newton, and Clarke shine even brighter. The group has just as much fun acting together as they exchanging banter between each other, the likes of which not nearly as grating as it was in The Last Jedi.
Other notable performances come in the form of Donald Glover, who brings an affable smugness to Lando if there ever was such a thing, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37, his droid companion who, like BB-8, steals scenes in ways so many classic Star Wars characters do. Finally, the father/son Kasdan team do a fine job of illustrating how the bond between Han and Chewie started and why it was maintained for so many years in a galaxy far away. The two have impeccable chemistry and that's because it's abundantly clear the writers wanted them to throughout the film.
Like most of the Star Wars films this decade, Solo has its shortcomings, and they're mostly negligible markers of average staging that don't impede on its overall quality, especially if you're going in anticipating the sleek thrills offered by a Han Solo prequel. The pacing, for one, isn't as cohesive as its predecessors, and it's largely due to a few too many plot/location conveniences that act as if they're confining this story to a particular region so it doesn't disrupt the rest of the galaxy (one of the frustrations of many prequels). It's also one the darkest of all the Star Wars films in a visual sense, a fact that didn't disturb me as much as one might assume. However, it did make me wish someone besides Ron Howard, known for his track-record of competence as opposed to his appetite for stylistic prowess, was behind the camera. There's a lot of possibility when it comes to a Star Wars film adopting the visual appeal of a neo-noir, but it's not executed in a way that merits anything more than the occasionally beautiful shot. Consider The Last Jedi and how Rian Johnson and cinematographer Steve Yedlin used mood and ambiance in their shots to touch on Kurosawa-esque landscapes. Solo could've used more of that unrestricted style.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a heist movie, albeit not a very good one. It doesn't appreciate the mechanics and specificities of a heist as much as it does the action that results from one. Having said that, during one of the pep-talks between Han, Chewie, Beckett, and the remainder of the squad of smugglers, Beckett gives them all a pithy piece of advice: "stick to the rules, don't improvise." Although not divorced from The Last Jedi in the timeline of its production, you get the feeling that all along, that's what the filmmakers behind Solo wanted, for to improvise would be to send things off course even more (assuming you believe Star Wars is headed in the wrong direction). Solo is a comfortable mediator for trying times.
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, and Joonas Suotamo. Directed by: Ron Howard.