REVIEW: Solo: A Star Wars Story
Those who attended Solo: A Star Wars Story during its theatrical run were treated to an entertaining adventure story, leavened with the patented humor derived from the original trilogy. It was well cast, well produced, and enjoyable. All the behind the scenes contretemps in no way spoiled the final product, which is out tomorrow from Disney Home Entertainment on a variety of discs and packages.
Yes, the version that was shot under directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller would have been dramatically different, perhaps too different for the Lucasfilm executives. We have no way of knowing since no footage has been released. The casting didn’t change and incoming Ron Howard was a good choice, able to get things up and running smoothly and delivering a satisfying movie.
So, why didn’t people flock to see the movie despite positive buzz? Hard to say. Yes, coming out so quickly after the previous Star Wars film (which in itself was controversial) and just weeks after the same fans had their moods spoiled by the downbeat Avengers Infinity War no doubt contributed to poor opening weekend box office Word of mouth should have saved the movie but didn’t.
There little doubt that Alden Ehrenreich stepped up as Han Solo, younger and not quite so jaded as the version Harrison Ford introduced us to in 1977. This film fills in each and every crevice from the past, so much so, that if the rumors are true and no sequel is being planned, then we should be satisfied. In fact, so much continuity service was present, it almost interfered with telling a solid stand-alone story.
We meet him and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) on Corellia, a world ruled by the Fagin-like Lady Proxima (Linda Hunt). They long to escape for a better world but only Han gets free, his first step down the road to bitterness and pain. While he tries to be a loyal member of the Empire so he can fly, her path brought her from one criminal orbit to another, the latter being Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), a powerful player in the criminal Crimson Dawn. Han winds up working with his own criminals, a band led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), a man with a conscience, whose behavior proves influential.
Events from screenwriters Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan bring everyone back to together with Han meeting the Wookiee Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). There’s the usual twists and turns, revelations and reversals, and surprises and sadness. There’s also plenty of action, one on one duels and a high-speed train robbery before we even get Han and Chewie aboard the Millennium Falcon for the first time.
The performances are certainly engaging, with nice chemistry between Ehrenreich and Clarke as well as Ehrenreich and Glover (who is even better casting for his part). Michael Giacchino’s energetic score nicely complements the John Williams music we are so accustomed to.
The Blu-ray edition comes with two discs and a Digital HD code. One disc is the film, the other an hour or so of special features. The film itself looks fine, not perfect, which is surprising considering the production crew. Everything is cold and bleak and the color is desaturated throughout (letting Lando shine) and that’s all nicely captured. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is actually superior.
The Special Features are a mixed opening with the soft Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable (21:44) as Howard moderates a so-so conversation with Ehrenreich, Glover, Suotamo, Clarke, Harrelson, Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (the voice of L3-37), and Thandie Newton. Kasdan on Kasdan (7:50) offers father chatting with son about the franchise’s impact on the elder’s life.
Remaking the Millennium Falcon (5:36) looks at recreating the vessel and its origins; Escape from Corellia (9:59) touches on the film’s place in the timeline in addition to the opening action sequence. The Train Heist (14:30) breaks down the largest set piece. Team Chewie (6:41) spotlights the formation of the friendship between Han and Chewie while Becoming a Droid: L3-37 (15:06) spotlights the new character and bringing her to life.
Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso (8:02) looks at the creation of the creatures, card game, and characters in this mid-movie moment. We also get Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run (8:28) which explore show this chase sequence was conceived and executed.
There are some interesting Deleted Scenes (15:13): Proxima’s Den, Corellian Foot Chase, Han Solo: Imperial Cadet, The Battle of Mimban: Extended, Han Versus Chewie: Extended, Snowball Fight!, Meet Dryden: Extended, and Coaxium Double-Cross.
Very little is made of the first version of the film, not that it’s ignored but everything here is dedicated the film fans received. While history would be curious to see what might have been, that will have to wait for another day.