Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Star Wars: Solo review

    Presently, Solo isn't looking too good at the box office. This is due to the fact it is a production with a severely overinflated budget and a lot of reshoots. Basically, the movie cost $300 million dollars to make and it probably won't get that back, making it the only Star Wars movie which might actually bomb.

Who doesn't want to be Han Solo?
    A lot of people are questioning whether this is because of The Last Jedi's divisive narrative (I'm one of the people who won't forgive it for Luke but otherwise think it was a good movie) or whether a Han Solo movie without Harrison Ford was always a tougher sell than people thought. I think it's probably a combination of both, personally, but what it isn't is the movie itself. Because this movie is awesome.

    I'm one of the people who found Rogue One to be a film I didn't much care for and I am a huge fan of The Force Awakens. So, I march to the beat of my own drum in fandom. Here, I think this is the Solo movie I wanted. Mind you, I wasn't actually expecting to like it because I already thought there was a young Han Solo movie which was perfectly serviceable--it was called Guardians of the Galaxy.

    The premise is Han and his friend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) are thieves living on Corellia when Han is able to escape off-planet but not her. After a brief but unpleasant period of service in the Imperial Army, Han ends up deserting and joining a ragtag band of misfits. This leads him to reunite with Qi'ra, meet with Chewbacca, and become acquainted with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). The group decides to steal a massive shipment of hyperspace fuel on behalf of a gangster and things promptly go to hell.

Emilia Clarke is absolutely awesome in this movie.
    The plot isn't actually that important because it's set dressing for the character interactions. Han is a romantic good-natured criminal who just so happens to surrounded by significantly less good-natured criminals. I like the contrast because it reminds me of another Han Solo prequel in Firefly. One of the main things that underscored that show was Mal Reynolds was always suffering because most criminals didn't have a code of ethics.

    Indeed, one of the consistent elements of Han Solo is the fact that he always tends to choose doing the right thing over making a profit and that is always going to be a thing that goes over like a lead balloon with the Underworld. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the colorful cast of characters assembled for this film and how they all played off against one another.

Donald Glover does an amazing Lando.
   Woody Harrelson does a great performance as Tobias Beckett, an older more established criminal who reminds me a good deal of a few characters from the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Emilia Clarke does an amazing job as a person who Han used to know extremely intimately but has since developed in her own direction. Paul Bettany does a serviceable job as a upper-level-but-not-quite-top tier crime boss, intimidating but someone Han Solo is capable of dealing with.

    We get to see a lot of Han Solo's epic moments: serving the Empire, freeing Chewbacca, winning the Falcon, making the Kessel Run, and so on all happen in what amounts to a single wild weekend. This kind of story compression isn't really my cup of tea but certainly manages to hit the kind of things people would want from a Han Solo movie.

    I really enjoyed Alden Ehrenreich's performance as Han Solo even if I note I've already seen plenty of other people play variants on Han's character (Chris Pine, Nathan Fillon, Val Kilmer, and so on). Is he Harrison Ford? No, of course not, but I've got no complaints about him either. Young Han the Lovable Rogue is a character who can be recast I think a little easier than trying to do the same with Leia or Luke Skywalker. After all, I absolutely loved Sean Patrick Flannery as Young Indiana Jones.

The droid which will kill us all!
    I think my favorite part of the film is the Han Solo/Qi'ra romance as it doesn't go in the direction I think it would be. Being the other woman Han Solo loved in his life is an incredible task but she pulls it off. Qi'ra is one of those mysterious femme fatale characters that fits well into the kind of girl which Han Solo would have known. The fact she isn't the kind of wide-eyed idealist and romantic
Han Solo is makes her a good contrast to Leia.

    The issue of droid rights is briefly touched upon in this movie and played for laughs. Personally, I'm a bit offput by that as I think that's a can of worms which Star Wars doesn't need to touch on. Either droids are programmable to be happy to serve like 3PO demonstrates himself to be or they're sentient, in which case it's slavery. Personally, I'm inclined to think only a very small number of droids are sentient. I also hope R2D2 backed up 3PO's memories from the Prequels somewhere.

    There's a surprise addition to the movie in terms of a bad guy who I think will confuse most audiences rather than make them squeal. I don't know if they're going to make a sequel to this movie but if they are, it'll be interesting how they follow up on it.

    If there's any flaws with the movie, it's the fact this is thoroughly unnecessary as a prequel. Nothing of consequence happens in this film which wasn't already covered in backstory and it doesn't give us that much of an insight into Han's character. Arguably, it just doubles down on the fact he always was a Rebel sympathizer and his cynicism is a thin veneer for a big old softie. Really, that should be Chewbacca's role. Still, as shameless popcorn fiction, I've seen much-much worse. People should just go and have fun with this one.


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