Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story

★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Although I am not a huge Star Wars fan, I do love the majority of the films. I love all the original films, one of the prequels (Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith), & the new sequels. However, I find the other two prequels & the new anthology film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, to be mediocre. The anthology films (yes, there are going to be more) seem to be nothing more than fan service, pandering to the fans with nostalgia, instead of moving forward & taking risks.

Solo: A Star Wars Story could've been great. In fact, it probably would've been great, had Phil Lord & Christopher Miller not been fired with only a short time before they finished filming because of creative differences with Lucasfilm. And from what I've heard, I would've liked their take on this. However, Ron Howard came on board, finished the film, & what came of the extensive reshoots was nothing short of a disappointment. It had flashes of greatness, but those were all dashed before long. The film follows a younger Han (played by Alden Ehrenreich), a criminal on Corellia. Him & his girlfriend, Qi'Ra (played by Emilia Clarke), steal in order to survive. They try to get off of Corellia by bribing an Imperial officer; however, only Han makes it, as Qi'Ra is captured by the gang that's after them. Determined to return for Qi'Ra, Han joins the Imperial Navy as a flight cadet. When asked for his family name, Han says he is alone, & the recruiter gives him the surname of Solo.

3 years later, Han is kicked out of the Imperial Flight Academy for insubordination, but encounters a group of criminals disguised as Imperial soldiers during a battle on Mimban. The criminal group is led by Tobias Beckett (played by Woody Harrelson). Han tries to coerce Beckett into letting him join, but Beckett has him arrested & sentenced to being eaten by a Wookie named Chewbacca (played by Joonas Suotamo). However, Han convinces Chewbacca to befriend him, & they both eventually join Beckett's gang. Also in the gang are Beckett's wife, Val (played by Thandie Newton) & Rio Durant (played by Jon Favreau), an alien.

Han & Chewbacca's first job with Beckett's gang is to steal a shipment of coaxium on Vandor. The plan fails, as Cloud Riders get on their tail, & the coaxium ends up being destroyed. Beckett tells Han that the shipment was supposed to be stolen for Crimson Dawn boss Dryden Vos (played by Paul Bettany). Han offers to repay this by stealing unrefined coaxium from Kessel, to which Dryden Vos allows to happen, but only if Qi'Ra, who is now his lieutenant, accompanies them.

So they go on their way to Kessel, where they make their way to Lando Calrissian (played by Donald Glover), a pilot & smuggler, in the hope that he will lend him his ship, the Millenium Falcon, for the heist. He wagers it in a game of sabacc, but he defeats Han in that game; however, him & his droid friend, L3-37 (played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), decide to join. But this job could turn out bad for everyone involved.

The cast is good. Ehrenreich, although he wouldn't have been my first choice to play Han Solo (that would've been Ansel Elgort), does a good enough job of emulating the cockiness & gung-ho personality once emulated by the great Harrison Ford. Clarke & Bettany are alright, but are easily the least good of the cast. Newton feels wasted here. But the two best members of the cast are Donald Glover (who is easily the best part of the film) & Woody Harrelson (who seems to be awesome at playing his neurotic self).

Ron Howard's direction is mediocre. Howard plays the material darker than it needs to be, & when he isn't doing that, his handling of the material feels so bland & generic.

The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan & Jonathan Kasdan is underwhelming. The plot isn't interesting enough, many of the characters are one-note, & the dialogue isn't that good. Also, the screenplay panders too much to the nostalgia of past films, instead of doing what Star Wars: The Last Jedi did so well: taking risks & moving forward.

Bradford Young's cinematography is good. Although the color palette is too washed-out at times, the shot composition is great.

Pietro Scalia's editing is awful. For an action film, the film is paced horribly. The 2.25 hour runtime feels more like 3.5 hours. Also, the film seems over-edited at times.

And the visual effects are great. The CGI, like all of the films in the Star Wars franchise, is done very well, & is one of the few bright spots of the film.

This is a real disappointment. Although the cast & visuals are good, everything else is mediocre, making the film a completely bloated mess.

Solo: A Star Wars Story was seen by me at the MJR Partridge Creek Digital Cinema 14 in Clinton Township, MI on Friday, May 25, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 135 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

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