Film Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Release Date: May 10th, 2018 (Los Angeles Premiere)
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Based on: characters created by George Lucas
Music by: John Powell, John Williams (original Han Solo and Star Wars themes)
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau (voice), Warwick Davis, Linda Hunt (voice), Clint Howard, Anthony Daniels, Ray Park, Sam Witwer (voice)

Lucasfilm Ltd., Walt Disney, 135 Minutes

Review:

“I hate you.” – Lando Calrissian, “I know.” – Han Solo

*Warning: there will be spoilers… and probably some ranting!

At one point, Star Wars was the biggest pop culture thing in my life. Over the years, a lot has changed: ownership of the franchise, the fan base and most importantly, the canon. I’m told that decades worth of novels and comic books on my shelves are irrelevant now. I would have been able to adjust to that if the new additions to Star Wars were better than the stories given to us by dozens (if not hundreds) of authors that have been enriching the mythos for over 40 years. But so far, Disney has done nothing but drop the ball. Granted, I did like Rogue One but that’s just one film out of the four that Disney has done and I still have my fair share of issues with it.

Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t a bad film but it isn’t a very good one either. Frankly, other than a few sequences, it was kind of boring and unexciting. But then there were the politics in it, which is something I usually stay away from talking about but if this film is going to beat its audience over the head with its fucking nonsense, just as the other Disney Star Wars films have, I have to speak up.

When Disney bought Star Wars from George Lucas, most people were ecstatic. People were espousing things like, “Finally, George Lucas is gone, we can forget about those terrible prequels!” and “Disney will fix the franchise!” Yeah, they fixed it, alright. If by “fix” you mean “neuter”.

Kathleen Kennedy and Disney have already run this franchise into the ground and it happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. Their first attempt at Star Wars isn’t even three years old yet but based off of the audience’s response to this film and its incredibly lackluster opening weekend, I think that the public’s opinion is abundantly clear.

There is already Star Wars fatigue and it came so damn quickly. Had these movies been great or at least, very good, people would still be enthused. And if Disney wasn’t milking the franchise to piggyback off of known characters like Han Solo, Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi for their spinoff films, maybe they could actually move the franchise forward.

In regards to the movie Solo, as this is a review of it, let me talk about the positives.

First of all, I really liked the train robbery sequence. That was the highlight of the film and one of the best, if not the best sequence in the Disney Star Wars films. It was creatively done, well thought out, well executed and just a good time.

Second, I liked the tone of the film. The atmosphere was dark and brooding, which enhanced the story, the peril the characters found themselves in and the life they were living, which is one of crime… even if Solo is considered to be a hero.

I also liked Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. There are certain moments in the film where Glover is talking and you literally hear Billy Dee Williams’ voice. He definitely prepped for this role and really studied Billy Dee Williams. He is kind of the antithesis to Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo but I’ll get to his performance in a minute.

I thought that Paul Bettany as the villain was a strong positive. He didn’t have the sort of weight that a traditional Star Wars movie villain should have but he nailed the part, hands down. But I’ll get into the villain problem in a minute, as well.

The other big highlight of the film was the conclusion. I liked the Darth Maul cameo and am genuinely interested in what it means for Star Wars going forward but I hope it is to tie into the Obi-Wan movie and not a sequel to this film, which they should not make. I also liked the reveal of who the Marauders were and that whole sequence on the beach between them, Beckett, Solo, Chewie and Qi’ra.

I thought that the pace of the film and its progression were good, even if a lot of the stuff wasn’t as interesting as the filmmakers probably thought it was.

But on to the negatives.

I like Alden Ehrenreich as an actor but I didn’t like him trying to play Han Solo. The character is so distinctly Harrison Ford and Ehrenreich tried to nail it but fell short. I thought his comedic timing was off, his mannerisms didn’t work and “the cool” felt forced. The thing is, he could have just been his own character and this film would have worked better. He didn’t have to be Han Solo, this could have been a Star Wars heist movie with all new characters, punctuated by its main player that was more of an homage to the Han Solo archetype and not Solo himself. This would have served Ehrenreich’s talents better and opened the door to a new thread in the grand Star Wars universe.

Next up is Emilia Clarke. I don’t know what it is about her but I just don’t like her. Granted, I’m probably the only person on Earth that can’t get into Game of Thrones but that’s also not just her fault, it’s that whole thing. Anyway, Clarke is just an incredibly one-dimensional and boring actress. She makes me feel absolutely nothing. She’s no different in this. Her character felt soulless and just made me yearn for her death and for Han to hurry up and go meet Leia.

Then there is the Woody Harrelson problem. For the record, I love Harrelson. I always have, ever since I was a young kid watching Cheers with my mum and granmum when it was still broadcasting. The problem with Harrelson is that he is such a distinct actor that it is sort of distracting in a film like Star Wars. All I ever see is Harrelson, which most of the time is a good thing, but in a Star Wars picture, it just pulls me out of the movie. I think that the original Star Wars films were so magical due to George Lucas finding the right kind of talent from a pool of unknown actors. He did use a few well-known actors but their parts were perfectly tailored and fit them. But really, we’re just talking about Peter Cushing, who was primarily a low budget horror actor, and Alec Guinness, who had a long filmography but was never as recognizable or as famous as Woody Harrelson has become.

Earlier I mentioned the villain problem about the movie, even though I praised Bettany’s performance. You see, his baddie here was just some low level crime boss. Okay, maybe he’s a high level crime boss but him being the big bad would have been like Return of the Jedi expanding the Jabba the Hutt stuff to two hours and cutting out the second and much bigger half of the film. The Jabba stuff is solid but a gangster is not the type of villain that really brings a high threat level in the Star Wars universe. Frankly, Solo felt like it should have happened in an episode of Clone Wars or Rebels and not on the big screen for over two hours.

The biggest blight on all of Star Wars history though has to be Lando’s droid Che Droidvera a.k.a. L3-37. The droid was a wisecracking feminist revolutionary because robots apparently have gender in Star Wars now and are fighting for equal rights or something. Basically, this was Disney’s attempts at bringing gender politics into a Star Wars film in a cutesy and funny way. It’s not that I’m against feminism or equal rights, but this was absolute retardation of the highest caliber. I don’t bitch and moan about SJWs because sometimes those bitching about SJWs can come off as terrible as SJWs themselves but Jesus Jeff Goldblum Christ, man! Is this what Star Wars is now? A political and social platform for Hollywood holier-than-thous to sneak their messages into mindless entertainment used for escapism? You know, escapism: where people want to escape the real world for two hours because of real world problems and issues?

Then again, we’re dealing with people whose only counterargument is to point and call those who disagree with them “racist woman hating alt-right Nazis.”

See what I’m saying, though? In a world where people espouse politics and aren’t even minutely rational about it, you sometimes need to escape. But when that escape is inundated with that same irrational political bullshit, you look for another form of escapism. Hence, why this movie isn’t the success that Disney was absolutely sure it would be.

People just didn’t have the interest in this movie like they did with the old school Star Wars films before it.

Reason being, The Last Jedi mostly sucked and it pushed its politics on the people. People responded by telling Solo to “go fuck itself” when they didn’t rush out and buy tickets opening weekend. In fact, this is the first Star Wars movie I didn’t see within the first few hours of its release. I waited over a week and really, that wasn’t even over politics it was over The Last Jedi just sucking as a whole, politics aside.

Last week, I started organizing and cataloging my comic book collection. I came across my massive collection of Star Wars Dark Horse stuff from the ’90s and ’00s. I flipped through a lot of them, re-familiarizing myself with the stories. It really just reinforced my sentiment that the Expanded Universe, that has been washed away with the Disney tide, was so much better than what we have now.

Those Clone Wars tales with Quinlan Vos and all that Knights of the Old Republic era stuff were great Star Wars stories. Jacen and Jaina Solo were infinitely better characters than Kylo Ren and Rey. Well, at least Disney kept Thrawn relevant but Mara Jade is bantha fodder.

Solo: A Star Wars Story just doesn’t work. But hey, at least I got to see Lando, even if it wasn’t Billy Dee Williams and it wasn’t in The Force Awakens where Lando and Han should have had a reunion.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Disney Star Wars films.

Film Review: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Release Date: February 1st, 2016 (Regency Village Theater premiere)
Directed by: The Coen Brothers
Written by: The Coen Brothers
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Alison Pill, Wayne Knight, Christopher Lambert, Fisher Stevens, Patrick Fischler, Clancy Brown, Robert Picardo, Dolph Lundgren, Michael Gambon, Peter Jason

Working Title Films, Mike Zoss Productions, Universal Pictures, 106 Minutes

hail_caesarReview: 

The Coen Brothers always peak my interest when they have a new film coming out. Granted, I’m not a nut like the hardcore Coen loyalists but I am a legit ordained minister of Dudeism, a relgion based off of their film The Big Lebowski.

Hail, Caesar! is a motion picture littered with stars. For the most part, everyone other than Josh Brolin, Alden Ehrenreich and George Clooney feel like they are just glorified cameos. Ehrenreich isn’t even on the poster. But then you have Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson and Jonah Hill on it, while they are only in a handful of scenes.

The film is beautiful to look at but it is lacking in just about every other regard. Sure, the acting is top notch but when you have a cast full of talent like this, where most of them are limited to just a few scenes, they all probably had their best stuff because they weren’t bogged down by a rough shooting schedule and didn’t need to focus on anything longer than a few pages of dialogue, if that.

It is an enjoyable movie, don’t get me wrong, it just wasn’t as exciting or as interesting as it would lead you to believe. The introduction of Johansson’s character was magnificently shot and executed but I feel like her character was just brought into the film so that the Coen Brothers had a reason to create their own old school Hollywood synchronized swimming extravaganza. And I feel like that is the true purpose of this film, that the Coens wanted to try their hand at old school filmmaking techniques and to do it while working with all their friends.

Additionally, where we saw footage of films within the movie, they never really looked like pictures from 1951, where this is set. The films, even if they were black and white, were too sharp and too clean. The typefaces used looked out of place and not of that era.

There was just too much going on in the movie. I know that the plot is about Brolin’s Eddie Mannix and how he has to manage all these Hollywood superstars. However, it would have been a more interesting movie had it really just focused on one of his situations. Sure, the others could have been included but too much time was given to things that distracted from the narrative. The only real interesting plot thread was Clooney’s Baird Whitlock being kidnapped and held for ransom by communist writers. In fact, I adored the dialogue in those scenes between Clooney and the commies.

Hail, Caesar! is fun, to an extent. It just feels very empty and although it created a world that truly feels lived in, it didn’t explore it deeply enough.