Filmgoer’s Flamethrower #23 – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Posted: June 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

KA-BLAM! Talk about the lead balloon that gave the classic band Led Zeppelin their name. In my arrogance that wants to believe that my positive write up on Solo: A Star Wars Story would have any effect on how the movie landed with the audience…if only I’d posted this review when it mattered two weeks ago. Yeah, right. Anyway, except for that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? A fun movie if obviously snake-bit.

Young Han Solo is back. Han Solo steals stuff. Han Solo meets and befriends Chewbacca. Han Solo meets and befriends Lando Calrissian. Together everybody makes the Kessel Run shaving two parsecs off the average distance. Lando’s favorite droid incites a droid/slave riot on Kessel before merging her consciousness with the Millennium Falcon. Han Solo confronts the old girlfriend left behind on Corellia. Han Solo plays sabacc with Lando acquiring the Falcon. Things move and blow up. Oh, Han Solo shoots (Han always shoots first) first killing a mentor, an act that said mentor approves of while dying.

Now that I’ve listed the bullet points of the plot, I can see why some people hated Solo. The simple act of paying attention to the Star Wars universe, even at the remove of Wookieepedia, says everybody knew the above plot points in one form or another were coming and completely unavoidable. And I suppose choosing annoyance over “that was actually sort of fun” probably says more about the commenter than anything about the movie that landed on screen. As in, if you hated the movie you’re probably the kind of person that gets suckered into chowing down a bad breakfast burrito. And if you liked the movie (I’m your huckleberry), maybe you had pancakes that morning.

Anyway, Alden Ehrenreich plays young Han Solo opposite Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra (pronounced Kira for those who care). The young friends, grifters on Corellia with highly visible callbacks to Oliver Twist, are separated. And Han goes to the Imperial Starfighter academy only to land in the infantry.

Thus begins a high-speed rollercoaster for the intrepid rogue in training that’s all about stealing vials of hyper-fuel. Han begins to shine soon to earn the title “best smuggler in the galaxy.” We learn about the many criminal organizations that seem like Emperor Palpatine lets them exist to do business because nothing kills the spirit of a people faster than getting caught between Space Hitler and Space Al Capone (of course if it had been Space Lucky Luciano maybe the galaxy wouldn’t be so bad…read a book to understand).

We find Qi’ra ensconced with the Crimson Dawn mob with constant offscreen references to “a gangster on Tatooine putting together a crew.” There is the romantic tension of the old girlfriend and the – “whose side is she really on?” – question. In the midst of this, Han takes on debts incurred by previous people agreeing to find more coaxium proposing the Kessel Run probably because Crimson Dawn frontman Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) is in a kill them all mood.

As good as Mr. Ehrenreich is at playing Han Solo, Donald Glover as young Lando steals every scene he’s in. Especially any scene in which he has a sabacc card dispenser up his sleeve (all the time), or the loving looks given to his droid L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Or his pain seeing the droid fail at her side mission of freeing the droid slaves on Kessel. Generally, I liked the whole cast and don’t see why the characters that lived can’t come back in other Young Han Solo movies. Stories that wouldn’t be dependent on filling all the obvious backstory squares in favor of awesome heist movies, but no one actually asked me.

I will say that if I hadn’t been the uber-geek that will see a movie twice to give it the fairest chance possible, I might have really hated the movie. The first screening seemed extremely dark to me in the same way that if I’d stopped watching with the 3D version of Rogue One, I would’ve hated that movie. The cause being the same, lots of foggy scenes. Luckily, the second screening happened at another theater where the projectionist seemed to turn up the lamp on the gizmo and we’re good.

Upon the second viewing, I couldn’t find anything overtly wrong with this movie even though the Star Wars franchise has done better. They’ve also done worse (Phantom Menace, anyone?) and I guess I’ll just have to let the movie slightly pancaking hopefully to be rediscovered on home video remain one of those mysteries of, as screenwriter William Goldman put it – “no one knows anything.”

Yes, the imaginary movie where director Ron Howard gets the job from jump as being the sort of artist that actually fits with Star Wars might have been just as entertaining and less expensive. That unfortunately the necessity of firing the first team would cause a feeding frenzy of – “Oh, my God they just fucked up a beloved piece of my childhood” – or worse – “that sea hag left in charge of Lucasfilm has got to go!” Seems to me that the audience had several reasons for punishing Solo for the perceived sins of previous movies and let fly with all their toxic fury. Or it really was too soon to put movies out five months apart. Time will tell.

So anyway, Solo: A Star Wars Story was to this movie fan a good solid movie that could give us really cool Han Solo sequels of the Han Solo tries to steal X while romancing hot space princess Y (not named Leia Organa) and Lando saves the day with cool maneuver Z formula. I think if Lucasfilm doesn’t panic they could get three movies doing just this. Again no one asked. And because I liked this film and might be the only one in the country that did…when’s the disk coming out?

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