Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for a trip back in time with Han Solo.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers or that our leading man hasn't spoiled in an interview. (Non plot-related!)
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a cheeky kid from the wrong side of the universal tracks sets out for something better.
Dear reader(s), I must warn you that Memorial Day puts me in an odd frame of mind, so my experience with Solo: A Star Wars story will have been colored by that, as, undoubtedly, will this review. Please excuse if it's all a bit scattered.
I liked this movie. I didn't love it--I might have loved it on a different day--but I did like it a great deal. It's a perfectly fun outing that would be accepted as such if only it weren't part of this legendary franchise. BUT...it's a Star Wars movie, so the Internet has to beat the hell out of it because that's what the Internet does. Don't listen to the Internet, kids.
Alden Ehrenreich is terrific, and the world owes him an apology for the bashing he took upon being cast in this iconic role. I know it can be hard for die-hard fans to accept a new face on a favorite character, but all timeless characters ultimately are likely to be portrayed by someone who isn't the actor we grew up with, and we're just going to have to get over it. Ehrenreich has charisma to spare, and fills Harrison Ford's boots quite admirably. For whatever it's worth, I also think he has just the right status to take on a role like this; he's done enough that people will have an idea what he can do (if they've been paying attention), but he isn't saddled with a past role or career that would have brought too much baggage with it. Emilia Clarke further cements her genre legacy, joining yet another franchise that guarantees her a convention living even if she never scores another acting role. As expected, though, the real scene-stealer is Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian. Glover is deservedly the current "it" performer across pretty much all media, and I think I speak for the majority when I say, if someone wants to make a Lando Calrissian movie with Glover, we are down with that.
A handful of negatives: Solo is too long by a good 20-30 minutes, most of which easily could have been rectified by trimming the inter-galactic chase scenes. It's like Fast & Furious in space, and, while those scenes are consequential, they seldom need to be as long as they are in ANY movie, out in space or here on good ol' planet Earth. The picture comes out of the gate running, but the first act still seems painfully dull. It also tries too hard to present any Han Solo-related incident that's been referenced in any Star Wars movie, ever. New characters seem insistent on becoming memorable, but most of them are just very, very annoying. (Oh, that damnable droid!) Finally, a fair bit of Solo--maybe more than half--is so dark it's nearly impossible to see what's going on, likely a by-product of seeing a 3D production in 2D. Of course it's the ticket-buyer's choice to skip the 3D, but if a film is showing in 2D, it should be of an acceptable quality to be seen in 2D.
Now for the good news: As mentioned, Solo's cast is mostly terrific; it would have been very hard to go too wrong with this group. In addition to Ehrenreich, Glover, and Clarke, Solo boasts the talents of Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, and Paul Bettany, in a wicked turn that's almost enough to make a person forgive his annoying Vision. (*Almost.*) Both sound and visual effects are nicely done, and John Powell's score is sufficiently epic for this iconic origins tale. (If I had to pick someone to pick up John Williams' baton, it would certainly be Powell.) Once Solo gets rolling, it's great fun and moves along at a good clip, and it's easy to invest in these fresh-faced youngsters who will become the characters we know and love so well. Ehrenreich revealed in an interview that he is signed for three films, and it's not difficult for me to believe that Solo could be the launching pad for something very, very good.
Solo: A Star Wars Story clocks in at 135 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of sci-fi action and violence."
If there's backlash against Solo, I wish it were directed at the cash-grabbing Disney machine, rather than at the folks who worked long and hard on this bit of fun summer escapism.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Solo gets seven and a half.
This Memorial Day weekend, I post in memory of my friend Chris, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, and with gratitude to those who gave all for something that meant more to them than themselves.
I am in your debt.
Until next time...