Saturday, 30 June 2018

Review: Solo - A Star Wars Story (seventh-pass)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (seventh-pass / 2D / SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 135 mins / Dir. Ron Howard / Trailer

Previous reviews: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

One of the most satisfying jokes in Solo is Imperial recruitment officer Drawd Munbrin (Andrew Woodall) saying assuringly to his newly approved cadet "Good luck Han Solo, we'll have you flying in no time". We then cut to an exterior battle-scene on another planet - day or night, it's hard to tell - and join who we'll find out is Han Solo, hurtling briefly through the air before unceremoniously landing in a welter of mud, sweat and shrapnel.

And as Han picks himself up, concentration struggling against the noise and confusion which surrounds him, I thought 'is this the first time we've seen this?'. Is this the first time we've seen the unrestrained chaos of actual 'war' in Star Wars?

There have been plenty of battles of course, but they've been relatively short-lived confrontations and with a clear victor at the end. The previous movies' set-pieces tend to show one party arriving on-planet with the intention of destroying the other (Hoth, Endor, Naboo, Geonosis, Scarif, two Death Stars), and are settled (more or less) within the confines of that film. But with Solo we're dropped onto Mimban in the middle of a prolonged onslaught, as Imperial forces struggle to subdue the indigenous resistance fighters of a planet that the Empire are mining to death. There's no easily attainable objective for either side, no shortcuts in the meanwhile, and Han does the sensible thing of getting out while he's still alive. We leave Mimban as we found it, no closer to a conclusion but for the dwindling body-count on both sides.

Even back in the animated Clone Wars series where we dotted around the galaxy's conflict hotspots, the location was acting as a pivotal point in the overall war (or that planet's role in it) or being used as a backdrop while something happened as an aside to it all. The closest we've ever come to witnessing a miserable, protracted assault was Clone Wars Season 4's 'Umbara' story-arc, where the Besalisk Jedi, General Krell, went a bit Colonel Kurtz and the story played out as an homage to Francis Ford Coppola's seminal war film.

But Mimban. The fire, the screaming, the mud of a thoroughly destroyed landscape. The dug-in trenches which look like they've been there long enough to represent an absolute stalemate in the fight for planetary supremacy. The barely-concealed weariness of brittle commanders attempting to organise cynical troopers, personnel flying through the air, AT-ST walkers using those nimble legs to actually leap across the battlefield. All that's missing in the realism stakes is the blood and bad language you'd expect to find there*1.

While video games almost always make for appalling big-screen adaptations, I can't shake the thought that this is what a Star Wars: Battlefront movie could look like. Still at a 12A rating, but with the driving intensity you usually only find when you've got a controller in your hands.

Can we have more of this, please..?

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The Star Wars's.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Yes, all.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
For some, time will tell.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
I shouldn't imagine so.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't, and I'll be honest with you, I'm not entirely happy about that. Which I'll admit is something of a small hill to die on, in the current state of Star Wars fandom.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 0: It is Star Wars.

…but if you wanted to go round the houses with it, Solo features the voice and mo-cap work of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who was in 2011's Albert Nobbs with Bronagh Gallagher, who starred in Made In Belfast with Shauna McDonald, who rocked up in 2013's Filth, a movie which also featured Kate Dickie from out of Game Of Thrones, which showcases Gwendoline Christie who appeared in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, along with Celia Imrie, who appeared in the TV series Blandings with... Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And while the only creatures that appear to actually bleed in the Galaxy Far, Far Away are ANH's aqualish and TESB's wampa, bear in mind that The Last Jedi was the first Star Wars movie to feature the word "bastard" in its script, while Solo adds "butt", "crap" and "arse" to the ongoing lexicon. We'll have Disney up to Inglourious Basterds-levels in no time at all ;) [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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