Sunday, 8 July 2018

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

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

Previous reviews: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Well, thank the maker for the variation of weekend movie scheduling. Solo is back at my local for (presumably?) one final, off-peak blast before retiring in wait for September's DVD/Blu-ray release. This means I get to take another spin in the Falcon on a satisfyingly huge screen, and shorten the amount of time spent wondering "did I hear that line right? Did Han Solo from out of The Star Wars really say 'crap'?"*1

But the other question, one for which there is no shortcut in answering, is what will be the legacy of Solo? Not the real-world legacy of underwhelming box office performance and the righteous indignation of fanboys web-wide (one suspects those topics are far from being finalised), but how will this movie go on be seen within the narrative framework of Star Wars?

Ron Howard's entry to the canon is unusual for a prequel-type film in that it reveals little in the way of surprises to the audience, and features even fewer ret-cons in the process. As previously noted, the broad sequence of events for Han meeting Chewbacca and rescuing the wookiee from Imperial captors, and for Han winning the Falcon in a game of Sabacc... well, they're largely the same as the Legends continuity. The background faces might change, but the direction of the narrative doesn't.

Arguably one of its main strengths is that a viewer could sit down and watch Solo as their first Star Wars movie, enjoying the movie for the adventure romp that it is without their brain insisting on making connections to other stories throughout. And considering how iconic the 'legacy' characters are in this, that's one hell of an achievement.

But after we'd seen Rogue One for the first time, we knew that we'd never watch the opening ten minutes of A New Hope in the same way again. When Vader steps into the corridor of the Tantive IV after the Stormtroopers have taken care of business, we know that's because the dark lord is still getting his metaphysical breath back*2 from the slaughter at Scarif. And we now have to stifle our laughter when Leia insists she's on a diplomatic mission.

But with a decade between Han standing on the Savareen cliff-edge and then slouching at a table in Chalmun's cantina, what are the moments in the Original Trilogy which suddenly make sense after this new movie?

On the plus-side...

• Well, we can now crack a smile when Han boasts of the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel-run with a record-breaking distance measurement, rather than one of time. Although as above, the explanation for this was pretty much the same in the Legends continuity. The Kasdans could have ret-conned the Kessel-run into some kind of planetary drag-race (fitting, with Ron Howard's previous directorial form), but obviously thought better of stretching the fabric too far.

• While Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew always sold it perfectly anyway, we've now seen the beginnings of a bond between best friends who've been hanging around and getting out of scrapes for ten years. It's not clear in the rebooted timeline whether the 'wookiee life-debt' will come into play (that was always an Expanded Universe thing), but I don't think we've seen the pivotal 'okay, I'm all-in with you now' moment in their relationship during Solo's run-time.

• Now that we know L3-37 is part of the Falcon's droid-brain configuration, listen closely and you'll notice the whirring sound she makes (twisting her head before the jump to Kessel) is the same as the Falcon emits when jumping to Hyperspace in the OT. And while I'd like to say that this explains C-3PO's observation in The Empire Strike Back the the ship has an unusual dialect, I don't think he's referring to L3. While she was certainly abrupt and opinionated, L3-37 is one of the most clear and articulate communicators we've met. I suspect Threepio had been talking to one of the other two droid-brains which collectively navigate the ship.

...but then again...

• Most of Han's cynical personality traits aren't in-place by the end of Solo, and nor should they be. This film is the door-opener to another corner and timeframe of the galaxy, not the singular transformation process by which 17yr old orphan becomes exactly the grumpy pirate we meet on Tatooine. Not designed to follow straight on like Rogue One does, this just means that the character-gap will be more apparent than ever if a viewer watches Solo and ANH in close proximity.

• And because of this length between chapters, the gaps in the old scripts which are now filled tend to be more curiosities (ie the Kessel-run) than events which show the OT in a new light. Because of this (and the various real-world marketing niggles), I suspect this new film will be remembered as the first slightly 'forgettable' Star Wars movie. Not least because a whole load of people haven't yet seen it.

• And because of the lack of narrative punch, I don't think Solo will be revisited too often by casual fans until further entries in the canon make it interesting or necessary to do so (ie another movie featuring Crimson Dawn).

Okay, so…

I don't think it's unfair to say that Solo's legacy will be far greater inside the Galaxy Far, Far Away than outside it. From all the narratively-significant 'new' characters we meet, only Qi-ra and Enfys Nest are left alive to continue the story after the credits roll. And the same thing can be said of Rogue One of course, but the Star Wars publishing schedule is far from linear.

Stories will be retrospectively told about Woody Harrelson's ramshackle pirate gang, about the ongoing war on Mimban, about the Cloud-rider swoop gang, and most pertinently about the rise of Crimson Dawn. And this last thread is a one which will continue into the future of course, with Qi'ra and her boss continuing to be a thorn in the side of everyone, after her promotion.

And let's not forget that we now have a definitive foundation for an in-universe decade's worth of multi-media buddy japes and cantina-stories. And those have already begun, because there's a concept we can't get enough of - a man and his wookiee…

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?
Best? Debatable.
Most memorable? Pehaps…

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
No, but we'll discuss it at great length.
By which I mean, *I'll* discuss it at great length

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.
Down with this sort of thing

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 stars Woody Harrelson, who was of course a regular in Cheers, as was John Ratzenberger, who appeared in 1988's She's Having A Baby which also starred Paul Gleason, a participant in 1993's Loaded Weapon 1 along with Tim Curry, who rocked up in the 2010 comedy Burke And Hare with Michael Smiley, who was in The Other Boleyn Girl with Natalie Portman, who appeared in the 2009 documentary Milos Forman: What Doesn't Kill You, as did... Woody Harrelson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Yes. Yes, he did. [ BACK ]

*2 As opposed to his 'actual' breath. We all know he's got a machine which does that for him. [ 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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