Sunday, September 23, 2018

Video review: "Solo: A Star Wars Story"

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” was the first bona fide flop for the storied sci-fi franchise. I’m not sure why. Although it certainly deserves a ranking toward the bottom of the Star Wars canon, it’s still a fun, action-filled entry with plenty of entertainment value.

My 7-year-old declared it the best Star Wars flick of all. That’s overstating the case, though I would put it at least above “Rogue One” and “The Last Jedi.”

Alden Ehrenreich takes over the role of intergalactic smuggler/smirker Han Solo from Harrison Ford, and it’s a pretty seamless handoff. Aside from being a head shorter, Ehrenreich’s Han has all the scruffy charisma we’re used to. This story looks at his formative years prior to meeting Luke, Leia and the gang.

Raised on the crime-ridden planet of Corellia, Han manages to escape the den of thieves where he was raised, though his lady love, Qui’ra (Emilia Clarke), is captured. He vows to become a great pilot, snag his own ship and return to rescue her.

Flash forward a few years, and things didn’t turn out that way. After washing out as a pilot in the Imperial academy and deserting as a foot soldier, he stumbles into Qi’ra to find out she isn’t in need of any rescuing at all. She’s become the right hand woman for Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), a high-up in the criminal syndicate Crimson Dawn.

Han has fallen in with a group of bandits led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who takes him under his wing, shows him how to spin a laser blaster and a few things about double-crosses, too. Their assignment -- failure means death -- is to boost some raw hyperspace fuel from inside the Kessel nebula.

It’s volatile stuff, so if they don’t get it out fast enough, the whole plan goes explodey-splodey.

We also get to witness Han’s meeting up with Chewbacca, and his first encounter with self-pleased rogue Lando Calrissian, captain of the Millennium Falcon. He’s played with dizzying charm by Donald Glover, and if the Star Wars honchos don’t give him his own movie, they’re dumber than nerf herders.

Another fun addition is Lando’s navigation droid L3 (voice/motion by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who is a distinct break from the polite/subservient model of C3PO and his ilk. Sassy and rebellious, she advocates for robots overthrowing their “organic overlords” and even hints at a possible romantic relationship with Lando.

I’m hoping more people will discover “Solo” on home video. It’s a worthy addition to the Star Wars library, fleshing out the backstory of (arguably) its most popular character and giving us some thrills along the way.

Bonus features are very good. They include eight deleted or extended scenes, including one showing Han as an Imperial cadet; a roundtable with director Ron Howard and his cast; interviews with veteran Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan and his co-writer, son Jonathan; and much more.

One especially neat bonus feature: “The Millennium Falcon: From Page to Park,” depicting the history of the famous spacecraft and its upcoming translation into a theme park ride.



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