Monday, May 28, 2018
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Based on the characters created by George Lucas, Solo: A Star Wars Story is the story of the early life of Han Solo and his journey to become a smuggler and how he would meet those who would impact his life. Directed by Ron Howard and screenplay by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, the film is an origin story of sorts on the man who would become this famed smuggler in his early years as he takes part in a major heist as the character is played by Alden Ehrenreich. Also starring Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany. Solo: A Star Wars Story is an exhilarating and adventurous film from Ron Howard.
The film is about a young man who is known for being a thief where he meets a smuggler and learns the trade where they all take part in a big job that will give him a big payday as well as a new way of life. It is simply an origin story of sorts of this man who would become the famous smuggler as he would later meet a Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) who would become his best friend as they would find a trade that would make the money as well as defy the Imperial Empire. The film’s screenplay by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan definitely play into Han Solo’s origin as he started out as a young thief living in a planet with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) as they steal the extremely-valuable hyper fuel coaxium that is the source for hyperdrive speed for many ships. Solo is able to escape a gang and its boss for refusing to give the coaxium yet he is unable to help Qi’ra get out of the planet where he would sign up with the Imperial navy hoping to be a pilot.
Instead, he ends up on an infantry line three years later where he would meet the famed smuggler Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) posing as an Imperial officer as he and his team that include his wife Val (Thandie Newton) and an alien named Rio Durant (voice of Jon Favreau). Beckett would take in Solo in his team along with Chewbacca whom Solo meets at a prison as they would learn the art of smuggling as they also have to deal with a band of marauders known as the Cloud Riders. Solo would learn that Beckett works for a crime boss named Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) who is part of a famed crime syndicate known as Crimson Dawn where Solo also learns that Qi’ra is Vos’ lieutenant. With the help of another smuggler in Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and his droid L3-37 (voice of Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Solo, Chewbacca, Qi’ra, and Beckett would take on a mission to retrieve a large shipment of unrefined coaxium in the mining planet of Kessel. There, Solo learns about not just the art of smuggling but also the lesson of not to trust anyone as well as what it means to survive.
Ron Howard’s direction is grand which is expected in a big space-operatic adventure as it play into a galaxy that is under the rule of the empire but also the emergence of a rebellion happening. Shot largely at Pinewood Studios in London, England along with additional locations in Italy and the Canary Islands, the film does play into this world that is dystopian and troubling where it begins with Han and Qi’ra both being thieves in an act of survival as they’re forced to work for a crime boss. Howard’s usage of wide shots capture the scope of the world that Han Solo is in as well as the rule of the Imperial Empire as it watches over so much of the galaxy. Howard’s usage of medium shots and close-ups play into some of the drama and humor as it relates to character interaction including the scene where Solo meets Chewbacca for the very first time as it is unveiled in a humorous manner. It’s among some of the scenes including the exchanges between Solo and Chewbacca that add to the many nuances that is expected in their growing friendship.
Some of the humor is likely from the film’s original filmmakers in Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who were later fired from production with Howard taking over and re-shooting much of the film. Still, Howard does maintain that air of humor throughout the film as well as a sense of adventure though the tone does change a bit in the third act as it relate to what is at stake. Largely due to the twists and turns as it relates to Solo learning about the art of smuggling and what he has to do to survive as there are lessons that had to be learned. The tonal shifts is awkward along with some major revelations of who is leading the Crimson Dawn syndicate as well as the fact that even smugglers and marauders both have to play a side in this major conflict between the Imperial Empire and the rebellion that is to emerge. Yet, it would show where Solo’s loyalties lie but also what he has to do to stay alive in this conflict that he doesn’t want to be a part of. Overall, Howard creates a fun and thrilling film about the early adventures of a young smuggler and his furry friend.
Cinematographer Bradford Young does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the blue-grey look of some of the planets in the exteriors as well as some interior shading and the brightness in some scenes set in the snow or in a sandy island. Editor Pietro Scalia does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward as it also include some rhythmic cuts to play into humor and action. Production designer Neil Lamont and senior art director Gary Tomkins do amazing work with the look of the spaceships and some of the places the characters go to including the mining colony and the interiors of the ship that would become the Millennium Falcon. Costume designers David Crossman and Glyn Dillon do fantastic work with the look of the costumes including the stylish and posh look of Qi’ra for her work with the Crimson Dawn as well as the capes that Lando wears.
Makeup designer Amanda Knight does brilliant work with the look of the characters such as Vos with his facial scars as well as the look of a few human characters while special creature make-up effects supervisor Neal Scanlan does incredible work with the look of the some of the aliens and creatures in the film. Special effects supervisor Dominic Tuohy and visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow do superb work with the special effects with its mixture of visual effects and old-school practical effects to create elements of realism into the world of space including a major sequence that would play into Solo’s legend. Sound designer Tim Nielsen and co-sound editor Matthew Wood do phenomenal work with the sound in creating sound effects in the ships and weapons as well as the atmosphere of the locations that the characters go to. The film’s music by John Powell is wonderful for its bombastic orchestral score that includes pieces by John Williams from the Star Wars films as it help play into the sense of adventure that the characters embark.
The casting by Nicole Abellera, Nina Gold, and Jeanne McCarthy do remarkable work with the casting as it include some notable small roles and performances from Anthony Daniels as a Wookie Chewbacca meets at the mining planet of Kessel, Clint Howard as a robot fight referee, Warwick Davis as a marauder, Linda Hunt as the voice of a known crime boss in Lady Proxima, Erin Kellyman as the marauders leader Enfys Nest, and Jon Favreau as the voice of Beckett’s alien pilot Rio Durant. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is terrific as the voice of Lando’s droid L3-37 as this droid that is very opinionated as well as being a skilled navigator while Joonas Suotamo is fantastic as the Wookie Chewbacca as this tall furry creature that would become Han Solo’s best friend as well as a creature of great strength. Thandie Newton is superb as Beckett’s wife Val as a smuggler who isn’t initially fond of Solo as she later realizes his value. Paul Bettany is excellent as Dryden Vos as crime lord who works for the Crimson Dawn syndicate that is in charge of the planned heist that Beckett is a part of as well as hoping to profit from this heist without doing much.
Donald Glover is brilliant as Lando Calrissian as Glover imbues many of the traits of the character as a smooth and charismatic smuggler that owns the Millennium Falcon as he also knows how to hustle and get things done. Emilia Clarke is wonderful as Qi’ra as Solo’s lover from the past as she has become Vos’ lieutenant as Clarke does some fine work though her character isn’t fully realized into her motivations as it’s one of the film’s weaker points. Woody Harrelson is amazing as Tobias Beckett as a famed smuggler who takes Solo into his team and show him the trade as well as what to do as a smuggler as it’s one of Harrelson’s finest performances as this grizzled man that has seen a lot but also reveals that the smuggling game is a devious game. Finally, there’s Alden Ehrenreich in an incredible performance as Han Solo as the younger version of the famed smuggler who learns the rope in being a smuggler as his motivation was to reunite with his lover as he later deals with the many attributes of survival while also being arrogant in what he can do where Ehrenreich imbues many of the qualities that the character is known for.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a marvelous film from Ron Howard that features top-notch performances from Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Joonas Suotamo, and Donald Glover. Along with its supporting cast, dazzling visuals, John Powell’s score, and moments that are exciting and thrilling. It’s a film that manages to provide enough ideas of being entertaining as well as provide some ideas about one of cinema’s most beloved characters was doing before he became this legendary figure that audiences love. In the end, Solo: A Star Wars Film is a remarkable film from Ron Howard.
Star Wars Films: Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back - Return of the Jedi - The Phantom Menace - Attack of the Clones - Revenge of the Sith - The Force Awakens - The Last Jedi - (Episode IX)
Anthology Series: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - (Untitled Star Wars Anthology Film)
Related: The Star Wars Holiday Special - Caravan of Courage - The Battle for Endor - The Clone Wars - Fanboys - The People vs. George Lucas - Rush (2013 film)
George Lucas Films: (THX-1138) – (American Graffiti)
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