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Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/25/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/27/2018

If you're seen the film school scene in Scream 2 or if you've seen many sequels, then you know that sequels are inferior products. These films often take the characters and ideas from the successful first film and try to replicate them. In most cases, the result doesn't match up to the original. But, what about prequels? No one ever talks about how inherently flawed prequels are. How can a story hope to be engaging or intriguing if we already know what becomes of the character(s). Rarely is what happened before as interesting as the mystery of what will happen next. If a franchise as dominant as Star Wars can't produce a blockbuster prequel, then the sub-genre is certainly questionable. As an example, let's turn to Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is a young man living in Corellia with his girlfriend, Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke). He's a petty thief who dreams of being a pilot. After cheating a particularly sinister villain, Han decides that it's time for he and Qi'ra to leave the area, but only he gets away. Han joins the forces of the Empire, hoping to be a pilot, but spends years in the infantry. Things change when he meets Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Val (Thandie Newton), and Rio Duarnt (voiced by Jon Favreau), a band of thieves. With his newfound friend, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Han joins Beckett's gang, and they are soon off on a heist. But, Han will soon learn that these criminals play for keeps and that lives often hang in the balance.

Judging by the countless movies, novels, comic books and video games, Star Wars fans love Star Wars, and they eat up the expanded and continuing adventures of their favorite characters. And the stories which are featured in the various mediums have introduced many new characters. For almost 40 years, the feature films had stuck to a very specific group of stories, but that all changed in 2016 with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This side-film served as a prologue to Star Wars: A New Hope. Disney rolled out plans to bring us many more of these prequels and side-stories, and now we have Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Whereas Rogue One dealt with a group of completely new characters, Solo dives into the origin story of the very familiar Han Solo. Is this something that fans were clamoring for? Had this been discussed in other stories? One can certainly see how some die-hard Star Wars fans would be intrigued by this tale, but isn't part of the allure of Han Solo is that he's a mysterious figure? Also, isn't there a chance that any small element of this story could burst the bubble of a fan who'd written Han's backstory in their head. (Like how he and Chewbacca met? Cringe.) The question of the film's appeal must be asked, as this is the first (to the best of my knowledge) Star Wars feature film which did not turn a profit at the U.S. box office. Something about this movie kept people away.

The biggest problem with Solo is that although it is clearly set in the Star Wars universe, it often doesn't feel like a Star Wars movie. This feels more like an Ocean's # movie. It focuses on heists, double-crosses, and villains. Yes, we have Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, spaceships, and the Empire, but in the end, this has the sheen of a crime movie set in space. This may make the movie sound unique, but the result is a hybrid which doesn't really gel. There's always something happening, and some of it is engaging, but it feels heartless. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were the directors when this project began, but they were replaced by Ron Howard. Obviously, he's a talented director, but I don't know if I think of him as a Star Wars director. Solo isn't a bad movie, and if it were presented as a stand-alone project, it wouldn't be judged so harshly, but as a Star Wars film, it is sub-par.

Solo: A Star Wars Story doesn't do itself any favors by have an implied sex robot scene on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. From the outset, this movie is dark, and it's not clear if this is a by-product of this transfer or if it looked this way in the theater. The opening scenes are so dark that it's difficult to tell what's happening and I didn't recognize Emilia Clarke at first. Later in the film, we get scenes set in desert or snowy landscapes which are brighter, but there's no ignoring those dark scenes. When they are visible, the colors look good. The depth and level of detail are fine for the most part. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences deliver dynamite surround and subwoofer effects. The surround and stereo effects blend seamlessly, as the move back and forth and side-to-side. The effects are nicely detailed and we hear every laserblast clearly.

All of the extras for Solo: A Star Wars Story are found on a separate Blu-ray Disc. "Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable" (22 minutes) has Howard and the entire primary cast setting around a space-age card table discussing how they got involved in the film and what their experiences on the movie were like. "Kasdan on Kasdan" (8 minutes) offers an interview with Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan, as well as an overview of Lawrence's work on the series. "Remaking the Millennium Falcon" (6 minutes) offers a look at the challenge of re-introducing the audience to Han's famous spaceship. "Escape from Corellia" (10 minutes) takes us behind-the-scenes an on-set to see the design work and stunt work which went into creating the chase in the opening sequence. In "The Train Heist" (15 minutes), takes us on-location to the Dolomites to see the exteriors being shot for this sequence, as well as a trip to the blue-screen set to observe how the stunts were done. "Team Chewie" (7 minutes) examines how the beloved character is portrayed in this film and how the sound effects were created. "Becoming a Droid: L3-37" (5 minutes) introduces to this new character and explores the evolution of the character's look and personality. "Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso" (8 minutes) examines the design of the bar set and the creation of the various aliens found within. "Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run" (8 minutes) looks at the design work and FX of the big space scene. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 15 minutes.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long