Sunday, May 27, 2018

Solo Movie and Soundtrack Review (Non-Spoiler and Spoiler)

I took the opportunity of the three day weekend to track down the soundtrack for Solo as well as head to my local Regal Cinema to take in a viewing of the film. First, let's me delve into the movie.

Much like any of the new Disney Star Wars films I went in with zero hopes and little expectation of a payoff. To my joy and much like Rogue One, I found Solo to be far more entertaining than any of the resent episodic installments of Star Wars. Plus I got two great cups from the concession stand - They were out of the popcorn bucket...Dang.

Non-Spoiler Review

The film starts off a little rocky with some failed attempts at humor and an eye-rolling moment of Han Solo getting his name, but quickly picks up momentum from there. Viewers are treated to a ton of action and of course the fan service most people expected.

It's true, Alden Ehrenreich is no Harrison Ford. Then again, for the most part he doesn't try to be. He takes the somewhat look of the character he brings to the screen and proceeds to make the character his own. Personally, this helped to make the character believable from the get go because we didn't just have a man impersonating Han Solo. However, with that said, I do have to say hats off to Donald Glover who not only pulls off a believable look of Lando, but also the mannerisms. So perhaps with that said there was room for Ehrenereich to do a little impersonating.

Much like another reviewer said, Solo's main offering is nothing short of what most Star Wars fanatics haven't already read in various backstories for the main characters - or on Wookiepedia. However, there are some tidbits to be found here which will leave fans giggling with joy.

The movie is not only the first to really give a nod to George Lucas's Prequels, but also builds up to a sequel while setting the stage for the rumored future Kenobi movie. If I had one disappointment it was that it wraps up too quickly. While the movie takes its time getting to the end, the epilogue more so ends up feeling like a blink and you'll miss it moment. Still, the film was incredibly enjoyable and leaves me eager to take in a second (and beyond) viewing. I will most likely be making my way back to a local theater very soon.

Spoiler Review

Solo begins like any other Star Wars film, with the iconic A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away... It then deviates from the normal course and gives up a little backstory of sorts via on screen text which fades in and out with each paragraph. It's as if the Kasdan's initial intent was to give us an opening crawl, but were denied this honor bestowed only to the Episodes.

From there we immediately meet Han who is steeling a speeder and racing through the streets of Corellia to a destination we yet to know. After parking the speeder and running through a series of tunnels we meet one of the new characters and Han's love interest, Qi'Ra - Who also serves as the MacGuffin for Han's every decision.

After another escape sequence, the two are separated from each other, but only as a result of Qi'Ra being captured. This leads to the whole aforementioned MacGuffin - Han swearing to come back for her. As Han is still being chased, he goes for his only available option - Entering an Imperial recruitment center and signing up.

When asked his name by the recruiter, he responds with, "Han." When asked his clan, he responds he has nobody. This leads to the recruiter punching his name in as (queue eye rolls) Han Solo.

We then immediately cut to a war zone where Han is a boots to the ground soldier. During the battle he meets up with three more of our new characters - Who are disguised as Imperials to complete a job. Han is in tune with this and quickly picks up on the fact that Beckett, Val and Rio are no soliders of the Empire. When Han tries to blackmail his way onto the crew he finds the tables turned on him and ends up being led to the pit of "The Beast" as punishment for treason to the Empire.

"The Beast" of course ends up being Chewbacca who after another cringe worthy moment of Han speaking in gargling grunts (aka Chewbacca's native tongue of Shyriiwook) works with him to get free. They make a b-line back to the Beckett and his pals who are escaping at that moment with a ship. At the moment of seeing them, Beckett decides to take them with him - Convenient.

This leads the crew to their first job - A train heist for coaxium - a rare and expensive hyperfuel. While all starts out going well, the heist quickly goes bad when a band of marauders led by Enfys Nest arrive to try and take the fuel for themselves (or so we believe at the time). This leads to the death of Val and Rio and the loss of the shipment as it explodes into a mountain.

Beckett, Han and Chewie resolve to plead their case to the man they were working for, Vision, er...Dryden Vos. It is during this scene we find Qi'Ra has gotten off of Corellia and now "works for" Vos. The trio hatch a plan to recover pure coaxium from the spice mines of Kessel and are sent with Qi'Ra to do so.

However, they first need a ship which leads them to Lando. After a short scene of Han playing cards against his new frenemy, Lando wins the final hand, which includes a wager of his own personal ship, by cheating. Despite this, Qi'Ra and Beckett get him and L3, Lando's droid to join the crew and fly them to Kessel.

The crew head out aboard the Millennium Falcon and make their way to Kessel where their plan to steal the coaxium kicks off. Our senses are pummeled with more action, explosions and a robot coup. We then loss (sort of) another character in this battle - L3.

The coaxium is in hand, but there's only one problem. It must be kept at a low temperature or it will explode. As Lando tends to his dead friend / droid, Han and eventually Chewie take the helm of the Falcon and plot their course out of Kessel. Unfortunately, this is short lived by an Imperial blockade. With a change of direction and an improvised plan, Han and Chewie head for the maw. The outcome is of course the play out of the infamous Kessel run in 12 parsecs (or 14 if you're Rey...and a dolt).

The Falcon lands on Savareen, a planet known for being able to process coaxium into hyperfuel and begin the process as they wait for Dryden Vos to arrive. However, Enfys Nest is also there. While we sit back in our seats awaiting yet another shoot out, we instead end up with the two working together to instead give the fuel to the Rebellion.

Though Beckett says he wants no part of this, he actually ends up betraying everyone and working with Vos, giving him all the details of the plan - This is of course after a little sequel bait where he tells Han to come look for him on Tatooine to be part of a job for a big gangster (Star Wars fans know what that's all about). Han is one step ahead of him though. While everyone expects the coaxium is outside of Vos's ship with Nest, he actually brought it inside. Enfys Nest's group ambush Vos's men outside the ship and wipe them out.

Seeing an alternative, and being the only man in the room with a gun in his hands, Beckett forces Chewie to carry the coaxium out for him leaving Vos, Qi-Ra and Han in the ship. After a fight sequence, Qi-Ra ends up killing Vos and tells Han to go after Beckett and Chewie - Which he does.

This is where we get a fantastic nod to the Prequels as well as a great bit more of sequel bait. Darth Maul is alive and the head of Crimson Dawn. Qi-Ra blames the death of Vos on Beckett and is summoned to Maul's side. Maul is once again played by Ray Park and voiced by Sam Witwer. It's a fun Star Wars geek out moment and a confusing one at the same time since last we saw Maul (in film) was getting cut in half.

Back outside, Han confronts Beckett who starts lecturing Han. Rather than stand there and listen to it, Han does what all true fans of Star Wars have come to expect - He shoots first...While Beckett is in mid sentence. While Han believes all has worked out, in the distance the ship, now piloted by Qi'Ra takes off and leaves the planet.

Han and Chewie bring the hyperfuel back to Enfys Nest who takes it on behalf of the Rebellion. She also urges Han to come with them - Which he declines. Nest encourages him maybe one day he'll change his mind...Foreshadowing.

We now cut to Han and Chewie meeting up with Lando mid card game. In a hugging maneuver, Han relieves Lando of the card in his "cheating device" on his wrist (unbeknownst to Lando) and sits down to play Sabacc once again. Without his ability to cheat, Lando looses the hand to Han which includes the Millennium Falcon which Lando bet. The two fly off, the credits roll.

Solo was a great movie, but the most exciting thing I took away from it was Darth Maul appearing as the head of Crimson Dawn. This not only adds a potential for a sequel, but also paves the way for the Kenobi film. With Maul still on the loose there is a potential for him to appear in that film where we may finally get a well deserved rematch between the two - As opposed to the twenty second stare down and two second fight from the animated series, Rebels.

Let's also look at that potential for a sequel. Obviously the job for the big gangster on Tatooine is none other than Jabba the Hutt. While we of course know the outcome of that job, it would be fun to see it all unfold on screen. Why not? If they can take one sentence from the open scrawl of Episode IV and turn it into a two hour movie then why not this aspect for a sequel? I also wouldn't mind seeing a Lando film which leads up to him winning Bespin.


The Soundtrack

I drove to three stores and walked to two before I finally was able to put my hands on a copy of the soundtrack to Solo. When I finally did come across it in a Barnes and Noble it was the one and only copy the store had gotten. What the heck? Do stores really not stock CD's anymore? Target didn't have it. Walmart didn't have it. Best Buy didn't have it (two locations).

Because I listened to the soundtrack prior to seeing the film I unfortunately was not able to place the cuts to its respective film sequence. This was a bit of a downer as I always like to sit back and visualize the scenes for tracks from any soundtrack.

Overall, it honestly wasn't that good. Production wise and sound, sure, those had it where it counts. However, queues from track two, "Meet Han" continue to get reworked and overall worked into every single track from that point on. I literally felt like I was listening to the same song twenty times over and over and over. It was mind numbing.

One of the greatest aspects of John William's Star Wars score is that each song transports you to a particular planet, location or character theme. Each one is a different piece and stands out as its own special track. It's only when we get action or battle scenes that themes start to reoccur, but at the same time remain appropriate to the characters on screen.

With Solo you just don't get that. Han seems to be the only character with a distinctive theme and the end result as mentioned above is the same music over and over. It was really disappointing - Especially after all the effort I put into finding it.

I hate to say it, but I honestly would not recommend this soundtrack to anyone unless you are a die hard Star Wars fan who has to have it. There are no stand out tracks to take away from this album. The only songs I actually ended up liking were those which took from William's original scores.

So there you have it. My long winded two cents of not only the film but the soundtrack. Take from it what you will.

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