Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Never tell him the odds.
Solo is a movie I had no real interest in. It’s not that I had the thought of it being a terrible or boring movie, I just had no interest in the backstory of a character that worked fine as it is. It’s because of that I never bothered to see it until it came out on home video. Of course, by then you get all sorts of reviews in the positive, with a few off-kilter complaints like “the ship is too clean.” Surely, if the best people can complain about is the ship being clean, something must be right about it and eventually I had the hankering for a heist movie, so I thought “why not Solo?” To be honest, I had even intended to try and watch it in 4k, but some technical difficulties that require me to relocate my hardware prevented me from doing such. Apparently, I don’t have quite the luck of the main character - but more so than me, will his movie?
Solo isn’t a complicated movie, but at times it feels like it is. I’d wager that this is entirely due to the plot pacing - this baby is brisk. Don’t get me wrong, I actually quite enjoy how brisk the pace is, things are constantly flowing and happening, and it isn’t wasting a whole lot of time with bloated scenery shots and politics. Even by heist movie standards, this thing clips along at a rapid pace, presenting things and being through them at times before you even have fully enjoyed what’s going on. It can be a negative when plenty of side characters blip on and off the screen within the span of two scenes, and potentially could cause a lot of folks to not get attached to most the actors on their screen. On the other side of the coin, you will rarely find yourself wanting to get up and get a drink or check your phone - it never feels like it’s wasting your time. Yeah, it has an over two hour run time, but I’ll be danged if it feels like more than an hour and a half when watching it.
Sure, the pacing has a good deal to do with it, but part of it is also just the fun factor. Although that comes down to a lot of different parts moving in combination with each other for maximum effect, a good deal of it is also the actors. Our young Solo has plenty of charisma, and although he might not quite hit that Ford play on it still manages to be believable as a younger version of the character. The other main male character also has plenty of charisma to boot, and although the young Lando character isn’t far behind, at times they all get shown up by the droid companion of Lando - something that more and more recent Star Wars films seem to be doing. In a nutshell, the actors all do pretty dang good jobs, even if at times they might have a delivery that might have been a bit better. You could spend a good deal of time arguing if things are out of character for a character to say here, but when it comes down to it as long as it’s enjoyable for someone to suddenly whine about how a turret blowing up hurt their thumbs, it really doesn’t matter.
Which brings me to the next step here - a lot more humor than one would potentially expect shows up here. Sure, not all of it is great -sometimes rather hit or miss, or perhaps sometimes the same joke will hit and miss at the same time. It’s always going to be subjective to the person whom views it, as humor is, but I can throw out an example to help punctuate the thought a bit more. The droid companion has this “equal rights for robots” angle going on. It at first strikes as funny at least in part thanks to the character it gives the droid, but can also turn into “okay, more of this freedom stuff eh?” much in the same way that the “idiot man” character in that Ghostbusters retread got ruined when every male character was bumbling. The difference here is that it actually feels like it has a payoff when the droid finally does somewhat cause a revolution. It doesn’t feel like a wasted joke, such as if an alien at the card game where to lift a leg and let loose a smooth baritone blast of butt. That said, if someone isn’t down with it or perhaps feels it’s pushing buttons a little to hard, they won’t enjoy it as much as others - and that’s where the subjective nature of comedy comes in to play. Of course, that’s just a small example, but their really is a coating of levity and fun painted across most every shot here, even if it does have scenes of betrayal and heartbreak, deaths or danger, or that occasional lingering shot to point out a reference.
That last bit usually happens in regards to a nod - “oh look, Solo got his trademark blaster,” that sort of thing. It’s largely harmless, as are most of the nuggets put in there for a perceivable fan appeasement. There is one shot - the reveal of Nest - where it lingers a bit and cuts in a bunch of reaction shots that I feel is perhaps a bit missed on me. It feels for all intent that I’m supposed to know this character, like it’s some huge reveal, but it was a really non-moment for me and I found it slightly awkward that such emphasis was being put on this specific scene. Perhaps it’s just the fact that so many other scenes have so many things going on in them that are so much more grand to witness that it really downplays that moment. Perhaps it’s because other moments play out as a reward for people paying attention across the movie, having little call-outs and payoffs to previous scenes as you proceed that it feels like that specific scene just missed it’s original set up. Part of me can’t help but wonder if perhaps the character played more a role elsewhere in a previous script or take that just didn’t make it. Honestly, when that’s the biggest complaint I can lodge you can already sort of feel the fact that it’s just grasping at straws, but who am I to not point out such things?
Costume department did a great job here. So many outfits to play with, so many unique looks and alien species. This is the sort of thing that I love about science fiction that you just can’t get as much in a modern or period set movie - the vast variety. When it needs things to be more uniform - such as soldier armor - they all match nicely. When it wants something as flamboyant as Lando and his immense collection of capes, you’ll get smacked in the face by the entire rainbow and it’s family. Aliens that we’ve seen in other Star Wars movies plop up and around, as well as brand new ones to boot. New sorts of tech are popped around, including a fancy spear and some knives, and overall it just adds a heck of a lot more to look at than I’ve really seen in a while. The effects that goes along with all these costumes is also great, with plenty of practical and CG elements getting mixed together, all largely of a top notch quality. It isn’t always hard to tell which bits aren’t real, but at no point are you so taken aback by a quality shift that it takes you out of the enjoyment. The settings try their best to not be left behind either, from muddy war torn battlefields to arctic train capers, insides of ships big and small, they really didn’t hold back with their imaginations much on this one.
Audio comes across well balanced as well, hardly making you miss a thing being said. In fact, you are more likely to just not understand what’s being said since it’s an odd space-age sounding thing - which is precisely why I left out the first name of Nest earlier. I heard them say it, but I’ll be danged if I’m gonna repeat it. The character banter works well, usually never feeling forced. Plenty of background sounds punch up the scenes as well, and it’s a nice movie to hear as much as to see. The music is in a situation where largely it falls into the routine for me - a few callbacks here and there to other Wars movies, some nice scored pieces to help punch up the emotions and fun of scenes. Largely, it’s just that - except for one exception. Almost every time, if not all times, that Nest pops up a theme plays that sounds like it would belong in Ghost in the Shell with the lovely vocal backing to it. That thing will probably stick with me for a bit, much like how the Wonder Woman theme hangs around, although for different reasons (one being far more forceful for example).
So what’s the verdict? Check this baby out. It might not be perfect in all regards, but it’s a dang fun movie regardless. It squeezes quite a bit in it’s run time, and despite it being a decent size it never really feels long at all. The actors do a good job and have plenty of charisma, some even have great chemistry. If you’re more into effects, they got you covered from costumes all the way up to scene backings - your eyes will appreciate the choice in movie. It might not be a completely original movie if you boil it down to it’s core premise, but it’s executed in a stylish way that makes you have loads of fun even if it throws a grown-worthy reveal at you from time to time. At the least, I’d say worth a rental, although if you aren’t a science fiction fan then perhaps you’ll have a little bit working against your enjoyment to begin with - but every movie can’t be for every person, and even then I still feel this one is worth a watch, even if you haven’t seen other Star Wars movies, although in this day and age I don’t know how you could really have managed that besides just never watching movies.