Northampton Press

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Article By: Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com

Monday, June 4, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

Movie Review: Back to the ‘Star Wars’

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” takes us back to the halcyon days of Hollywood science-fiction film-making: You know, the days when characters, stories and plot development meant something.

“Solo” tells the story of the young Han Solo (played with astonishing alacrity by handsome and fresh-faced Alden Ehrenreich) and how he met his compatriots Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (the wonderful and compelling Donald Glover of Childish Gambino music video fame).

Director Ron Howard and screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan Kasdan, make all the right moves in “Solo,” in story, dialogue and production design. The characters are based on those created by George Lucas, “Star Wars” writer-director-producer.

Lawrence Kasdan knows the “Star Wars” canon well, having co-written “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), “Return of the Jedi’ (1983) and “The Force Awakens” (2015).

The way that Han Solo gets his surname is one of several clever backstory elements in “Solo.” It’s akin to the United States’ Ellis Island heritage where assigned names given by immigrant inspection agents were often arbitrary, as is the case here. The scene in the huge Imperial Navy terminal is one of the movie’s best. “All droids must be registered” sounds a voice on the public address system, as a “Join The Empire” recruiting commercial is televised on a billboard screen.

“Solo” has a well-worn look in the world it creates, the Millennium Falcon exteriors and interiors, and the gadgets and devices. Essentially, we’re seeing a 1970s’ concept of the future. It’s not unlike “Back to the Future.” Call it back to the “Star Wars.”

“Solo” stokes the romance between Han Solo and Qi’ra (pronounced Kira, and played by the extraordinary and superb Emilia Clarke of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” 2011-17). Their on-screen chemistry shoots off more sparks than the fiery exhaust of Han Solo’s M-68 Landspeeder.

Fine in supporting roles are Woody Harrelson (Beckett, a cruel henchman with a heart of gold, as in money), Paul Bettany (Dryden Vos, an even crueler archvillan), Erin Kellyman (Enfys Nest, an early supporter of the Rebellion), and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (voice of L3-37, one of the most amazingly-realized computer-generated imagery robot characters ever).

There are the usual assortment of bizarre “Star Wars” creatures, providing lots of material for cosplay at the next Comic Con.

Whereas, “The Last Jedi,” No. 8 in the three sets of “Star Wars” trilogies, had a gravitas to complete the arc of the main characters’ story, “Solo,” second in the Anthology series (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” 2016, was the first), feels fresh and new, not unlike the first “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope,” released way back in 1977 (May 25, the same date when “Solo” was released in 2018), some 41 years ago when Harrison Ford first starred as Han Solo.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is fun, constantly entertaining, and one of the most satisfying in the ever-expanding “Star Wars” universe. The movie flows from one scene to another, with just the right amount of action sequences and character development. The screenplay has some plot twists that you may not see coming. And they’re so good that I won’t play spoiler here.

It’s refreshing to attend a movie where’s there’s relatively little, if any, profanity, and the depiction of fighting is more representational than realistic.

John Powell, composer, invokes John Williams’ iconic “Star Wars” theme subtlely and creatively.

My quibble has to do with seeing “Solo” in 3D. For this film, I agree with the late movie critic Roger Ebert, who complained about the darker quality of the 3D image compared to the 2D image. “Solo” appears dark throughout. Sure enough, when I looked over the frame of my 3D glasses, the image was considerably brighter. Go “Solo” in 2D.

I enjoyed “Solo: A Star Wars Story” so much that it’s one of the few movies of 2018 so far that I would want to see again. Next time in 2D.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story,” MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for sequences of sci-fi action-violence; Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction; Run Time: 2 hrs,, 15 mins.; Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: “Solo: A Star Wars Story” was filmed in Spain, Italy and England.

Box Office, June 1: “A Star Wars Story” continued at No. 1 for two weeks in a row with $29.2 million, $148.8 million. “Deadpool 2” continued at No. 2, with $23.3 million, $254.6 million, three weeks. “Adrift” opened at No. 3, with $23.3 million.

4. “Avengers: Infinity War” dropped one place, $10.3 million, $642.8 million, six weeks. 5. “Book Club” dropped one place, $6.8 million, $47.3 million, three weeks. 6. “Upgrade,” $4.4 million, opening. 7. “Life Of The Party” dropped two places, $3.4 million, $46.3 million, four weeks. 8. “Breaking In” dropped two places, $2.8 million, $41.3 million, four weeks. 9. “Action Point,” $2.3 million, opening. 10. “Overboard” dropped two places, $1.9 million, $45.5 million, five weeks.

Unreel, June 8:

“Ocean’s 8,” PG-13: Gary Ross directs Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Olivia Munn in the Crime Caper Comedy. Debbie Ocean and her female con artists plan a heist at New York City’s annual Met Gala.

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” PG-13: Morgan Neville directs the Documentary Biography about children’s television show star Fred Rogers.

“Hearts Beat Loud,” PG-13: Brett Haley directs Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, and Toni Collette in Music Drama. A father and daughter write songs during the summer before she attends college.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes