Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Does "Solo" overcome its troubled production to bring some summer fun?

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"Solo: A Star Wars Story" is part of Disney's plan to release a "Star Wars" film every year for the rest of eternity or until box office receipts dry up. This film is the second entry in Disney's "Star Wars" catalog to feature the moniker "A Star Wars Story", as if audiences would be unsure if "Solo" was actually about Han Solo if there was not a handy subtitle to remind them which Disney property they are viewing. The film caused a stir last year when it came out that the original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller ("The Lego Movie") had been fired from the project and replaced with Ron Howard ("Apollo 13"), who would subsequently reshoot 80% of the movie. Despite the troubled production, "Solo" manages to avoid being a disaster of "Justice League" proportion, but nonetheless falls short as a fun summer blockbuster.

The story is a prequel, taking place somewhere in the chronology of the "Star Wars Rebels" TV series, which is to say the film's events occur at some point before the original "Star Wars". Han (Alden Ehrenreich), who does not get a surname until a few minutes into the movie, lives a hard life on the industrial planet of Corellia. He and his girlfriend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) dream of one day making it off of their home planet and starting a new life together. However, in their attempt to escape, the couple is separated and only Han makes it off the planet by hastily enlisting in the imperial army. Three years later, now dubbed Han Solo by the imperials, Han finds himself wrapped up with a gang of thieves who are out scavenging the battlefields. Along the way, he also meets his iconic companion, Chewbacca. What adventures the wookie had in the interim between "Revenge of the Sith" and this film are not mentioned, presumably to save material for the inevitable "Chewbacca: A Star Wars Story".

After a botched train heist (farewell, CGI Jon Favreau, we barely knew ye), Solo and his new criminal comrade Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) must find a way to appease their contractor, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Conveniently for Han, Qi'ra works for Vos, and the two have a tenuously happy reunion. To make amends for their bungled mission, Solo and Beckett offer to steal more of hyperfuel (a glorified space MacGuffin) from the spice mines of planet Kessel. With the help of Qi'ra, Han recruits Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and his ship, the Millennium Falcon, to complete the mission and escape from Kessel through the treacherous Kessel Run. Any "Star Wars" fan worth their mettle knows where this is going. The heist is, of course, successful, and Solo makes the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. This is not a spoiler, by the way. Han boasts of this feat in the original "Star Wars". This film decides to show us how that happened. The film continues on for what feels like another forty-five minutes past this climactic chase sequence, with all manner of double-crossings going on as Han and the crew try to give the hyperfuel to Vos. This being a Disney franchise film, the door is obviously left open for future sequels, or even worse, in-universe crossovers à la the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Like the widely reviled prequels before it, "Solo: A Star Wars Story" falls prey to the constant desire to retroactively explain things about the original "Star Wars" trilogy. We as an audience do not really need to know how Han got his blaster, nor do we need to know how Chewbacca learned to play holographic chess, but "Solo" is going to tell us anyways. Constantly connecting things and events from the original trilogy only serves to make the universe feel smaller and more cramped.

The performances and characters of "Solo" do not fare any better. Alden Ehrenreich comes off like a second-rate Chris Pratt, but the script does him no favors. In the original trilogy, Han Solo was roguish and perhaps a bit brusque. "Solo" makes him too much a jackass to ever care about him as a character. Donald Glover's performance as Lando Calrissian is serviceable, but he is somehow outshined by his snarky robot copilot, L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Strangely, the two non-human members of the supporting cast, Chewbacca and L3-37, are the only two characters who breathe any spark of life (and fun) into the film.

"Solo" brings nothing new to the "Star Wars" universe, and it frequently feels like a placeholder film meant to tide over fans until "Star Wars Episode IX" comes out next year. I have no idea if Lord and Miller's take on Han Solo would have been any better than what Ron Howard delivered, but the final product is just not compelling. It drags for a majority of its runtime and is dead on arrival whenever an action sequence rolls around. Disney is well on its way to making yearly "Star Wars" films something to dread instead of something to anticipate.

Rating: 4/10

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To the guy that shot my brother...

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To the guy that shot my brother,

On January 9, 2019 my families entire life changed with one phone call. The phone call that my little brother had been shot in the face, no other details. We didn't need any other details. The woman on the phone who called us in full panic told us where he was so we went, as soon as possible. I don't think it helped that not even 10 min prior I talked to Zach on the phone.. kind of irritated with him, and the ONE TIME I didn't say 'I love you' as we hung up. Could've been the last time we ever spoke.. I remember pulling up to the hospital thinking 'this can't be real' 'it's not our Zach' 'this is just a dream Sarah, WAKE UP' I'd close my eyes really tight just to open them, I was still in the hospital emergency parking lot. I could still hear the ambulance sirens coming. It was all real.

The day our life's changed was definitely a test of faith. A test of how strong we were, as a family. I sat in that waiting room ready to see the damage that has been done to my sweet baby brother. Because at that point we had no idea how lucky he got. That glimpse of seeing Zach will haunt me forever. How helpless I felt in that exact moment frequently wakes me up from these horrific dreams I've been having ever since that day. That is a moment burned into my me and families brain forever.

You always hear about these things in the movies or on the news, a house being shot up, someone shooting another innocent person, not to care if they died on your watch. But we found ourselves on the news.. We have been confined to the hospital since that day. Running on barely any sleep, taking shifts of sleep so we don't make ourselves sick taking care of Zach. Watching him suffer. Undergoing surgeries, to repair the damage you did.

Before I proceed let me tell you a little something about the man you shot.

Zachary Keith Wright. A blonde hair blue eyed boy. Who could potentially be the most annoying human on the planet (possibly coming from his sister). A man who loves his God first, loves his family second. Perfect by no means, but almost perfect to me. A 19 year old who was to graduate high school this month. After graduation he was prepping to leave for Marine boot camp in the summer.. being in the military has been Zach's dream since he could talk. Literally. Running around, playing war with underwear on our heads, and finger guns. Some would say we looked like natural born assassins.. growing up he has been a country boy. Let me tell ya country to the core. He loves this country like he loves his family. He believes in helping people, taking charge in what's right, and never leaving a brother behind. He's lived by that his whole life. Until now....

The day you shot him. The day not only did you change my brothers life, you changed his families life too. The day you almost ripped my brother out of this world... for what? A misunderstanding? Because you've let something take ahold of your life that you can't let go you're willing to kill someone innocent over? Luckily for him, his guardian angels were protecting him in your time of cowardice. There were 3 times that day he should've died, the time you shot him, the time you tried to shoot him again as he stared you directly in the face, (even tho he couldn't talk I know you could read his eyes, and he still intimidated you. That's why you tried to pull the trigger again) and the time he was running out of the house. But he lived. A man who was shot in the face, didn't lay there helpless, didn't scream in agony. That MAN walked to the neighbors to get help. Why? Because he's a MAN, and because he's on this earth for a reason.

It's gonna sound a little strange not only to you, but the audience who is reading this. I must say thank you. Even in this situation, this was the best outcome we could get. He gets to live. He will make a full recovery. He will graduate. And he will go off into the Marines. You united my family together. Closer than ever. Thank you. You tested our faith and brought us closer to our God. Thank you. Because of your moment of weakness, you showed us what prayer could do. Heal anything. Thank you. This was a bump in the road, and a helluva way to kick off our year of 2019. But here we are.. all laying in the hospital. I'm looking around as mom is sleeping in her recliner chair exhasted but still here, Zach his awake playing his xbox all hooked up to machines, fighting to heal and get better. And of course I'm writing this letter to you.

See you in trial,

From the girl whose brother you shot.

'Fight the good fight' - 1 Tim 6:12 🤟🏼💙

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