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Discussion in 'Movies' started by SamT, Feb 21, 2017.
I’m planning on watching it again sometime this summer and looking forward to it.
We know that making movies is a complicated thing. It's not a clear cut like ordering a dish or something else. It's not an exact science. You can't get what you want and you can't make a movie that you plan to do. It's an organic process and it has his own life. Things you plan, do not play well at the end. Things that sound good on paper, could not work at the end.
So all the directors say that you can never predict how a movie turns out even if you have the greatest intentions. You cannot order a movie and get exactly what you want.
Also, you can't hire a carpenter and expect a metallic structure. You hired a carpenter, he/she can make a wooden structure. You can't force him to make a metallic structure. It will be a deformed and bad structure at the end.
Ahead of The Rise of Skywalker in one week, I'm attempting to re-watch all of the previous live action Star Wars movies in chronological order.
The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith
The first thing that struck me, going from Revenge of the Sith to Solo, was what a joy it was to have Lawrence Kasdan's dialog after three movies of George Lucas's clunkers. The cheesiest lines are no worse than the dialog from the original trilogy, and the best lines made me smile with delight. The characters in the prequel trilogy often felt disconnected from one another; they were talking at each other rather than with each other. Each core relationship in this movie has its own rhythm, and the dialog and editing support that rhythm. The scenes all flow beautifully. The execution problems that plagued those movies are not a problem here.
But it's a double-edged sword; while the movie never hits the lows of the prequels, it never hits the highs of the prequels either. George Lucas used the sound and the visuals as a crucial element in telling his stories. They would call attention to themselves in ways that would shape the audience's understanding of the narrative, and shape how they feel about it. Ron Howard is a competent director, but his goal is to keep out of the way; the camerawork in this movie is never clumsy, but it never calls attention to itself either. There were plenty of moments in Revenge of the Sith that felt like pure cinema. I can't think of one here. There are plenty of enjoyable moments, but they're down to the writing and the acting. They would be just as enjoyable on the stage in the right hands. Whereas Lucas did some things that are only possible with the unique language of motion pictures.
The second thing that struck me, going from Revenge of the Sith to Solo, is how far the state of the art in digital cinematography came in 13 years. The difference between the live action elements in Revenge of the Sith and the live action elements in Solo is night and day. The way light is registered is so much closer to film. There is so much more detail. Lucas was pushing the envelope with the prequels, and a decade and a half later it shows. Solo is the beneficiary of that innovation.
That being said, it's a pretty ugly movie. Especially after the beautiful production design and cinematography of the prequel trilogy. Corellia is gray and dingy. The planet the war of conquest was fought on was gray and dingy. The planet where the train heist took place was gray and dingy. Kessel was gray and dingy. This isn't necessarily a criticism; that Han Solo spent his formative years at all of the shitholes of the galaxy feels right. But compared to the beautiful travelogue of exotic places offered up by the Saga films, this feels like a real step down, visually. Even the desert island planet near the end feels naturalistic rather than purposefully beautiful.
The music is also a major step down from the prequel trilogy, which has fantastic music. I do appreciate John Powell's restraint, though. Other than the new main theme that John Williams wrote for this movie, he mostly sticks to his own compositions for the bulk of the movie. He waits to introduce iconic themes from the Saga films until the visual iconography from those movies appears. Because he waits, when the themes do show up they have more impact.
There are two main problems with the movie for me:
It doesn't feel necessary. You could skip this movie without missing anything really crucial. It didn't feel like a story that needed to be told.
Alden Ehrenreich, through no fault of his own, is not Harrison Ford. Ehrenreich gives a very solid performance, better than all but a couple of the performances in the prequels. He knows how to deliver Kasdan's dialog so that it lands the way its supposed to. He understands the character. But the voice is wrong, and he's missing that intangible quality that made Ford so cool, that unquantifiable charisma that made him one of the biggest movie stars of the second half of the twentieth century.
Still, given the behind the scenes turmoil, it's a minor miracle that this film turned out as well as it did.
And it's the only Star Wars movie not written or executive produced by George Lucas to get the structure right. The first six Saga films are also structured so that the scenes flow effortlessly from one to the next, building on themselves as they go. Characters aren't introduced except through characters we've already been introduced to. This movie gets that. Corellia brings Han to the Imperial Navy. The Imperial Navy brings Han to the front lines. The front lines bring Han to Chewbacca and Woody Harrelson's crew. Woody Harrelson's crew brings Han to Enfys Nest and later back to Qi'ra. Qi'ra brings Han to Lando Calrissian. And so on. It moves beautifully. It's a really well-edited picture.
Count me in as someone who was a big fan of how Han got his last name. I love the idea that such a seemingly inconsequential exchange with a very low-level recruiting officer gave rise to a name that would become well known throughout the galaxy.
Woody Harrelson is both a plus and a minus. He gives a great performance, and I always enjoy watching him. But I never, ever forgot I was watching Woody Harrelson and that punctured my suspension of disbelief.
I think Emilia Clarke is really underrated here. There are a lot of different layers to Qi'ra, and she balances all of them. Especially after Natalie Portman was left out to sea by Lucas with Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Qi'ra is a genuine as she can be, but less genuine than Han needs her to be. Clarke captures all of that. And I never once thought of the Dragon Queen. She was one of the two characters I wanted to see more of when the end credits rolled.
The other is Enfys Nest, one of the early leaders of the Rebellion. I thought the reveal of Nest's real identity, and the reason that her and her crew so doggedly targeted Crimson Dawn jobs, was really effective. Newcomer Erin Kellyman really impressed me. Even though she's playing a teenager, I believed that Nest was a credible leader. And Kellyman has a unique look, mixed race with fiery red hair and freckles. I hope we see more of her in this role in the movies and TV shows that are set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
Donald Glover achieves the impossible as Lando Calrissian; while I never forgot that Ehrenreich wasn't Harrison Ford, Glover's Lando blurred with the memories of Billy Dee Williams. Ehrenreich is actually probably a closer physical resemblance to Ford than Glover is to Williams. But Glover gets Lando's voice exactly right without it feeling like an imitation. And he's got a natural charisma that Ehrenreich doesn't.
I'm not a fan of the reveal that Darth Maul is the leader of Crimson Dawn. I know the character was already resurrected in canon before this movie. But it still feels really fan service-y. Yes, Darth Maul was really cool looking. Yes, he got killed off very quickly. But let him stay at the bottom of that shaft where he belonged. It was nice that they brought Ray Park back to play the character. Interesting that they brought back Peter Serafinowicz to voice the character, and then chose to replace him with the voice actor from the Clone Wars cartoons instead.
All in all, a fun and effective but fairly forgettable time at the movies. Ron Howard deserves a lot of credit for walking into a crisis and delivering a picture this good.
I positively LOVE this movie! Watched it for only the third time total several weeks ago, and it gets better every time. I like the visual look of the film as it goes with its gritty feel and tone. And it’s got an appropriate sense of humor to boot.
As to if it is necessary, I guess if it didn’t click with some it may seem the odd one out. But just taken as it’s own, I totally dig it. And really, any film is unnecessary in the grand scheme of existence. lol!
I saw it on Netflix the other night. I enjoyed it but will not be adding it to the collection as I really have no desire to see it again. It doesn't really add anything to the mythos, say the way Rogue One did.
Great how all our opinions differ.
That was the low point of the film for me and I heard multiple groans at my screening at that exchange. Kasdan strikes again! Ugh.