Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed by: Ron Howard

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Joonas Sutamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Warwick Davis

Watch the trailer

Rated PG-13. Runtime: 2hrs 15mins.

It’s been a rough time for me as far a blogging the last few months. My last post was back in March, and I haven’t been able to consistently write since then. Leaving one job, and then adjusting to a new one…there just hasn’t been a lot of extra mental energy left each day to write about movies, which is disappointing. Whether or not my posts are actually interesting to read, I do enjoy it.

I have been encouraged however by several people who have asked about the lack of new posts. So, to everyone that actually noticed I had stopped writing and were even marginally disappointed…thank you. It feels good to know people were reading regularly.

Now that I’m starting to get back into some sort of work/life pattern again, I really want to take back up the digital pen and continue to write about one of my favorite past times: movies. I’d like to go back at some point and review a couple movies from the last couple months as well: Infinity War, A Quiet Place…so stay tuned. OK. Enough of all that. Review time.

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. While I was too young to catch the original trilogy in theaters, I did grow up watching them repeatedly on TV and VHS…whatever that is. Those 3 movies and characters were and still are larger than life to me, as they are with so many fans. Honestly, there hasn’t been a single Star Wars movie I haven’t looked forward to coming out…that is until the first trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story was released.

Was anyone actually asking for a stand alone Han Solo movie? It didn’t seem like it. Sure, it would be nice to watch a younger Han get his start in the scoundrel business, but there’s always been one obvious problem. Harrison Ford IS Han Solo. Even though he’s too old to play a younger Han, most fans wouldn’t even think of casting someone else to play him. In today’s movie world it would be like trying to replace Robert Downey Jr as Iron-Man or Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. It’s one of those nightmare situations where no matter who it is, there’s no way to make everyone happy.

Usually, I don’t play the part of the angry fanboy, but the first time I saw Alden Ehrenreich as the young Han Solo…it just didn’t work for me. I felt like I was watching someone imitating Harrison Ford, dressed in a Han Solo cosplay; a terrific looking one mind you, but a cosplay all the same. For the first time in my life, I was looking at a Star Wars movie that I wasn’t excited for. There was even a little anxiety, because no matter how bad it was I knew I was still going to see the new Star Wars.

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That’s exactly what Disney was banking on. There certainly have been controversial Star Wars movies in the past, but they still always make a crap ton of money regardless of how much people like them. However, after movie goers were essentially split on whether or not they enjoyed The Last Jedi, people are less likely to go running out to the next Star Wars unless they know beyond a shadow of a doubt they’ll get what they want.

Unfortunately, after the first 3 weekends in theaters, the box office numbers for Solo have solidified that notion; currently having only brought in roughly $280 million on a production cost of $250 million (not including the millions more spent on promotion). Compare that to Rogue One, which made $150 million opening weekend alone and eventually raked in well over $1 billion. Solo: A Star Wars Story will most likely finish it’s run as the worst performing film in the history of the franchise (Unless you count the infamous 1978 TV Christmas special).

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So Solo isn’t doing all that great. Is the movie really that bad though? I went into the theater with extremely low expectations…similar to how someone knows they’re about to see a horrific accident: part of you doesn’t want to watch the carnage unfold, but you just can’t help yourself.

In reality, it wasn’t anywhere near that level. It’s true that it doesn’t quite have the same magic as the main movies, and I think casual fans of Star Wars (who don’t get caught up in comparing Ehrenreich to Ford) will have a better time with this movie. Hopefully, this financial shortfall will cause Disney to slow down a bit and really ensure the quality is there before churning out the next one.

However, if you can force yourself to put your fanboy/girl feelings aside, it’s actually a fairly enjoyable and entertaining movie (despite its issues). This will never be high on anyone’s list of favorite Star Wars movies, but it is a fun sci-fi space heist movie. Even if it is a little too predictable, Solo does a respectable job handling the backstory of one of cinema’s most iconic characters.

The Good.

Solid supporting characters. I must admit that I audibly laughed out loud when I saw that Woody Harrelson had made it into a Star Wars movie. For whatever reason, it’s hard for me to take him seriously outside of the comedy genre. His personality and acting style actually fit in quite well as the smuggler Tobias Beckett. I loved every time he twirled his blasters like a wild west gunslinger. It was a nice touch that added to the space-western theme they were going for and actually made me wish Han had picked up just a little of that with his own blaster skills.

After binge watching the terrific show West World, it was great seeing Thandie Newton with a small role in the movie as well. I wish it had been a slightly larger role though as the movie definitely could have benefited from more of her badassery (Side note: if you haven’t seen West World you should check it out as it’s a superb show).

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Emilia Clarke excels as Qi’ra. Since she is a new addition to the Star Wars universe, I was convinced Qi’ra was destined for a stereotypical death as Han’s first love interest. I was excited to learn that not only was I wrong, but I also enjoyed how her character evolved over the course of the movie. She actually is one of the most interesting characters to watch, and I want to see how she evolves further after the events of this film. She also throws a bit of precedence on why Han falls for Princess Leia. Apparently, he has a thing for strong women (I mean, who doesn’t?).

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Donald Glover was spot on as the young Lando Calrissian. Unlike Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Han, I felt like Glover’s voice and mannerisms were uncanny as a younger Lando. It was very believable. I heard beforehand several people talk about him as one of the best parts of the movie, and honestly I’d have to agree. Also, I never imagined Lando having an entire closet of nothing but capes, but now I’m not going to be able to watch The Empire Strikes Back without it in the back of my mind.

Chewie is Chewie; and that is exactly what I wanted. Joonas Suotamo has been playing Chewbacca the last couple movies due to original actor, Peter Mayhew becoming unable to physically continue in the role as he gets older. Probably the best compliment I can give to Suotamo is you can’t tell it’s not Mayhew. Chewbacca has always been my favorite character in the Star Wars universe, and every scene he was in here was perfect. The scene where Han and Chewie meet for the first time was entertaining, and I had a child-like smile on my face watching their lifelong friendship take shape.

Han’s backstory was fairly interesting. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who hasn’t read much of what has been dubbed the Star Wars “Expanded Universe”, such as novels or comics, but I thought Han’s backstory was handled better than expected. With such an iconic character, there’s no way to make everyone happy, but for the most part Ron Howard and the writers did him justice. From his last name to how he gains his hatred for the Empire and meets Chewie and Lando; I was happy with it overall. The only exception to that is maybe the famous Kessel run (the one Han made in 12 parsecs). The movie is nowhere close to what I had always imagined, and I feel like it could have been done much better.

An unexpected cameo (what an understatement!). There is a cameo 2/3rds of the way into the movie that has been a little controversial. Some have hated it, however I loved it and almost jumped up in the theater with excitement. I’m pretty sure I did yell “WHAT!?” with a huge smile on my face. I won’t say who it was, but it’s definitely a character I’ve always felt was spectacularly under-utilized in the films, and I hope we see more of them in an inevitable future movie.

The Meh.

Alden Ehrenreich isn’t bad, but he also doesn’t make it past “adequate.” However, I don’t think that’s his fault; he literally did the best he could. He definitely grew on me as the movie progressed, but only to the point where I just accepted the fact he was there. Unlike Glover, there was never a point I truly believed I was watching the young Han in action, but I think he’s the best we’re going to get. I’m very curious what people in their early 20’s think of the actor choice, who maybe had something other than original trilogy as their first exposure to Star Wars. My guess is that maybe a large percentage have no issues at all with him and those of us who saw the original trilogy first just need to take off the nostalgia goggles. Feel free to let me know what you think!
This isn’t the droid I was looking for. A lot of people apparently love L3, the new droid in this movie, but she felt forced in order to keep the status quo of having a droid in every Star Wars movie. Not only was the personality too over the top for me, but she sounded a little too much like Gwendoline Christe which was extremely distracting since I didn’t know who was actually voicing the character (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Christe played Captain Phasma in the last 2 Star Wars movies, but is know primarily for her role as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones. I think this movie would have been just fine droid-less; we don’t need a new one every time.

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The Bad

Not enough lighting? I know what you’re thinking; if “lighting” is the first thing in the “bad” category then maybe I’m being a little ridiculous? Just hear me out. There were too many scenes that were covered in grey or shadows. Maybe I’m just starting to get old, but I was squinting to see what was going on the first 30 mins of the movie, and half of the rest of the movie left me thinking it would have been more interesting with just a little more light and color. Despite it being a spin off movie, this is still a space opera in a galaxy far far away, isn’t it? Why are 90% of the shots of the sky a dull grey? I wanted to see more colors. Check out how bland the picture below is. It just all mixes together into a boring mess:

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A lack-luster villain. Solo definitely struggles in the villain department. The big bad of the movie is supposed to be Paul Bettany’s gangster boss Dryden Voss. Bettany is a talented actor, but the character the way he was written is underwhelming. Actually, there’s a good portion of the movie’s interactions with Voss that felt…familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on it until recently. If you’ve never seen the TV space-western, Firefly, check out episode 2: “The Train Job.” Without giving anything away, I’m actually disappointed with how many similarities there are between Voss and the crime boss Niska of that episode. The ironic part is the show’s hero, Malcolm Reynolds is actually an archetype of Han Solo. With a movie this big coming out of a mega studio like Disney, you have to be more creative than that.

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Disney’s creative coincidences?? Speaking of sounding familiar, Solo has been plagued by accusations of creative theft. In addition to that, I made another promotional art similarity myself. Regal Cinemas was offering collectable cups with official artwork for the movie, and I couldn’t help but notice something I had seen before for the upcoming western video game Red Dead Redemption. You be the judge:

Final Verdict


Cinematic Quality: 6.9 out of 10

  • Most of the CGI was well done
  • Some scenes were a little too bland or dark, visually
  • Alden Ehrenrich does as well as can be expected with the iconic Star Wars character
  • Solid supporting cast
  • Be more creative, Disney!

Fun Factor: 6.5 out of 10

  • Entertaining to watch Han and Chewie’s origins
  • Villain and heist plot needed to be more creative and intimidating.

Worth the price of admission: 6.5 out of 10

  • See it in the theaters if you’re a Star Wars fan.
  • Meant to be viewed on the big screen, but if your money is tight, go see Infinity War instead and wait for Netflix.

Re-watch Value: 6.5 out of 10

  • Worth watching again, but this won’t be your first choice when you’re in the mood to watch a Star Wars movie.

Overall Score – 6.6 scruffy looking nerf herders out of 10

Solo: A Star Wars Story First Full Trailer

There’s a full trailer of the upcoming Han Solo movie online today, following the short Super Bowl teaser last night.

In it, we not only get a better look at Donald Glover’s young Lando Calrissian, but we also get to hear what Alden Ehrenreich sounds like as Han. Take a look:

While it is a good-looking trailer with some incredible visuals, I’m still not sold. This is going to be a tough one to win over many of the fans with. Unlike the never before seen characters of Rogue One, we definitely know Han and Lando. Fans have grown up watching and listening to Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams for decades.

Purely judging from the trailer I think Ehrenreich will do a decent job mimicking Ford’s mannerisms (He nails a laugh at the end of the trailer)…but there’s something about the voice that feels off. For a younger Han, it has too much edge to it. The jury is still out on Glover, however he looks more the part than Alden does. I’m just not convinced it will “feel” like Han and Lando.

I know some of you may say, wow that’s incredibly picky (and something only a movie geek would say), but if you’re going to recast two of the most iconic characters in movie history…it has to be spot on. There’s no room for error.

The goal can’t be to watch this movie thinking “that guy does a decent impression of Harrison Ford as Han Solo.” The goal is to make the audience forget he’s been recast altogether and believe that this really is a younger Han Solo. Maybe this is asking the impossible, but with a production period with a series of troubles including the original directors being canned and re-shoots ordered…well let’s just say “I have a bad feeling about this.”

And where in the world did Woody Harrelson come from?? Of all the people I never thought would be in Star Wars movie, he has to be near the top of the list. These are crazy days we live in, folks.

One final note on the trailer is that the also iconic Millennium Falcon is notably different; as it should. For one, it looks like it just flew off the assembly line (not quite the “bucket of bolts” we all know, yet). Also, at the nose of the ship, it looks like the middle section has been filled in. It should be interesting to see how the change in design comes about.

Along with the trailer, we get 4 character posters, which I posted below. Same story here as with the trailer: While the posters are well designed, something doesn’t feel quite right; especially with Han. They do give you a good shot of the front of the Falcon to see what I mentioned about the design.

I am interested to find out more about Emilia Clarke’s character Qi’Ra. The recent Star Wars films have had several fantastic, strong female characters so far, and with Khaleesi herself on-board, the trend should continue.

We all know Disney is out to make money as any business with a property as successful as Star Wars would be. I’ll still be at the front of the lines to see this, I’m just afraid, Solo might be the first one that actually feels like a cash grab.

Here’s hoping it’s not. What’s your thoughts on the trailer? Let me know.

Solo: A Star Wars story releases May 25th.

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The Last Jedi Frees Star Wars To Tell Truly New Stories…Which is a Good Thing!

Im going to do a spoiler post about The Last Jedi in a few days, but I just wanted to take a moment and get a couple thoughts out while they were fresh.

Like everyone else that has seen the movie, I’ve been thinking a lot about the story and the decisions that were made. Some of them resonated strongly, while others were a bit shocking.

However, one thing I’ve realized is that it’s been a long time since I’ve watched a movie and literally had no idea how it was going to end. It was such a great feeling. We also have no idea what will happen in episode 9. I love that about this movie; that it turns the status quo on its head and mixes things up. It was a brilliant choice on Rian Johnson’s part, and I hope JJ Abrams doesn’t waste the next movie “undoing” everything.

So many movies, especially in franchises, follow the same exact formula, and may be entertaining but are also predictable…not adding anything new or different to the overall story. The Last Jedi breaks that cycle; changing how we look at various themes in the Star Wars universe that have been set in stone…until now. There is so much discussion going on right now, both for and against the movie. I think that’s something that’s missing with a lot of movies today.

Star Wars has been around for decades and we love it so much; we feel entitled to have its stories told a certain way. However, there’s no way to do that and please every fan. If you were disappointed with the movie, ask yourself if that is why.

Let’s face it: I really enjoyed The Force Awakens, but it was set to tell the same type of story that has already been told countless times already.

The Last Jedi isn’t perfect, and there are some things I would change, but I’m excited to see where the franchise goes from here. For the first time in its history, I’m honestly not sure where that is…and that is a very exciting thought…

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi Review

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, Andy Serkis

Watch the trailer here

With such a insanely popular movie, it’s difficult to write a satisfactory review without touching on any spoilers. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is going to be a movie that is celebrated, discussed, and debated for a long time. Luke has a line in the movie that was absolutely spot on: “This is not going to go the way you think.” Director Rian Johnson has refused to “play it safe” and crafted one of the most complex and suspenseful Star Wars movies to date, pushing the boundaries of what we expect from the franchise.

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My initial reaction included shock and even slight disappointment during some of the big moments. However, thinking about the movie the last few days I’ve realized the feelings of disappointment weren’t due to the movie being “bad”, more so that it didn’t fit into the box I had already made for the movie.

The best advice I can give is try to go into it with as few expectations as possible. Let the movie take you where it wants and then see how it makes you feel. That is a daunting task, considering we’ve all had 2 years to speculate and theorize on all the answers we want to specific questions raised in Force Awakens. If you go into The Last Jedi, expecting it to follow certain paths, you will most likely be disappointed. The degree to which you can go into the movie with an open mind will determine how much you enjoy it. It’s also a movie that will most likely need a couple viewings to catch and understand all the nuances packed into the movie.

Characters: more flawed and complex this time around.

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Almost every returning character from the last film is shown from a slightly different angle in this movie. Many of the traditional character tropes have been ignored: good guys make mistakes and are uncertain of what they should do. Plans fail. People jump to wrong assumptions. The characters are refreshingly more flawed, which causes an uncertainty that makes for great storytelling.

Mark Hamill is phenomenal as Luke Skywalker. It’s great to see him progress from naïve farm boy in A New Hope to the seasoned, yet disillusioned Jedi Master.

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is still one of the most interesting characters. His conflicted motivations create much of the suspense, as well as a couple surprises along the way.

Daisy Ridley as Rey continues with another strong performance; grappling with her new abilities, what they mean, and where she belongs.

I was a little disappointed with the arc of John Boyega’s Finn; it seemed like a bit of a repeat of The Force Awakens in some ways.

Carrie Fisher’s Leia gets much more screen time this time around and doesn’t disappoint. We still aren’t sure how the studio will end Leia’s story, after Carrie’s tragic death. It’s clear after watching this movie, she was originally intended to continue having a large role in the finale of the trilogy.

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There’s also a strong cast of supporting characters. Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, brings an innocent determination to the group. Laura Dern’s purple haired Vice Admiral Holdo is fantastic. Oscar Issac returns as Captain Poe Damron, whose hot shot piloting skills are looked at in a surprisingly different light. Benicio del Toro played an interesting role as well, but I won’t talk about it here to prevent spoilers

Of course I have to mention the porgs. They are as adorable as they’re meant to be, and are a cute addition to the Star Wars Universe. I’m also glad Johnson continued with the decision to use as many practical and puppet effects for the different creatures as they could. It always gives a pleasant reminder of the original trilogy (before Lucas updated them).

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Story: A little disjointed at times, but still groundbreaking.

The story was excellent for the most part: it’s very much a story driven by its character development. There were some parts in the middle, specifically with Finn and Rose that felt a little out of place at times with the rest of the film. However it all does come full circle by the end. Their arcs could have been better, but there were still some interesting new places and characters explored.

Ironically, this is a darker film than the previous, but there is also more humor. For the most part the funny moments aren’t overpowering and worked well with the exception of maybe 1 or 2 times.

The action was intense and well done, and there are two fight scenes: one in the middle and one at the end, that are some of the best in the franchise. I absolutely love the way the nature and application of the Force is expanded upon in The Last Jedi. That’s all I’ll say here…

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a departure from franchise norms in several ways. Some of departures were excellent choices, while others will require more time to mull over. Ultimately, what happens in the next movie will be the deciding factor on how the decisions made here will pay off. One thing that is true is with Rian Johnson at the helm of the next trilogy, Star Wars is sure to continue to tell new and unique stories, not held down by the pre-existing rules of the franchise…and that is an exciting thought.

Final Verdict:

9 light saber duels out of 10

The Force is Strong at The Last Jedi World Premiere

In news that makes me extremely jealous, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was shown for the first time to the public last night at the movie’s packed world premiere event in LA. Check out some pictures here.

There is a review embargo in place until December 12th, however that didn’t stop several attendees of the premiere from posting what they thought of the movie via Twitter.

The reactions from the vast majority have been nothing short of raving; many touting Last Jedi as being just as good or even better than Empire Strikes Back, considered by most to be the best movie in the franchise. Several warned to stay clear of spoilers as the story has some unexpected, yet excellent twists. Director Rian Johnson is also being highly praised for his work on the film, which is a good thing considering he’ll be in charge of creating a brand new trilogy after Episode IX.

Check out some of the reactions below. The Last Jedi opens officially this Friday…I cannot wait to see it and let you know what I think.

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New Star Wars Trilogy Announced!

In just a few weeks, The Last Jedi will be in theaters, and is all you will hear people talking about. Judging from the trailers and all of the promotion, it looks like it will be a fantastic edition to the franchise. How good will it be, exactly? Apparently, Disney and Lucasfilm think it’s incredible. So incredible that they’ve signed director Rian Johnson up to create an entirely new Star Wars trilogy. Wait. What?

A press release dropped this evening, making the announcement: check it out here. While details are scarce, we do know that this new trilogy will move away from the Skywalker saga and, “introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.” While the news is intriguing, it’s way too early to tell how the new trilogy will be received.

In case you were wondering what else Johnson has directed…it’s an extremely short list. The only film I have ever seen, or heard of for that matter, is the Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sci-fi movie, Looper. I cannot wait to see what George Lucas’s reaction to this news will be.

Disney is also developing a live-action Star Wars TV show that will air on their Netflix-like streaming service, planned for 2019. Check out the available details here. There are already 2 hit animated shows, so the jump to live action seems like the next logical step. Disney has been making huge moves lately and clearly plans on riding the Star Wars train for a long, long time.

What do you think? Is a new trilogy  and live-action show a smart idea or are they destined for a ride with Boba Fett down the sarlacc pit?