Just Like Its Title Hero, Solo: A Star Wars Story Scrapes By With Spunk, Heart & Luck

solo poster

The second Star Wars spinoff film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, has long been a troubled production, notably with the firing of the original directors. When Ron Howard took over the film, he wound up re-filming a majority of it to bring it more in line with what Lucasfilm expects for a Star Wars film. Some fans who are leery with Lucasfilm and its president Kathleen Kennedy eagerly hoped that this film would fail. if not in the box office, at least creatively. These haters will have to wait longer because Solo: A Star Wars Story manages to be an entertaining, fun romp of an adventure.

solo and qira

To start, let’s get this out of the way: Alden Ehrenreich does a fine job portraying a younger version of Han Solo, everyone’ favorite space pirate. Sure, he’s not Harrison Ford, who will always be the definitive Han Solo, but Ehrenreich does not try to imitate him. It’s a good thing because that would have been a mistake. Instead he captures the essence of Han Solo; he emulates the swagger, the cockiness and the spunk that we fans have loved about the smuggler.

The mannerisms are demonstrated in the opening moments of Solo: A Star Wars Story, which details how Han lived a desperate life in his homeworld Corellia. Han (and some will get annoyed by the origin of his last name, but so be it) always dreamed of a bigger life, which involved leaving the hellish Corellia. Circumstances and quick thinking on his part allow Han to escape the world and bounce around throughout many misadventures. These mishaps bring him to meeting his BFF Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and fellow rogue and friend Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Plus, we see how he came to own his famous ship, the Millennium Falcon, which is newer and cleaner looking.

Kessel Run

Solo: A Star Wars Story introduces many interesting characters that come and go at a rapid pace along with some head-turning cameos. The best of these are Qi’Ra (Emily Clarke), Han’s first love, and Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who introduces Han Solo to life as a space pirate. It also dwells on the seedier, more criminal side of the Star Wars universe. The Galactic Empire, Jedi, Sith and all the traditional Star Wars trappings are shoved to the background or unmentioned. This is great since it shows that there is more to the Star Wars universe and is similar to those episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars that were devoted to the criminal underworld. This Star Wars spinoff earns extra credit just for not delivering more of the same when it comes to a Star Wars film.

At its core, Solo: A Star Wars Story is an exciting caper/heist story with adventurous dashes of the Indiana Jones films. There isn’t anything particularly deep or heavy here, but the film gives time to explore the heart and emotions of its characters. We may never know how the original version of the film would have been like, but Ron Howard does a credible, workman-like job in directing the film. It always moves along at a crisp pace and hits all the right beats. There are many thrilling set pieces such as a futuristic train robbery, an intense gambling sequence and of course, the famed Kessel Run. That last sequence, which takes place onboard the Millennium Falcon, is arguably the most nail-biting part. Also, Alden Ehrenreich deserves a lot of credit for the film since he is the main actor and is able to exude the spirit of a younger, more unpolished Han Solo. In addition to Clarke and Harrelson, Donald Glover does a great job of portraying Lando Calrissian. He does the smooth, savvy routine that Billy Dee Williams originated decades ago.

solo and lando at falcon

Some narrow-minded fans who are stuck in the past are ready to proclaim this film to be the death of Star Wars and a call to arms to replace Kathleen Kennedy. They point to some reviews and its box office performance since it underperformed in its opening weekend. However, if you watch this film with an open mind, you will find that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a genuinely fun adventure worthy of the Star Wars name.

Lewis T. Grove

 

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Star Wars Movie Retrospective: Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi

jedi poster

” I am a Jedi, like my father before me” – Luke Skywalker

Anticipation was immensely high for the grand finale of the Star Wars saga and for good reason. The first two films in the trilogy were both critically acclaimed and financial successes. The last film The Empire Strikes Back, considered by most people as the best Star Wars film ever, ended on a tantalizing cliffhanger and with many unanswered questions. Given this background, it would be difficult for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi to match the previous films. Regrettably, that proved to be case, but nevertheless it was a generally rousing conclusion to the Star Wars saga.

death star 2

The film takes place long ago in a galaxy far, far away. A Galactic Civil War is reaching its conclusion with the evil Galactic Empire readying a decisive blow against the Rebel Alliance. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the Empire’s battle station, the moon-sized Death Star, was destroyed by the fledging Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Now, the Empire is constructing a second Death Star that is orbiting the forest moon of Endor. Sith Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) arrives at the nearly complete battle station to oversee the finishing touches. He informs the nervous imperial officers that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) himself will arrive soon to ensure that the station is finished on schedule.

As the construction continues, Luke goes to his home planet Tatooine to rescue his friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford) jabba 2from the gangster Jabba the Hutt. Han owed Jabba, a humongous slug-like alien, outstanding debts and in the previous film was captured by Darth Vader and the bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) and entombed in carbonite.

Luke sends his two droids C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) as gifts to Jabba at his lair and to relay a message about bargaining for Han’s release. Jabba refuses this offer and at that moment, a helmeted bounty hunter called Boushh enters the lair with Han’s friend Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), a Wookiee, in chains. Later that night, when Jabba and his minions are asleep, Boushh, who is actually Princes Leia (Carrie Fisher), frees Han. Before the lovers can celebrate, they’re captured by Jabba’s guards. Unknown to Jabba and the other criminals is that one of them is actually Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams).

luke at jabbas

The next day Luke arrives in person and is also captured. Now he, Han and Chewbacca are sentenced to death while Leia is kept as a chain-bound slave. The trio are taken out to the desert wastes of the planet as Jabba and his entourage watch their sentence carried out from a nearby floating barge. At Luke’s signal, R2-D2 shoots out Luke’s lightsaber at the Jedi and Luke uses it to free his friends and decimate Jabba’s forces. In the end, Han accidently kills Boba Fett, while Leia strangles Jabba and Luke destroys the barge.

sand barge battle

They leave the planet in Han’s ship the Millennium Falcon to rendezvous  with the Rebel fleet. Luke instead travels to the planet Dagobah to meet with Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz) and complete his Jedi training. Visibly withered, Yoda admits that he is dying of old age and that Luke doesn’t need any further training, but needs to destroy Vader before he can become an actual Jedi. He also confirms that Vader is indeed Luke’s father and before he dies and fades away, reveals that there is another Skywalker.

Grief stricken, Luke is soon met by the ghost of his old mentor Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (Alec Guinness). The old Jedi explains Luke’s family history, revealing the story of how Anakin Skywalker fell to the dark side of the Force, the mystical life/energy field that is used by the Jedi and their enemy the Sith. He also reveals that Leia is actually Luke’s twin sister and that he and Leia were hidden at birth to keep them away from Vader, who must be destroyed by Luke.

Later, he reaches the spaceborne Rebel fleet and joins his friends as they meet with the Rebel leaders. An assault is planned to destroy the Death Star before it’s completed. But, before the Rebel fleet can engage the lando at helm 2Death Star and its guarding ships, a strike force has to land on the forest moon and destroy an imperial base that is emitting a force field protecting the Death Star. Luke, Han, Leia and Chewbacca volunteer to head the strike force while Lando, now a general, will pilot the Millennium Falcon and a contingent of ships to destroy the Death Star.

The four reach the moon in a stolen imperial shuttle along with the droids and several Rebel soldiers. They soon discover imperial stormtroopers and engage in battle. During the fracas, a few soldiers escape using speeder bikes and Luke and Leia chase them down with a seized speeder bike. The twins successfully stop the soldiers but get separated. Leia later encounters a small, bear cub-like creature wearing tribal gear. He is Wicket (Warwick Davis), an Ewok, and takes her back to his village as his guest. Meanwhile, Luke, Han, Chewbacca and the droids try looking for Leia in the thick forest, but are captured by Ewoks. C-3P0, however, is mistaken to be a deity and treated as a revered guest.

speeder bike

At the Ewok village, the golden droid convinces the Ewoks to free his friends thanks to an assist by Luke, who uses the Force to levitate C-3P0. Soon, the group enlists the Ewoks to help against the imperial soldiers stationed at the moon. Luke, however, is troubled after sensing Vader’s presence and is afraid he is jeopardizing his friends. During some festivities in the village at night, he confides to Leia about their true relationship and Vader, who he thinks he can redeem. Luke bids her a sad farewell as he leaves the village and later surrenders to Vader. Despite Luke’s efforts, Vader refuses to denounce the dark side of the Force.

Luke is taken up to the Death Star and meets Emperor Palpatine, who is eager to corrupt the young Jedi as he did with his father years ago. With Vader at his side, the Emperor plays mind games with Luke and admits that he knows about the Rebels’ attack. In reality, the Emperor allowed this to lure them into a trap.

rotj death star attack

Down on the moon, an attack on the fortified imperial base by the Rebels is quickly defeated. However, the brave Ewoks mobilize their own army and join the fight against the Empire, but are clearly outmatched. Meanwhile, the Rebel armada arrives in the Endor system and Lando quickly realizes that they’ve jumped into a trap. Then, the Rebel fleet is swarmed by overwhelming imperial ships. As Luke witnesses the firefight outside in despair, the Emperor divulges that the station is operational by having it open fire on the Rebel ships. This goads Luke into lashing out at Palpatine with his lightsaber but Vader parries the would-be killing stroke. As the climatic battle rages outside and on the moon a final confrontation between father and son, good and evil commences.

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