Monday, May 28, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story

The movie did not open well, apparently.
I've been mulling this over, for a couple of reasons: 1) I enjoyed it immensely; 2) I didn't feel especially compelled to see it.

Solo reminded me of Vera CruzRobert Aldrich's comically cynical western from 1954 — with elements of the Hope/Crosby Road movies and (naturally) Casablanca. It is absolutely larded with the sorts of details that continuity freaks slaver over, but rolls from scene to scene so briskly that when it was over and we were in the parking lot I was surprised to discover the film was 30 minutes longer than I thought. I'm with Kate Taylor: Solo is the simplest and most satisfying Disney Star Wars yet.

So why was I in no hurry to see it?

It's a strange thing — Disney is producing franchise content with, I would argue, commendable panache. The roster now includes four movies with sturdier stories and more compelling characters than the Majordomo managed in his last four SW movies. Yet the Mouse's marketing department struggles to make the pitch.

The one Solo trailer I saw elicited a universal “meh” from my family. It wasn't until someone replaced the orchestral score with the Beastie Boys' “Sabotage” that my feelings toward the material's potential changed. The running joke was “'Sabotage' improves everything,” but it was indeed an indication of just how lost Disney's promo people seem to be when it comes to presenting this property.

Until I was actually sitting in the theatre chair, this movie did not feel like essential viewing. Unless “Star Wars” is at the beginning of the title, the rest is peripheral — an unintentional side effect from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Solo (I'm hoping still) has potential to launch a series, but the fact that Rogue One was an unambiguous one-off does not improve the odds.

Now consider the stills. If you enter “Solo” into Google Images, you'll get plenty of shots that look like this:
Inert, murky, predominantly sombre if not joyless, and lacking the visual punch of, for instance, The Last Jedi's garish red palette. Solo has at least one set-piece that was visually surprising, along with plenty of sequences with kinetic oomph, but you wouldn't know it from what we see online and elsewhere.

And finally I think the franchise is desperately missing Ralph McQuarrie's unscalable vision. I can't imagine McQuarrie ever giving the go-ahead to perching a lead character on top of a thumb-drive, or inside a peeled-back sardine-tin. And that's just vehicle design.

It's a shame — aside from the occasional ho-hum visual, Solo joins a growing list of deeply satisfying Star Wars narratives.


Joel Swagman said...

Went and saw it yesterday.
They had scheduled this movie on the small screening room, which was a bad sign to begin with. But then the theater was completely empty. There was just me and my wife there. (And one other couple, actually, but they walked out halfway through). So we essentially had the movie theater to ourselves.

Of course, this is Vietnam, but I think it shows how they've bungled the marketing of this worldwide. There was no buildup or excitement for this movie.
Part of the problem is that it's a prequel, so everyone knows it doesn't move the story forward, and no one needs to see it. (Compare to Infinity Wars, or The Last Jedi, where I felt like I absolutely needed to find out what was going on in the story, or I wouldn't be able to sleep at night).
But still, they could have amped up the marketing on this a lot more I think.

A shame, because it turned out to be a really great movie. I'm in complete agreement with your review.

Whisky Prajer said...

There could be a longer tail on this film. But, man: if it's opening weekend and it's only showing in the tiny theatre out your way, that is NOT a good sign!