Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@ddmcd.com) consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management. Follow him on Google+. He publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain and volunteers with the Alexandria Film Festival. He is also on Linkedin. To subscribe to emailed updates about additions to this web site click here.

Ron Howard’s SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

Ron Howard’s SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald

Forget the sound and fury about Solo’s tortured production history. Is it any good?

My response after seeing it last night: it’s a decent action movie -- not spectacular, just decent. The action sequences are good, and so are the special effects.

The story and how the characters are portrayed seemed pretty “cookie-cutter” to me. Perhaps my reaction would be different were I certified Star Wars Universe nerd. At times I felt bored, especially in the first half of the movie.

Most disappointing were the characters of Han and Qi’ra as played by Alden Ehrenreich and Emilia Clark. Despite their starting out as daring young and enslaved lovers, their relationship overall shows no convincing spark of passion. I don’t think this was the fault of the actors but of the director, Ron Howard. He doesn’t appear to have given the actors much to work with,

Ehrenreich especially, who distinguished himself so well in Hail, Caesar, appears to have decided to avoid Harrison Ford mannerisms while minimizing the swagger and insouciance usually associated with Han. Emilia Clark has even less to work with and has a hard time projecting a convincing character arc.

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Perhaps this is due to director Ron Howard's overly workmanlike and “by the numbers” approach to moviemaking, exacerbated by his reportedly having to reshoot 70% of the film when he came on board.

Perhaps Donald Glover would have been more convincing as Han. He’s got the “swagger” thing under control but still lacks gravitas. Even reliable Paul Bettany has difficulty projecting real evil convincingly. We know from his other work that he is capable of much more.

When all is said and done I don’t attribute Solo's less than stellar financial performance of this film (so far) to so-called “Star Wars fatigue” but to the fact that it’s basically a big budget action picture that suffered from a tortured production history and a "rescue director" necessarily concerned with logistics and production details rather than drama or character development.

It may also be that the whole franchise and sequel/prequel approach to big budget movie making has gotten out of control. Adherence to “canon” and fan expectations can crowd out creativity, surprise, and experimentation. Marvel and Star Wars are sometimes guilty of this with their over-reliance on spectacular action sequences at the expense of character development and originality. I experienced similar occasional boredom watching Solo as I did watching parts of Infinity Wars and Black Panther.

We now know that anything is possible via CGI and special effects. Still, I’ll take another Annihilation or Arrival over another battle-focused Marvel, Star Wars, or Star Trek movie any day.  Show me something engaging and new, even if it costs less to make!

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Review copyright © 2018 by Dennis D. McDonald

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