Review – I Gotta Good Feeling About This (“Solo: A Star Wars Story”)

I raise a terrifying question here: are we to expect an origin movie about EVERY Star Wars character from now on? A stand-alone movie for Boba Fett? Chewbacca? Obi-Wan Kenobi? Princess Leia Organa? Lando Calrissian? Admiral (It’s a trap!!”) Ackbar? Those ridiculous Ewoks??? Huh? Are we?
*
 

Anyway, once upon a time in a galaxy… yadda yadda yadda, etc. Before Luke Skywalker got his street cred in Star Wars, before Jyn kicked butt in Rogue One, there was young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). A cynical loner, rascal, and a guy who constantly was on the run from just about everyone. We start of with his days on the planet Corellia, where he honed his amazing piloting & driving skills and where he desperately wanted to leave the clutches of local mob boss, Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt). But he won’t leave without his cute girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke).

Han makes his escape okay, but Qi’ra is a casualty of his reckless plan. Years pass and Han hooks up with some crooks to make enough money to go back and save Qi’ra. After springing an imprisoned Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Han and his new thief cohorts are off to steal some valuable hyper-fuel called coaxium, something that is for the Empire only and fetches millions on the black-market. There’s the criminal mastermind Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), his pretty lieutenant & wife, Val (Thadie Newton), and their four-armed monkey-like pilot, Rio Durant (Jon Favreau voiced). This score is really important because Tobias owes money big time to the super-nasty Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), leader of the Crimson Dawn criminal syndicate.

But all their plans of stealing the coaxium aboard a speeding mountain train goes sideways, as local space pirates (called the Cloud Riders) interrupt their action and bye-bye coaxium! Well, this doesn’t sit well with Vos at all. Begging for one more chance, Han comes up with a suicidal plan: steal unrefined coaxium from the source, right from under the Empire’s noses! But to do this, he’ll need a ship. A FAST ship! Thanks to Qi’ra, who’s now working for Vos, they meet up with the super-suave and cool gambler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and his female-activist robot, L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge voiced) who show him their ‘piece of junk’ ship, the Millennium Falcon.

Stealing canisters of dangerous, explosive, raw coaxium is one thing, but leaving the planet alive and making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs is another! Yes, they actually make good on this phrase after 40 years! Ah, but you know the old saying, “There is no honor amongst thieves”, right? Well, Han is about to get schooled in the ways of crosses, double-crosses, McGuffins and, as his mentor Tobias always told him, “Assume everyone will betray you and you’ll never be disappointed”.

With a screenplay by the father/son team of Lawrence & Jonathan Kasdan, two writers that are steeped in film tradition, this movie has a certain old-fashioned crime noir about it, as much as Rogue One had a WW2 film feel to it. There’s not as much constant ‘balls-to-the-wall’ action to it, as this film prefers to give us more of a character study of Han and his indoctrination into the criminal lifestyle that we all know and love him for. But, when it does call for action, veteran director Ron Howard handles the goods with fun and plenty of nail-biting excitement.

Ehrenreich makes a dashing Han Solo, looking quite roguish (he even has Harrison Ford’s signature chin scar), with an impish grin, a grand swagger, and Ford’s charm. The same can be said for Glover, who oozes charisma as the gambler and clothes horse that steals nearly every scene. Bettany, after playing the docile and heroic Vision in all the Avengers movies, pulls a 180 and gets downright evil here, a lovely change of pace for him. Harrelson is at his best, as is the ‘breaker of chains’ herself, Emilia Clarke, who gives a very nuanced performance.

For all you Star Wars nerds and fans, there are tons of Easter Eggs, hidden gems, familiar faces, and even iconic Warwick Davis, who has played many Star Wars & Harry Potter characters. Sure the pacing is a little slow and the dynamic isn’t what it should be, but for a Star Wars film about Han Solo’s origins, it’s a fun, little treat for the summer that is just the sort of thing to offset all those superhero films that are filling the cinemas these days.

P.S. I wasn’t joking about more Star Wars stand-alone films coming soon: there are no less than twelve movies that are either in development and/or planned right now, including ones about Obi-Wan Kenobi, Boba Fett, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, Knights of the Old Republic, and even Jabba the Hut! Yikes!     

 
  
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
*
 
Apparently FIVE screenwriters and director Jon Favreau thought that mixing the old West with space aliens was gonna be a really good idea. Heck, when you throw in mega-stars like 007’s Daniel Craig and Han Solo’s Harrison Ford, what could possibly go wrong? Well, in the words of Luke Skywalker, “I gotta bad feeling about this”.
 
Waking up in the desert (circa 1873 New Mexico) is Jake Lonergan (Craig), with no memory, injured, and wearing a weird metal doohickey on his wrist. Boy, that must have been one helluva party! He wanders into the town of Absolution, where Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine) recognizes him as an outlaw and tries to arrest, but as Jake is beating everyone up, he’s taken out by Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde). Taggart prepares to transport both Jake and a volatile drunk named Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano) to Sante Fe for trial.

Percy’s weathly and ruthless cattle baron papa, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford), demands that, not only Percy be released, but also Jake be released to him, since he stole some gold from him. Now here comes the weird part: during the tense standoff, an alien spacecraft begins to attack the town! Percy, the sheriff, and other townsfolk are abducted by long, whip-like feelers hanging from the bottom of the ships and, and as luck would have it, Jake’s metallic bracelet activates and becomes a weapon; shooting down the ship, ending the attack. Huh? Yeah, that just happened.

Dolarhyde, Ella, and other townsfolk track down an injured alien that escaped from the downed ship, Jake travels to an abandoned cabin where he gets flashbacks to what happened to him. He recalls stealing gold, being abducted, a woman named Alice (Abigail Spencer), and some crazy aliens. With his memories back, Jake joins up with the posse and goes after the alien bad guys, but things don’t go as planned.

After Ella dies in an attack, she’s resurrected and reveals herself to be from a different alien race, who traveled to Earth to fight the other aliens. The bad aliens, who are mining gold and abducting people, are far stronger and more durable than humans, BUT Jake’s wrist whatchamacallit weapon can kill them with a single blast. Well, that’s convenient! Armed with this knowledge, Dolarhyde and the local Apache Indians, prepare to wage war with the alien drones, while Jake and Ella go underground to destroy the aliens’ mothership.

Yeah, it’s all as dumb as it sounds and looks the same. Based on a graphic novel (which I imagine was better), even five writers couldn’t make this bunch of nonsense make sense. The cast was impressive with Ford, Craig, Wilde, Dano, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, and more, and even Favreau’s (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) direction was decent, but that awful script was just the worst. It tried to be both a Western and one of those SyFy cheesy movies, but couldn’t make up its mind. The tone was all over the map, the pacing was dreadfully slow, and you kept wondering, “When’s this gonna get good?”. But it never does.

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