Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

I think Solo was overall a good movie. Like Rogue One, the the Force took a backseat in the storyline. Jedi are awesome, but there’s nothing like a good blaster at your side! There was obviously lots of character building for Han, like why he shoots first, and just WTF a Kessel Run is. The actor playing Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich, did a good job, although at times I felt like he tried to talk his way through a little too much. Harrison Ford is a hard act to follow though.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The movie opens on Corellia, my favorite place in the Star Wars galaxy. When the lightning flashes, you can see what looks like a Victory Class Star Destroyer under construction, which I have a problem with. Corellia is famous for it’s starships, but Star Destroyers are made elsewhere. Also Corellia isn’t supposed to be Imperial occupied, but that’s pre-Disney lore so I digress. It’s hard to un-learn things that you’ve embraced, so little things like this are hard to overlook. Young Han being owned by a gangster was fitting, and I loved the diversity of aliens involved.

As Han escapes into the welcoming embrace of the Imperials, getting his Solo moniker was kind of dumb moment I thought.  I also couldn’t help but wince at the ‘Three years later’ trope. The Solo movie is supposed to be a backstory, so why skip backstory during a movie about backstory? I would really have liked to see more of Han in the Imperial Navy. Han Solo is an excellent pilot, yet we really don’t get to see how he got there.

Meeting up with Chewbacca was bittersweet for me. You know the two are going to become friends, so that kills a lot of the suspense, but I thought Han speaking Shyriiwook was silly.  Like several parts of this movie, the scene felt a little forced.

Meeting the mercenaries, and participating in the heist was all great. Lots of close calls, blaster fights, and daring stunts in an awesome setting. I’m a sucker for snow, but something about barren landscapes in general juxtaposed with high-technology feels Star Wars-y. I like that we lost some of our ‘heroes’ because Star Wars has an over-abundance of plot armor. A dash of Game of Thrones will do it good.

Finally getting to meet top dog Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), and being reunited with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is where the movie actually started for me. Another long-shot plan is formed, and the stakes are raised when Vos puts Qi’ra’s neck on the line as well. Best of all, this leads to Lando Calrissian, arguably the best performance of the movie. You can hear Billy Dee Williams’ swagger in Danny Glover’s voice! I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of him in future movies. The famous sabacc games, and introduction of the Millenium Falcon were very well done I thought.  Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3 was hilarious, and another great addition to the legacy of droids with personality. Her full designation of L3-37 was quite fitting I think.

The Kessel assault and rebellion was new, but I’m not sure I enjoyed it. I loved getting to SEE this infamous section of space, and just how a Kessel Run is made. I just feel like this was another forced scene in that it really didn’t seem well guarded enough. The initial subterfuge seemed predictable. Also when Chewie ran off to help his family, I feel like it could have been done a little better. I got hit in the feels when Chewie left his family to stay with Han, and I think that moment would have meant a lot more if it had been elaborated on more initially. I think the escape scene from the black hole went on longer than it needed too.

The final showdown with Enfys Nest was a surprise. Although for the longest time I thought they were called Infest-Nest. Again, mind-boggling to skim over backstory in a movie about a backstory.  Anyway, I knew at this point that Enfys Nest was going to be the Rebellion. The Qi’ra vs. Dryden showdown was a bit meh, though the Teras Kasi reference was awesome. Han gunning down Beckett in cold blood was also a surprise, and I think will end up going down as one of the highlights in the franchise given all the ruckus about who shoots first in A New Hope.

At first I wasn’t sure it was Darth Maul in the hologram. I had to come back and start reading some spoilers before it clicked. I always thought killing Maul was a waste of an amazing villain. I feel mixed because I really don’t see how they can bring him back (yes, I know they did in the Clone Wars cartoon, but I never watched that, and it’s still a cartoon). I am willing to see their ideas though, because I really enjoyed what little I did get to see of Maul as a villain.

The final scene where Han wins the Falcon from Lando is another winner. I think it was at Maz’s castle? I was a little disappointed when he and Chewie rode off into the proverbial sunset straight to Jabba. I feel like, again, you’re cutting backstory out of a movie meant to fill in backstory. I wish they’d explore a little bit more of the unknown with Han Solo and Chewbacca before they rushed to meet their destiny.

I realize after writing this that I had a lot more problems with the movie than I realized. It’s almost like they wanted Solo to be two different things. The start of a series of movies exploring Han Solo’s history, or just in case it didn’t work out, a single movie to tell the story of Han Solo. They tried to do both, and didn’t really didn’t do a remarkable job of either. Still, I liked Solo better than The Last Jedi for several reasons I won’t go into. Suffice to say I feel like I’ve discovered a bias towards non-Force based movies. Han Solo is also my favorite character, which I think gives me a more critical eye, as well as rose colored space goggles. I’d place Solo in my top 5 favorite Star Wars movies. I most enjoyed the screen time Chewbacca got. While Han Solo may be my favorite, I’m quickly coming to appreciate what the wookie brings to the dejarik table.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Spoiler Filled Review of Episode VIII

Last warning of SPOILERS.

Ok, now let’s get into it. I spent three days over Christmas in a group text discussion with friends about what we liked, and didn’t like, in this movie. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and several good points were made. In the end though, this is going to be a very critical review of the movie. I did not like the movie, and rank it 4th from last in the series (including Rogue One). If you loved the movie, and don’t like reading opposing viewpoints to your own, I’d suggest moving on now.

Two And a Half Hours of Finger Wagging

All that social commentary. Businesses are evil, selling to both sides to make money! Save the animals, we may need them some day! Men are useless! I felt like I was being talked at the entire movie. I hate political or social commentary in any movie or any form of entertainment for that matter. This is Star Wars, and I just want to watch some epic lightsaber duels, thrilling space battles, and solve a galactic mystery. Keep your political and social agendas out of my movies. Ramming it down my throat doesn’t make me sympathetic to your cause.

Useless Men

It was really disappointing to see every male character portrayed negatively. Poe turned out to have a god complex, only trusting in himself and his ideas. In the end causing dozens of Rebel lives to be lost. The movie really went to great lengths to dump on poor Finn. He was yet again the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz. Why was his attempt to leave treated like desertion? He was trying to save Rey, and potentially Jedi Master Luke Skywalker who she was bringing back to help! Why could’t Rose and Finn just tell Poe how they met? Or why not just explain to Admiral Holdo why Finn needed to leave? Next, Finn is portrayed as naive because he didn’t know that Canto Bight was funded by the Imperial war machine? I’m pretty sure that no matter where you live, you have a pretty good idea of who your country’s enemies are. Not to mention, he was in the First Order and probably had more access than the average galactic citizen about who The First Order’s allies were.

Meanwhile every female character gets a solid, positive portrayal. Leia is the strong leader, Holdo is the brave sacrificial hero, Rose is the undervalued, hidden gem. Even Phasma wins the fight against Finn, only to lose when Finn catches her by surprise. Strong, positive female portrayals have never been a problem. Women have always been in charge of the good guys in Star Wars. Queen Padme was always ready to get into the trenches and fight herself. Leia was entrusted with the Death Star plans. Mon Mothma was in charge of the entire Rebellion (though only showed up on screen during Return of the Jedi). Jen Orso led the Scarif assault team during Rogue One. My only problem was that the gender line was used to determine who was heroic, and who needed to go sit in a corner and think about their actions for a little while. What does it say that the greatest portrayal of women in Star Wars to date comes only when every single man fails spectacularly? Can’t women look good and strong alongside equivalent male roles? How do you set the bar for women’s equality when men aren’t even participating? This isn’t a zero sum game. Men don’t have to fail for women to succeed, and vice versa. If Chewbacca had gotten more than 7 minutes of screen time, this wouldn’t have bothered me so much.

Awful Endings For The Old Cast

I also did not particularly like Leia’s depiction. She was always looking just so tired and ready to be done with everything. The Leia I remember was a fighter. Leia talked smack to Darth Vader and a high ranking Imperial about the Death Star, Leia grabbed a blaster and blasted her way into the trash compacter, Leia demanded Lando turn around to save Luke while the Millenium Falcon was being chased, Leia volunteered for a risky mission on Endor. I would never picture Leia just sitting around, no matter how old or worn out she was. There were exactly two moments when the old Leia popped up. First was when she stunned Poe Dameron, and second when she had the blaster rifle in the hanger as Finn and Rose came sliding in with the Imperial shuttle. Showing her as resigned to her fate like this really tarnished the character for me. Much the same way they did with Luke, but a lot more kind. Poor Luke Skywalker was portrayed as a coward and a quitter. Once Kylo ran off to Snoke, WITH OTHER STUDENTS, Luke just gives up, and let’s a Sith Master start his own little academy of doom, WITH LUKE’S OWN FAMILY. Wow.

I also thought the scene where she gets back to the ship using the Force was awful. Great idea, using her connection to the Force to save her and inspire the troops, but terrible execution. It was very over the top and tacky.

The Small Things

Where are all the aliens among the good guys? There was like one token alien, and a few minutes of Chewbacca, and a few seconds as Ackbar was sucked off screen into space was it. Half the freaking Jedi were aliens in the prequals. Yoda, Chewbacca, Nein Nunb, Admiral Ackbar all played important, albeit largely secondary roles during the original trilogy. “Many Bothan spies died to bring us this information.” Remember that? The Force Awakens had Chewbacca and Maz, but in this movie, there’s that one token alien in a couple scenes. Are the alien races now siding with The First Order?

There was a lot of humor in the first half. Rey broke something, the keepers got mad. Porgs, porgs, porgs. Sea cow milk. There has always been humor in Star Wars, but I think they went a little too overboard early in this movie.

How many names are the good guys going to go through? They change their names like they change their clothes. The Republic, The Rebel Alliance, The New Republic, and now The Resistance? But they still call themselves the Rebels? The names change, but the mission and people never do. It’s really dumb. This also really adds to my social commentary conspiracy theory with the whole #TheResistance vs Donald Trump thing on Twitter. Again, leave your personal politics out of your movies.

When BB8 got in that AT-ST and started firing, I about lost it. Droids cannot kill people, unless they are war droids. Which, if you’ll notice, have gone the way of the dodo. BB8 is not a war droid, and should not be killing anyone, stormtrooper or not. If droids could kill people, why do you need pilots for starfighters? Or AT-ATs?

Star Wars on a Treadmill

Nothing happened in this movie that progresses the Star Wars story. Rey started untrained, and she finished untrained. We hoped Luke would train her, and we still hope Luke trains her. Kylo started the movie conflicted, and ended conflicted. The First Order started the movie winning the battle against the Rebels, and finished the movie still winning the battle against the Rebels. It’s going to take a lot of work for Episode IX to justify The Last Jedi. Otherwise, you could just watch The Force Awakens, followed by Episode IX, and The Last Jedi will have been a monumental failure.

The Good Stuff

There is a lot of negative in this review, but I want to end on a positive note. I may not have liked the movie as a whole, but there were still some good things in the movie. I loved the Porgs. You see them nesting in the Millenium Falcon, so I hope we see them in the future. I think it’d be a cool little change to have the Porgs start injecting some of the humor that the droids did previously. I also liked that Rey’s parents were inconsequential. She’s not from royalty, she’s just a regular person like you and I. Or at least me, because maybe someone with royal ties may be reading this. I also like the little plot twist where Luke’s momentary impulse to kill Kylo resulted in pretty much everything going downhill. Even though the impulse was fleeting, and Luke ultimately decided not to kill Kylo, the entire Republic started to fall because of that misunderstanding.

Summing Up The Last Jedi

The story this movie tried to tell was good, but thanks to awful storytelling, The Last Jedi holds zero consequences for the Star Wars universe. The biggest thing that happened were the deaths of all those Rebels aboard the transport freighters. All those off screen deaths of nameless Rebels. Do you even remember what any of them were wearing? If any of them survived would it have changed anything? If all of them survived would it change anything? How about that blazin’ lightsaber battle amirite? Where TWO JEDI defeated a bunch of guards? Bet you never saw that coming. Who were those guards anyway? If they were still alive, what would they be doing? This movie did have some character building and arguably even some world building, but it was all just background reference material. Chewie and Rey remain my favorite surviving characters. I just wish they had gotten to go somewhere in this movie.