“One Day The Sun Will Set On My Time Here, And Will Rise With You As The New King. Remember…”
As per the norm of contemporary blockbuster cinema, the magnificent movie monopoliser that is Disney Studios once again returns to the big screen this week with yet another big-screen re-hash of one of, if not, the, definitive animation story in the form of The Lion King. Following on from the gush of non-existent, if slightly colourful, air of Guy Ritchie’s middling stab at Aladdin, Disney’s decision to remake a film which positively affected an entire generation of children, parents and extended families, is arguably the biggest stab in the dark yet, begging the immortal question once again of, “what’s the bloody point?” With 2016’s similarly revived version of The Jungle Book placing director Jon Favreau in the holy graces of Disney forevermore, with a healthy balance of critical and commercial success always a banker for career enhancements, the Iron Man and Marvel Universe star returns to helm a strangely lifeless, annoyingly pointless big screen regurgitation, a movie which is the Disney equivalent of the criminally overrated, Gravity, with it being a movie which yes, looks absolutely stunning on a visual and technical level, but fails to tickle, let alone pull with any force at all, at the heartstrings and leaves you with a violent urge to remove it from your memory as soon as possible.
With a central narrative which as everyone knows has a strong basis in William Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, the 1994 original version of The Lion King was undoubtedly Disney at its’ storytelling best, a child’s movie which managed to blend Bambi-esque levels of heartbreak with notions of power, greed, redemption and of course, the “circle of life”, and with the new version adding thirty more unnecessary minutes to proceedings, the storytelling this time around is much more arduous then it needs to be, and whilst I’m all for development of character in any film, the fact remains that it is extremely hard to bond with animated characters who show simply zero range of expression or emotion, resulting in you viewing the movie in a fashion akin to popping down to your local zoo and deciding to sneer at caged animals whilst doing made-up voices within your own head. With the film on a technical level absolutely breathtaking at times to behold, with the photorealistic computer animation making every single living creature look one hundred percent conscious and breathing, the visual splendour is effective for a period but still at the end of the day, animation, no matter how much nonsense Disney can spread about this version being “live-action”, and when a movie’s only good parts are the ones simply nabbed from the original, Disney’s latest movie is absolute sacrilege, but at least a technically proficient work of sacrilege.
Overall Score: 5/10
“Let Me Give You Some Advice. Assume Everyone Will Betray You And You Will Never Be Disappointed…”
Within the space of just one blockbusting cinematic month, audiences across the globe have been joyously rewarded with big release after big release, with Infinity War and Deadpool 2 both hotly anticipated franchise follow ups which have seemingly succeeded to staggering degrees in terms of both their critical appeal and eye-watering box office figures, particular in regards to the former which has managed to cement its’ place quite rightly into the top five highest grossing films of all time. Another week therefore brings with it yet another Disney backed big budget extravaganza in the form of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the second spin-off in the ever expanding space opera franchise after 2016’s Rogue One and a movie which explores the early undertakings of Alden Ehrenreich’s (Hail, Caesar!) young, cocky and confident take on the titular space pilot. With high-profile production issues, including the firing of original director’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of 21 and 22 Jump Street fame after “creative differences” and mumbling’s regarding Ehrenreich’s on-set acting ability, a strange rumour if ever there was one considering his superb performance in Hail, Caesar!, Solo seemed doomed to fail from the outset, and with fan expectation an all-time low for a cinematic release with the Star Wars branding after mixed responses to its’ fundamental existence, does Solo manage to fend off its’ many steely-eyed critics?
Thankfully, and somewhat surprisingly, the film does exactly just that, swapping the melancholic and controversially bold tones of Rogue One and The Last Jedi respectively for a more conventional science fiction romp, one stuffed full of exhilarating action set pieces, interesting new characters and a youth-infused charm thanks to the steady handed nature of its’ well-formed cast who have gripped tightly the chance to step into the shoes of iconic franchise personas. With Ron Howard taking over directorial duties halfway through the filming process and capturing a reported seventy percent of the finished article on his own say, for a man whose back catalogue varies from greatness (Rush, Frost/Nixon) to outright blandness (Inferno, In The Heart of the Sea), the “steady handed” approach of Howard’s film-making abilities isn’t exactly the first name to spring to mind when attempting to rebuild a reportedly sunken ship, but credit of course should be handed when its’ due and whilst its’ hard to gauge perhaps Howard’s stamp on the final product, Solo is undeniably well made and makes up for its’ somewhat straightforward hero narrative by having the most fun possible with its’ strong points, akin to say the more low-key Marvel releases such as Ant-Man and Doctor Strange which play to a sense of familiarity but succeed due to the commitment showed by all involved.
With Ehrenreich easing into the inexperienced, swaggering nature of a hopeful Han Solo, the film begins by presenting the central relationship between Solo and Emilia Clarke’s (Game of Thrones) Qi’ra, a fellow low-born survivor who like Han himself, will do anything to survive the perilous world of slavers, gangsters and thieves which the film resides in. With Solo’s journey resulting in introductions to Woody Harrelson’s (Three Billboards) father figure, Tobias Beckett, Paul Bettany’s (Infinity War) scar-ridden criminal, Dryden Voss, and of course, Donald Glover’s (The Martian) charming interpretation of Lando Calrissian, the range of bright, fascinating characters allows the limited amount of time spent on deep, meaningful characterisation to be somewhat overlooked, with Howard at times more interested in a rapid, relentless editing pace which moves from one well designed planet to the the next without ever really having the chance to breathe. Whilst the relationship between Qi’ra and Solo is somewhat generic and functional, the real bromance of the piece is of course between Solo and Chewbacca, the furry, murderous Wookie who is as charming and fundamentally likeable as ever, and with the interactions between the cast effective and wickedly humorous, the Disney stamp which has made most of the entries in the MCU so great is vividly on show to see. With it meant to be the undisputed train wreck of the year, Solo: A Star Wars Story turns out to be anything but, a splendidly ludicrous popcorn fest which ties into the franchise’s space opera mantra with ease, a movie which will hopefully appease the fans left cold by The Last Jedi and one which proves that when in doubt, get the right guys in to get the job done.