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Film Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

“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.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Feature: Looking Forward to Film in 2018

2018 In Film

Whereas 2017 proved that audiences were more inclined to disperse away from a turgid summer blockbuster full to the rafters with trashy, monetary fuelled nonsense and head instead for the likes of interesting, well-made movies in the ilk of Andres Muschietti’s It and Christopher Nolan’s spectacle epic Dunkirk, particularly within the UK, 2018 is the chance for Hollywood to recompense for their sins in a year which once again features endless amounts of sequels, remakes and franchise continuing cash cows which counteract the release of independant and much more interesting movies which although tend to falter at the box office in comparison, do tend to be the movies which make more of an impact throughout the year. As per the norm at Black Ribbon at the start of a new cinematic year therefore, here we will look forward to 2018 in film, picking out the highlights of a year full to the rafters with new and hotly anticipated movies and attempting to gauge which ones will be the real hits of yet another twelve months of visiting your local cinema.

Beginning the year and acting as a cure for the inevitable celebration hangover is Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game, a dramatic adaptation of Molly Bloom’s career as the high-profile poker runner with a brilliant central performance from the ever reliable Jessica Chastain and a supporting cast featuring the likes of Idris Elba and Kevin Costner. If the first day of 2018 is primarily acting as a day of recovery however, the first weekend of the year brings with it a stack load of new releases including the Ridley Scott directed All the Money in the World, featuring a thrown in Christopher Plummer after the much publicised Kevin Spacey debacle, as well as the latest Christian Bale movie, Hostiles from Black Mass director, Scott Cooper. Heading through January and into February therefore, Oscar season sweeps along with the likes of Darkest Hour, Steven Spielberg’s The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and of course, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, Phantom Thread, featuring Daniel Day Lewis’ self-proclaimed final on-screen performance, and whilst all are seemingly on show primarily for awards consideration, neutral film fans can take comfort in the release of the Ryan Coogler directed Black Panther just on the stroke of the half term holidays, one of three MCU related releases over the course of the year.

With the Greta Gerwig directed Lady Bird featuring the radiant presence of Saoirse Ronan, and Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water closing out the end of February with a much anticipated bang, the following weeks bring with it Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow, an American spy thriller which reunites the director with Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, alongside the likes of the Walt Disney released A Wrinkle in Time and the science fiction spectacle sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising, both of which are guaranteed to light up the box office to some extent before summer hits, even with the likes of the second Spielberg release of the year in the form of Ready Player One acting as healthy competition. Carrying on through to Easter, the latest X-Men installment in the form of the Anya Taylor-Joy and Maisie Williams starring, The New Mutants, gets a release, whilst the Martin Freeman starring horror portmanteau, Ghost Stories also comes to cinemas after a handful of trailers which immediately pricked up my attention, yet the holidays will undoubtedly belong to Avengers: Infinity War, the biggest release of the MCU so far which brings together the many plot threads set in place since the franchise’s inception back all the way in 2008 and a movie which will undoubtedly break a handful of blockbuster records with a rising wave of anticipation after its’ recently released trailer. We can’t wait.

Skimming through May and into June, the money machine which is the Star Wars universe continues with the Ron Howard directed Solo: A Star Wars Story featuring Hail, Caesar! star Alden Ehrenreich as the titular space cowboy, whilst the likes of the ensemble comedy thriller Game Night and Deadpool 2 are sure to find audiences in their own right, particularly the latter after the outstanding commercial success of its’ predecessor back in 2016. With A Monster Calls director on directorial duties for the latest Jurassic Park movie in the form of Fallen Kingdom, with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard both reprising their role from the previous installment, the most interesting sequel of the month goes to Sicario follow-up, Soldado, featuring the return of both Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin from the stunning Denis Villeneuve thriller back in 2015, with a screenplay once again from the extraordinary scribing talents of Taylor Sheridan, and if the dark underworld of the American drug trade isn’t for you then maybe Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again or Mission: Impossible 6 is indeed the sequel for you. Whilst the latter end of the year does simmer down in terms of possible future releases, the likes of Shane Black’s The Predator, the latest adaptation of Robin Hood and the final MCU release of the year in the form of Ant-Man and the Wasp, will hopefully all be there to entertain the masses before the final three months of a jam packed year of film.

With a Star Wars release absent from the Christmas schedule for the first time since 2015, the remaining couple of months of 2018 open the floodgates for a wide range of eclectic releases including the likes of the Tom Hardy starring Venom, Andy Serkis’ take on Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and even the newest release in the everlasting and indestructible Halloween franchise. Sticking on the lines of horror releases, Eli Roth’s The House With a Clock In Its Walls will appease an incredibly niche fanboy audience whilst Don’t Breathe director, Fede Álvarez takes over from David Fincher on the continuation of the Americanised Millennium series with The Girl in the Spider’s Web featuring Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander. From a personal point of view, Whiplash and La La Land director, Damien Chazelle also returns with First Man, an autobiographical drama focusing on the life of Neil Armstrong, and with both previous releases managing to receive full marks here at Black Ribbon, the bar is set exceptionally high. No pressure. Finishing the year with the likes of Aquaman, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Mary Poppins Returns, it’s fair to say 2018 is set to end with a considerable bang, but of course, with so many releases to come, please stick with us for another twelve months of movie reviews as we attempt once again to point you in the right direction of where you should be spending your well earned pocket money. Enjoy!