It’s Not Easy Being a Star Wars Story

Solo-Han-and-ChewieLast night I caught a last-minute early showing of Solo: A Star Wars Story.  I had kind of talked myself out of any early showing.  Buzz around the movie had been mediocre at best.  There had been some drama behind the scenes, which is always a warning sign (even if you bring in Ron Howard to fix it).  But then, as the school year’s end came closer, I thought I’d see if there were any early tickets available.  There were, and so I went.

Being a Star Wars story can’t be easy.  There has to be a perfect balance of gravitas and humor.  There can’t be too much obvious fan service.  You want interconnectedness without a sense of co-dependency.  And it’s kind of jarring to see new actors portray younger versions of classic characters.  Beyond that, it seems that The Last Jedi casts a long shadow, one that might not lift until Episode IX moves things towards some kind of conclusion.

Keeping all that in mind, I have to admit that I found Solo to be an enjoyable movie.  The acting is solid.  The fan service feels limited.  The movie does a great job of keeping fan service to a minimum (even while giving the audience a couple of really good, twisty moments).  The first chunk of the movie might feel a little choppy, but I understand the need to give background while moving the story forward.  It’s nowhere near as unwieldy as The Last Jedi, and I say that as someone who usually enjoys a decent amount of sprawl in an epic movie.  If anything, my biggest complaint with the movie is that it was so dang dark: not much sunlight in the movie, which gives it a dank, unnecessarily claustrophobic feel at times.  Maybe they were covering up cheap effects or something; I don’t know.  So when you do finally get a clear shot after a number of murky scenes, you definitely appreciate it.

For me, as a fan of the overall narrative but not the stories that go beyond the movies, I find that the “anthology” movies released so far have accomplished their task admirably: the shine a spotlight on particular moments hinted at in the main story while adding some real texture to things.  It’s a kind of reverse-world-building that I quite enjoy.  Along with that, it’s a great opportunity to present some fun visual effects and vistas that we haven’t seen elsewhere (like the train heist in this movie: great visual set-up).

I’ll be curious to see whether or not the movie “has legs,” if it will stick around for a while.  It’s unfortunate that the buzz hasn’t been better.  While I wouldn’t want this to be the beginning of a new trilogy, it would be interesting to see these particular actors reprise their roles in later anthology stories.

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