Think epic piano player. Think supergeek. Now think Youtube channel and we are off to the races. Fabricio Vinheteiro plays the music with an almost unending stare into the camera, adding to the difficulty level of the piano tricks he tries to pull off.
Production problems, a director change and, an iconic character portrayed by Harrison Ford. If you only read this, you might already think that director Ron Howard was up against it. Sadly, if you expect to see a Star Wars movie you might be disappointed.
This review contains no spoilers.
Don’t get me wrong, it is clear that Disney and Howard absolutely made an effort not to disappoint fans. And as a fan, I appreciate that. But, this movie just isn’t Star Wars and it certainly isn’t Solo.
A Star Wars story
Without going into detail or spoiling anyone: this is an origin story. Who is Han, where did he come from and what exactly happened that he came into possession of the Millennium Falcon. But it is also more than that: it sets up the later conflict between the Empire and the Rebellion.
The problem here is, it feels like an explanation after the fact. This is why Han does X in A New Hope, why does he do Y in Force Awakens. It just doesn’t feel like this story was an origin story. It lacks a certain depth that Rogue One did have. You will keep asking yourself: “But why are they showing me this?”, “Why was this significant in Han’s life?”. A feeling that will persist after the end credits roll.
That being said, I have to give the writers and director(s) credit for one final thing. One scene they got so right, I almost was willing to forgive all this. I can’t talk about it without spoiling it, but let’s just say Star Wars fans will want to cheer.
As much as I wanted to like this movie and wanted to like the actors, there is one glaring problem. Alden Ehrenreich just isn’t Han. He’s a good actor, he just isn’t Han. Spider-Man can hide behind his mask, so can Batman. A decent husky voice and you’ll believe it, whether it’s George Clooney or Christian Bale. And in Ehrenreich’s performance, I just can’t find him. Now to be fair: Harrison Ford pretty much made sure with his performance in Star Wars that nobody else could replace him. He is the definition of a tough act to follow. And that is THE problem that Solo: A Star Wars story has run headlong into.
As for the other actors, they do a fine job owning their character. Donald Glover pulls off the eccentric young Lando like a charm and sets up the later performance by Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy just in the way you’d want to.
Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clark do a decent job with what they’ve been given. And that is where we run into the story again. Clarke suffers a bit from an underdeveloped character as does Harrelson. You want to care for them but, well, you don’t because they feel set up like glorified red shirts even though they aren’t.
What I did like
Any chance to go and see something Star Wars is fun. And there are a bunch of fun Star Wars moments in Solo: A Star Wars story. And let’s be honest, anytime the Falcon goes into hyperspace is a kick. We get a nice shot of a Star Destroyer and some TIE Fighters as well. All ingredients needed to make the special effects junkie in you happy.
The movie also introduces us to Sabacc, the game that delivered the Millennium Falcon into the hands of Han. It’s sort of like poker in the way it is played and the setting around the games is just so much fun for a fan because you know what is going to happen.
Another thing we knew before the movie started: It is starting to become a Star Wars trope that the droid has to be the comedic sidekick. Solo is no different. L3, portrayed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is kicking ass and taking names. She’s no K-2SO or C-3PO but that is due to a lack of screen time and not for lack of ass kicking.
Solo also gives you another window in a universe that most fans simply can’t get enough of. If that’s you, you’ll have a good time regardless of the flaws in the movie. Oh, and there is that one moment I talked about earlier.
You can clearly see that the cast and crew made an effort to make this movie a success. And let’s be honest, we expect an incredibly high level of quality when it comes to these movies. It turns out that in every great franchise you sometimes have a movie that just isn’t up there. This is that movie for Star Wars.
So should you go then? It depends. Are you a superfan? Then be prepared to accept that this movie isn’t as engaging as the others. Solo: A Star Wars story isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not as engaging. Nothing comes close to Jar Jar-territory bad but neither does it soar to the heights of say the first Death Star blowing up. So you end up with a rather mediocre movie that you’ll want to love more than it deserves.
And this movie is still A LOT better than Star Trek: The Final Frontier. So… it has that going for it.
Rather than rewatching the series, you could go and see a Game of Thrones concert. All the music that you know from the series is played by a full orchestra and there even is a flying violinist. And all of that is in the capable hands of composer Ramin Djawadi, who scored the series and conducts the concert.
So what does a concert with only Game of Thrones music look like? First of all, Djawadi made a choice in the music. He played early music in the first half of the show. Season 7 then followed the second half of the show.
All of the music was accompanied by scenes and audio from Game of Thrones, displayed at three big screens in the background. This helps a lot if you are not able to recall all the music and put them into context. During performances, the orchestra is also displayed on the big screens so you won’t miss any part of the show.
Music is coming
And don’t think you are just getting the music. This is a full-blown piece of geeky performance art. The screens actually add something to the experience. Besides that, the staging of the event is very elaborate. There are three stages in the concert hall. The main stage is where the orchestra and choir are located. Two substages house the performances of different solo-artists. That includes one flying violinist. Yes.
The music is adapted to the format as Djawadi has previously stated. He might have added a choir piece here and there. He can now freely adapt the experience to the concert halls since he is not bound to the scenes.
To see the entire setlist of the concert, you can click here.
One thing the concert isn’t is the ‘great Ramin Djawadi’-show. The maestro says a few lines during the show but that is limited to the odd ‘thank you’ and ‘now season 7 music’. This is different from the shows that composers like James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer have done so far, where they are the star of the show. That being said, you get to see him conducting and performing(!!) the most famous parts of his music.
This also exposes the weak point in the show. If the performers are the ones taking center stage, they better be awesome. And for the second half of the performance we saw in Amsterdam, this was certainly true. The first half was mired with small mishaps and errors. Especially the fact that the audio was too loud made for some really annoying problems. The choir seemed to suffer the most as they were clearly not able to hear themselves sing, which means they sang off key every so often.
But truth be told, this is the only problem I could find in the show. Djawadi really made an effort in putting together a show that fans will enjoy the heck out of. And he succeeded. The whole show really was an homage to the series and to the musical stories he tried to tell.
Composer Ramin Djawadi is touring Europe during the spring of 2018 with the Game of Thrones concert experience. Later in the year, he is going back to the US and playing another 25 venues.
Just a couple of more days before the release of Solo, A Star Wars story. The production of the movie was, as they say, not exactly smooth sailing. Now that doesn’t mean Solo is going to be bad. We simply will have to wait and see. But this is not how you imagine a movie being made. And for those who have seen “The Director and the Jedi”, things could not be more different.
What happened during production
Why Ron Howard will get a directors credit
Another Star Wars movie, well… story. Solo: A Star Wars story hasn’t been without controversy ever since it was announced. But to be honest, it was about as predictable as Christmas that fans would have mixed feelings about a ‘young indi… *COUGH* Solo’ movie.
The script was supposed to be a disaster, the lead actor needed an acting coach to be present, and the directors were fired halfway through the project. Disney is not feeling the love of the movie gods right now, that much is certain.
But you got to wonder: that should be one hell of a making-of documentary.