Already Becoming burned out
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018): During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.
Another year, another Star Wars film as the Disney empire sinks its teeth further into the beloved franchise. Now, until this point, I haven't really felt any sort of burnout from these unnecessary films. However, I really started to feel it here as Solo reached the end of act 3 and it became painstakingly apparent that there was going to be a sequel made. (I really hope you don't think that's a spoiler.) Word is they're going to make a trilogy out of this spin-off, and I'm just like....why? Who asked for this? Sure, there's a pretty awesome cameo at the end that will have a bigger role in the inevitable sequel, but my cynical side just won't let this one go. I freaking love Star Wars, (and still fully believe The Last Jedi is the best installment in the franchise since Empire) but now we're getting trilogies out of already unnecessary origin stories. Could you imagine if an IP like Harry Potter drew an origin story out to 5 parts? Wait. They're doing that too..... Uhhhhhh...... Anywho, I don't mind studios betting on sure things. I promise I don't. And Solo does everything a sure-thing studio film should do. It's fun, lighthearted, and charming. The charisma oozes off it leads Alden Ehrenreich (Solo) and his counterpart Donald Glover, (Lando) and the film has a wonderfully over-the-top villain played by Paul Bettany. (Dryden Vos) But, the cynicism is already starting to set in, (I blame Marvel films) and the fact that these unnecessary spin-offs aren't going anywhere anytime soon doesn't do much to help quell it. But, cynicism aside, it's time to look at what's in front of us and talk about Solo: A Totes Necessary Star Wars Story. Ok, now cynicism aside.
First off, let's talk about the good. Alden Ehrenreich is TERRIFIC as Han Solo. I was really worried that he wouldn't be able to fill the shoes of one of Hollywood's greats in Harrison Ford, but Ehrenreich's Solo is just as charming and charismatic while also being a little bit more raw and unrefined that Ford's was. Which makes sense because a younger Han Solo should be exactly that. Ehrenreich had huge shoes to fill, and he did so marvelously while making himself the best thing about the film in the process. (Which is good since he's literally the title of the movie.) I also loved Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos. Bettany was clearly having a blast playing a character where we could actually see his face (for once) and made sure to remind us that he can play a terrific villain. His character description wasn't much deeper than "crazy" but I'm more than ok with that. I couldn't help but grin ear to ear whenever he was on screen. Speaking of grinning.....Donald freaking Glover was just as sleek and sexy as Lando Calrissian as I'd hoped he would be. Though I will say there were times where it felt like Glover was really straining to play a character, whereas Ehrenreich felt more at home in the lead role. But that's ok because it's Donald Glover and the man is just so freaking beautiful. I mean, look at that face! Just look at it!
Oh! And Phoebe Waller-Bridge delivered some great one-liners as L3-37. Can't forget to mention that. They seemed to be improv'd too, (may have been a relic of the Phil Lord and Christopher Miller version of the movie) and led to easily the funniest moments of the film. I am not familiar with Phoebe Waller-Bridge at all to this point, but I sure am now.
Story-wise....eh? I think there's more faults than pluses to be had here. Emilia Clarke's character, Qi'ra, is where the fact that this is ultimately "Part 1" of a trilogy becomes painstakingly obvious, as her character receives very little development or backstory. Least, I hope her character is more fleshed out in Part 2, because if not then it's part of another big problem in Solo: all the female characters are incredibly shallow. There are basically two female characters, and neither receive much of anything resembling a backstory, and both are in relationships with the leading men. It does feel like kind of a step back for a franchise which has usually been pretty close to the forefront of Hollywood when it comes to having diverse characters. Technically, though, is where my biggest complaints with this film lie. The lighting / color palette of the production design here is downright awful. I know it wasn't our specific room because when there was FINALLY a shot outside in daylight, everything was fine! But some of these artistic choices made the film borderline unwatchable. You just couldn't see anything! They even managed to make the scenes in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon dark. How are cockpit scenes in the Millennium Falcon in The Last Jedi or even in the original trilogy better than these? HOW? Finally, the score was mediocre at best when it wasn't ripping off the original saga melodies. John Williams has already said he's done with Star Wars after Episode IX, and seeing what Michael Giacchino did with Rogue One and now John Powell with Solo does not make me confident that the series will be able to continue to deliver the iconic themes it has given us in the past.
All in all, Solo is a mixed bag for me, and when you add the fact that it's kicking off a new origin trilogy for the Disney moneymaking machine does not make me too enthused with the end product here. It's fine, but I don't want my Star Wars films to be just "fine." I leave that for the now 19 (!) Marvel Cinematic Universe films we have. It is a little better than Rogue One, admittedly, (which I was too high on when it came out) but so far neither of these spin-offs have wowed me to the point that I feel like they are actually necessary installments to this beloved franchise. They just feel like they exist solely to make money for the Disney empire. Call me cynical, but as a great man once said....that's, just like, your opinion, man.
The Critique: Despite a terrific performance from Alden Ehrenreich in the title role, Solo falls short of greatness thanks to shallow female characters, its open-ended storyline, and an unbearable color palette.
The Recommendation: You really don't need to see this one in the theater. Wait until its on a streaming service. Never thought I'd be saying that so soon about a Star Wars film....
The Verdict: 5.5/10 Slightly Above Average
A Charming Adult Comedy
Tully (2018): A mother of three hires a night nanny to help with her newborn.
Tully is a beautiful little film starring the wonderful Charlize Theron and reunites director Jason Reitman with Diablo Cody. The two have previously worked on films like Juno and Young Adult, which now creates something of a trilogy of motherhood, with Juno tackling the insecurity of being pregnant in your teenage years and Young Adult tackling coming to grips with leaving your perceived “best years of your life” behind for what's ahead. Tully focuses on motherhood and is a wonderful adult comedy in a space that is sorely lacking some quality content. Is it a game-changing film? No. But it is still a humorous journey that will leave you in a contemplative state of mind. It also happens to be the perfect date film in cinemas right now.
The best part of the film has to go to the breakthrough performance of Mackenzie Davis. She plays the title character and has a glowing persona that was mesmerizing to watch. The presence of Tully is felt regardless of whether she's actually on screen or not, and the level of sincerity Davis approaches the character makes her grounded and believable. If it's not the breakthrough performance Mackenzie Davis needs to really vault her into A-list celebrity status, then I don't know what is. Speaking of A-listers, Charlize Theron is her usual, wonderful self here as Marlo. She is on a roll recently with raw and unpolished roles between this and 2017’s underappreciated Atomic Blonde. Ron Livingston brings it too but his character is (justifiably) pushed to the side in favor of Marlo and Tully's relationship. The writing (until the final 15 minutes) is very sharp and grounded. There's one scene in the middle of the film that is rather tonally jarring, but otherwise the writing never strays very far from the theme, which I appreciated. Until the end.
Unfortunately, the ending of this film also happened to be the weakest part for me. While I think many will be willing to accept what is revealed in the final minutes, the “Sixth Sense” kind of twist that is included felt like nothing more than a distraction to me that detracts from the overall narrative. Does that mean it's bad? No. It just comes out of left field and went against the overall theme of the film in my eyes. However, your mileage will vary, and while the ending prevented the movie from achieving greatness in my eyes, the journey was still enjoyable and funny. It'll make you laugh. It'll make you cry. It'll make you yearn for your younger years while also reminding you to be grateful for what you have now. At the end of the day, isn't that basically what every film sets out to achieve?
My Number: 7/10
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