I admit that from its announcement, I didn’t see much point to this film. The curse of the prequel trilogy was a need to fill in the vague elements of backstory, often forgetting that the original film worked by creating a sense of a deeper history and a bigger galaxy than we actually saw. So a Young Han Solo movie didn’t interest me — it would inevitably be a stringing together elements like winning the Millenium Falcon, completing the Kessel Run in X number of incorrect units, meeting Chewbacca, etc and we’d all expect to go ‘ooh’ when something like that happened.
I once went on a Beatles Tour of Liverpool with a friend who loved the Beatles. It was a weird experience as Liverpool is a city I know quite well. The tour guide treated every stop with a kind of chirpy reverence as if each semi-detached house or park gate was a holy relic. People took excited photographs and I felt really odd. It took me awhile to get over the cynical detachment and enjoy the tour for what it was: something fun.
Oddly, Solo does indulge itself in exactly that way even down to a pause-for-weighty-significance when Solo gets his blaster. It’s no spoiler to say that Solo will play cards with Lando for the Falcon, that he will meet Chewbacca, and that the film is peppered with references to almost every trait and famous line and significant object you can think of for the character of Han Solo.
But I say “oddly”.
The odd part is that this really didn’t become annoying. Instead, Solo manages to be fun, clever and exciting. Not the best Star Wars film but certainly far from the worse and an enjoyable space-opera/heist-movie/western in its own right. Yes, it has a lot of that tour-around-Solo’s-youth elements but it knows it has to be fun and exciting and carry some emotional oomph in places.
Cleverly it picks up elements and themes from other Star Wars films that have taken a secondary role to the main thrust of the dark-v-light side of the force and the saga of the Skywalker family. The Jedi and the Sith don’t get a mention (the Sith get a visual reference near the end with a fun surprise) and the nearest we get to a Skywalker is a reference to Tatooine.
Instead, we get to see life under the Empire from the perspective of its criminal underclass and network of gangsters. Life under the Empire is one of war and criminality often working hand-in-hand. Han has been living for years as a part of the gang of child thieves on a shipbuilding world and as a young man is ready to escape. The first part of the film follows him off the planet and (briefly) into military service with the Empire before he falls in with a different group of criminals. Here the main story takes hold as quest to steal starship fuel entangles Han into a series of events that involve a sinister criminal conspiracy and a rival gang of mauraders led by the mysterious Enfys Nest.
The cast is excellent. Alden Ehrenreich as Solo isn’t the strongest actor in the group but he is more than good enough and it’s a tough job to follow Harrison Ford. He manages to give the character enough street smarts and attitude to feel like Han Solo but also enough naivety and vulnerability to be more than a impression. Donald Glover as Lando is dripping in charisma. Woody Harrelson and Paul Bettany play cynical criminality in quite different but effective ways. Thandie Newton is under utilised. Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Lando’s revolutionary robot pilot steals most of the scenes she is in from the rest of the cast. Emelia Clarke manages to plausibly convey both a hardened cynicism about the world she is in with an equivalent vulnerability to Solo as a character.
Lots of big, great looking set pieces. Some space battles and utter space nonsense that is gloriously stupidly fun. Some genuine suprises and twists. Betrayals, counter-betrayals, stand-offs and robot uprisings.
Take it for what it is and have fun.
Star Wars movies title lengths by year:
The long period of consensus on proper Star Wars movie title length has ended with a sharp decline.
Neither Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure nor Ewoks: The Battle for Endor were included in the first graph as they were TV movies. However, including them implies the recent decline is a natural correction to mid-1980’s excesses.
Most importantly (save the strongest results till last) including all the movies and comparing title length to running time produces this important result:
That’s an R-squared that’s not to be sneezed at!* 40% of the variance is explained by title length. According to the Felapton Towers research scientists the mathematical model is:
running time = 151.42 – 1.2979×title length
This is excellent news for when they produce the film entitled “R2”, chronicle his life and career as a Sith Lord. the model predicts a running time of 148.8242 minutes, which is shorter than The Last Jedi (a bit of an outlier). Whereas The Life, Loves and Wacky Adventures of Galactic Senator Jar-Jar Binks and All His Fun Friends will mercifully be only half an hour long.
*[Moral: be careful looking at correlations]
Courtesy of Timothy the Talking Cat.
Opening music. These are the lyrics I made up but halfway through I had to sing them in my head because of the shush-shush noises. They go like this:
Snoke, Snoke, Snokity,
Snokity, Snoke, Snoke,
Snoke, Snoke, Snokity,
Snokity, Snoke, Snoke,
And wham! We are back into the action. Oh boy! Supreme Leader Snoke has got that darned Resistance cornered. Will he manage to wipe them out this time? You’d think so but this is a middle movie in a trilogy and that means SET BACKS for our hero.
[CF: if you can make sense of this there may be spoilers below. So not recommended if you haven’t watched the film]
So, so many spoilers but they are all after the fold. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film because it really focuses on the bits that will spoil. Also, this is longggg.
I straight-forwardly enjoyed The Last Jedi: it was fun sci-fi action with good acting, good effects and interesting characters. It isn’t a flawless film but if you after flawless films then why are you watching episode 8 of a serial space-opera?
Continued from this post.
Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: Nobody Strikes Back
Luke, Han, Leia et al are having a winter sports holiday. That should be fun but the great outdoors can be dangerous! Luke, unfortunately, encounters a wild animal. He escapes but is badly injured. Back at the not so luxurious ski lodge, everybody is worried that Luke hasn’t come back. Han heads out to look for Luke who is hallucinating visions of Ben. Ben must still be having a nap.
Later, after Luke has been rescued and had some medical care, they all decide to head off to different resorts. Luke goes to a martial arts training camp in a swamp. Han and Leia have a very uneventful trip to Cloud City.
Luke has fun training with his instructor Yoda who teaches him about the force which only has a light side. Which is nice. Later Luke decides it is time to catch up with his friends.
Luke arrives at Cloud City. He accidentally leaves his hand somewhere.
Han must be having a nap.
While Han is sleeping Lando decides to fly the ship. Luke goes looking for his hand down a chute and then on the outside surface of Cloud City. He can’t find his hand anywhere.
Lando and Leia come and pick Luke up. Luke gets a blanket.
Luke has a nap also.
This Tweet from Paul Weimer really intrigued me:
In post-war Germany, a version of Casablanca was produced, re-edited and with a new script for the dubbing, that had no Nazis in it. As you can imagine, given the role Nazis play in the plot, they had to do a lot of work.
I was wondering if you could do the same to Star Wars Episode 4 – remove the Empire…
Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: A New Hope
A spaceship has broken down. Princess Leia finds a robot on the ship and gives it something. The robot (R2D2) finds an escape pod with its friend (C3PO). They leave the ship. We don’t see the ship again. It probably had engine trouble or something. Maybe the robots have gone off to get some fuel from a service station.
The robots land in a desert. After an argument, they split up. Later they each get caught by tiny people.
Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker is unhappy being a farmer and living with his uncle. He’d rather be…doing something else I suppose.
Luke and his uncle go off to by robots and end up buying the two robots. When Luke checks the robots later, he discovers that R2 has a secret message with Princess Leia in it. Later R2 attempts to escape. Luke doesn’t have any sort of conversation with his uncle about anything.
Luke sets off after R2 but is attacked by Sand People. He is rescued by Old Ben Kenobi, who isn’t anybody in particular. They don’t really chat about anything but Ben sees the message from the princess. She needs help – probably her spaceship has broken down.
Luke and Ben don’t do anything then, certainly they don’t check on the Jawa’s and Luke definitely doesn’t check on his Uncle and Aunt’s home. No, they just head to Mos Eisely, for a nice day out.
They head to a bar, I guess they are thirsty. Not much happens but they have a very fragmented conversation with Han Solo. For laughs, they hire him to take them on a quick space trip. He agrees.
On the ship, Ben tells Luke about the force and using a light sabre. For no reason. I guess the space trip was less fun than they expected.
They head to Alderaan but it isn’t there. I guess it was closed that day.
Everybody has a nap.
Ben has a really long nap. He must have been quite tired from the trip because we don’t see him again.
Luke, Han, Chewbacca and the robots all find themselves on another planet. Princess Leia is with them now. This is probably where her spaceship is getting fixed.
Luke decides to have a go flying a small spaceship. Han also decides to fly his spaceship. Princess Leia looks worried. Probably she’d like to fly her spaceship as well but I guess it is still broken.
Luke and Han and Chewy come back. R2 got broken! Leia was right to be worried! Luckily they are on a planet where stuff gets fixed.
Once R2 is fixed Leia has a huge party and everybody gets a medal.
We now have enough for a list:
- Doctor Who and the Dalek’s http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059126/ The first Doctor (normally William Hartnell) is disguised as Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing). Presumably he was in deep cover in the Empire just before hand.
- Daleks’ Invasion of Earth 2150 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060278/?ref_=tt_rec_tti Peter Cushing is at it again. The Dalek’s have this great idea for a planet-sized spaceship…
- Local Hero http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085859/ A very young looking incarnation of the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Wedge Antilles (Denis Lawson) discover oil in Scotland.
- Shallow Grave http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111149/?ref_=nv_sr_2 The Doctor is still in Scotland but this time as the 9th (Christopher Ecclestone) and sharing a house with a young Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). They have to hide the body of the Sheriff of Nottingham.
- Attack the Block http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1478964/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 disguised a trainee nurse, the 13th Doctor helps a rogue Stormtrooper (John Boyega) fight aliens in a South London Housing Estate. Father Christmas (Nick Frost) is growing dope.
I think that’s it – less than you would imagine given the heavy use of British actors in Star Wars.
[ETA: aside from the many examples below, I also forgot that the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) was also a wizard along with Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) in the Hobbit movies]