While Han Solo has long been one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars saga, he’s also been one of the more mysterious, with his backstory left largely untold. But that all changed with Solo: A Star Wars Story, a biopic that showed what Han was up to a few years before he agreed to give a ride to some old guy and a cocky teenager. And while this epic sci-fi space opera works well on the new Blu-ray and 4K editions, they are missing some key extras that would’ve made them even better. (There is also a DVD version, but it seems to have no extras, and since I wasn’t sent a copy of it to review…)
While trying to escape the crime lord they’re indebted to,
a twenty-something Han [Alden Ehrenreich from Hail Caesar!] and his gal pal Qi-ra [Game Of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke] end up on the run, with the latter getting captured and the former only getting away by joining the Imperial military in hopes of becoming a pilot. Years later, Han is instead an unhappy grunt in the middle of a battle. But as fate would have it, he’s about to meet some people — including one rather furry one — who will change his life forever.
Much like Rogue One, Solo: A Star Wars Story is very much a side story to the main Star Wars saga, the kind they usually reserve for the novels and comic books. It even has a somewhat similarly gritty, militaristic vibe as the previous Star Wars Story. But where Rogue One answered a burning question, and expanded upon the main Star Wars saga, Solo: A Star Wars Story is more of a character study, one that intersects with the overall saga in some interesting ways, but doesn’t move it forward.
Headlining Solo: A Star Wars Story is, of course, Ehrenreich, who is no Harrison Ford, the actor who gave Han Solo his swagger. But then, no one could ever be as Han Solo as Ford. Instead, what Ehrenreich does here is a solid job of capturing what Ford did in A New Hope while also giving him a younger, less experienced feel. At the very least, he does a far better job than River Phoenix did when he channeled Ford to play young Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, while the less said about Sean Patrick Flanery and Corey Carrier in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, the better.
Though it doesn’t help that Donald Glover [The Martian] does a way better job of capturing the inherent smooth criminal vibe of Lando Calrissian that Billy Dee Williams had when he originated the character in The Empire Strikes Back. Or that Clarke is as delightful and commanding here as she is in Game Of Thrones. Or that Han’s criminal compatriots — Woody Harrelson [Zombieland], Thandie Newton [Westworld], and Jon Favreau [Spider-Man: Homecoming] — are as fun as George Clooney et al. were in the Oceans movies.
Though, again like Rogue One, Solo: A Star Wars Story is stolen by a droid: L3-37. Not only is she as funny as Rogue‘s K2SO, though in a less dry way, but also brings a sassy attitude and a spirited droid rights perspective that’s perfectly delivered by Goodbye Christopher Robin‘s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Together, the cast make Solo: A Star Wars Story…
a fun adventure, one that has a bit of noir feel to it, especially in how the plot twists and turns, but is always very sci-fi. It’s by no means the best Star Wars story, but it is as entertaining as Rogue One, and a good look at one of this saga’s more interesting characters.
As for how the movie looks and sounds on the Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K, well, as you’d expect, good on both accounts. More so, in fact, on the latter, given that the sound mix seems to have been optimized for home use, and thus doesn’t have the overly loud music and overly quiet dialog parts that are so common with movie Blu-rays and 4Ks.
Along with the film, the Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K discs have a handful of making-of featurettes, starting with “Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable.” In it, director Ron Howard [Willow] moderates a conversation between Ehrenreich, Clarke, Glover, Harrelson, Newton, Waller-Bridge, and their co-stars Paul Bettany [Avengers: Infinity War], who played the crime lord Dryden Vos, and Joonas Suotamo, who played Chewbacca like he did in The Last Jedi. Though this is more about the actors’ personal experiences more than the technical aspects of making a movie, which is why it’s more comedic than instructional.
Next, the Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K has “Kasdan On Kasdan,” during which co-writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan — the former of whom co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, and The Force Awakens — talk about writing this movie’s screenplay, with some insights from Howard and producer Kathleen Kennedy. Again, like the roundtable, this is more about their experiences than the technical process of writing a film, but is still interesting regardless.
This is followed on the Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K…
by “Remaking The Millennium Falcon,” which shows how they built a version of the ship that’s newer than the one we first saw in A New Hope. Even cool, Glover gives us a quick tour, which lets us see parts we didn’t get a good look at in the film.
The Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K also have three scene-specific making-of featurettes — “Escape From Corellia,” “The Train Heist,” and “Into The Maelstrom: The Kessel Run” — which pair cast and crew interviews with behind-the-scenes footage to show how these scenes were shot and what they bring to the film. They are, of course, fairly typical as these things go, but are still entertaining if you like seeing how the sausage is made.
Next, the Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K has “Team Chewie,” a look at Chewbacca’s role in the movie, and how Suotamo played him. This is, after all, his origin story as well. Though the best part is when they introduce you to the real Team Chewie, who make sure he always looks his best. Similarly, “Becoming A Droid: L3-37,” talks about this new droid and her backstory, though given that she’s a new character, one who steals her scenes, this video was a bit short.
The Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K also includes “Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures, And Cards: Welcome To Fort Ypso,” a look at the bar where Han and Chewie first meets Lando and L3-37. Again, this featurette is hardly groundbreaking, though it does get the job done nicely.
Last but not least, the Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K has nine deleted and extended scenes, clocking in at fifteen minutes. All of which are interesting, though most would’ve clearly made the movie worse. Well, except for one, which is just genius, though also kind of too weird for this movie. Unfortunately, while it’s obvious where most of these scenes were cut from, there’s nothing to indicate why they were excised.
While the extras on the Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K are good,
there are some glaring omissions. There’s no running commentary by Howard, the cast, and the Kasdans, and aside from a brief mention during the roundtable, there’s nothing about how original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller [The LEGO Movie] were replaced in the middle of filming.
This also really need some “Becoming A Droid: L3-37”-type featurettes on the characters Enfys Nest, a rival pirate, and Rio, who is Harrelson’s and Newton’s pilot, two other new and cool characters. There’s a bit on them in “The Train Heist” featurette, but this doesn’t go deep enough or include interviews with their respective actors/voice actors.
The Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray and 4K discs also don’t have any of the movie’s original trailers or TV commercials, which are part of the story of the film. This also doesn’t have anything about the companion novels Last Shot by Daniel Jose Older or Most Wanted by Rae Caron, both of which were really good, nor anything about Mur Lafferty’s Solo: A Star Wars Story: Expanded Edition, which has scenes not included in the movie.
This also would’ve also benefitted from a video pointing out some of the cool Easter eggs they included in the film. Or, at the very least, the episode of the Star Wars Show in which they did that (though you can just watch it here).
In the end,
Solo: A Star Wars Story is yet another cool Star Wars side story, and the Blu-ray and 4K editions are the best way to watch it. Though they would’ve been even better if they were more complete.