On DVD: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a movie I love more and more every time I watch it. It’s also a movie I’m convinced did not get its due from Lucasfilm and Star Wars fans alike. With Lucasfilm, it’s not hard to see why: fired directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who, let’s be clear, did not do the job they were hired to do) left an expensive mess in their wake, and it’s only Ron Howard’s skill as a filmmaker and joviality as a human being that saved it. But with fans? I honestly don’t get it.

Solo has everything you could want in a Star Wars film, going back to the franchise’s roots and the roots of the pulp adventure genre to boot. It’s got characters to whom you immediately feel emotional attachments, characters whose relationships matter — two key factors that Rogue One lacked, ultimately leaving that particular Star Wars story feeling cold and unimportant. And despite its flaws, the unfortunate treatment of Val and L3 high among them, repeat viewings of Solo are about as rewarding an experience as they come, fitting right up there alongside the original trilogy with complex characters you love and action that never gets old.

And much like The Last Jedi, the special features disc in Solo’s DVD/Blu-ray release is well worth an exploration, though be warned: don’t go into it expecting anything revelatory about the Lord/Miller firing or what parts of the movie came from which director because you won’t get it. (Really, the only hint of Lord/Miller’s involvement comes in the “Team Chewie” featurette, which Joonas Suotamo and Alden Ehrenreich filmed over the first three weeks of shooting, so that part, at least, you could credit to the former directors.) Disney’s not so much in the “look at the challenges we overcame to make this movie” business as it is the “we’re all fine here now, how are you?” one when it comes to its behind-the-scenes featurettes, and again, you can’t really blame them. Ignoring all the production gossip is a higher road than feeding it.

Putting aside the PR-dictated revisionist history, the bonus features themselves are pleasantly robust. The cast/director roundtable is a joy to watch, if only for Ron Howard’s enthusiasm (which, yes, is at first difficult to separate from his Arrested Development persona), the clear camaraderie between the cast members, and the way Woody Harrelson uses the first person when talking about Beckett. Meanwhile, the eight deleted scenes were obviously cut for a reason, from pacing issues to character beats that don’t quite track with the rest of the movie. That said, “Han Solo: Imperial Cadet” and “Snowball Fight!” are both pretty delightful.

Eight five- to fifteen-minute featurettes make up the bulk of the special features. Ranging from the film’s major set pieces to the non-human characters brought to life through both practical and visual effects, these featurettes shed some much-needed light on below-the-line creatives whose work almost always goes unappreciated because so much of it is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. “Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures, and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso” is an especially interesting watch as it touches upon various subjects, such as director of photography Bradford Young’s lighting philosophy, the inspiration for the various creatures sitting around the sabacc table with Han and Lando (historical paintings!), and the creation of sabacc as an actual playable game within the film.

Still, if there’s one thing I wanted from Solo’s special features, it was something that focused more on the characters. There’s a little about pulp archetypes in “Kasdan on Kasdan,” wherein screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan discusses Han Solo’s roots as a Bogart-esque rogue who professes not to care about anybody but himself and then, when the danger comes, can’t help but care and save the day like he always does. Honestly, everybody who thinks Han Solo is anything but an insecure good guy consistently putting up a tough-guy front to blaze through the criminal life he’s chosen should watch that tiny little portion of the Kasdan featurette over and over until it gets through their thick skulls, because I’ve never heard someone get Han so right in so few words.

And if anybody should, it’s Kasdan, right? He wrote the guy in four movies. He knows Han Solo inside and out.

Selfishly, I’d love more insights like this about the rest of the characters, particularly about Solo’s two most fascinating additions to the Star Wars canon: Qi’ra and Enfys Nest. The special features are light on Qi’ra, Enfys, the Cloud-Riders and Crimson Dawn, which feels like a serious oversight when there’s a whole featurette dedicated to Chewie’s mud suit. It only makes sense if they’re saving that information for another Solo movie down the line, but the film’s disappointing box office returns and less-than-stellar critical reception make that seem unlikely.

Which, for me, is the most disappointing thing of all. It would be incredible to see what a second Adventure of Han Solo might look like — unencumbered by leftovers from rudderless directors and created entirely by Ron Howard and the cast and crew that clearly adore him. It could only be better. Who wouldn’t want that?

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story is available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray today.



Aly Caviness is an administrator of Midwest Film Journal, possible witch, and lifelong film obsessive. Through Lynch, her grandmother taught her how to spot “The Girl,” and through Frankenstein, her grandfather taught her how to love in spite of fear. She blames Jack Sparrow for her MA in colonial Atlantic history and Guy Pearce for her marriage. By day, she works and writes in the Archives & Library at the Indiana Historical Society, which possesses such artifacts from Hoosier film history as James Dean’s high school yearbooks and posters from the 1997 classic, “George of the Jungle.” By night, she mostly cries about Laura Palmer.


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