Review: Solo – A Star Wars Story


At the suggestion of my friends, I have decided to try the whole “movie review” thing. It’s words, it’s movies, I should be able to form a coherent opinion on that, right?

Right.

So, brave reader, press on, if you wish to know my opinion on a movie. Which movie? Fair question!

Solo: A Star Wars Story

The obligatory disclaimer is that I have not submerged myself in the full world of the Star Wars Legends. I am a fan of the movies (minus a few of them…) but I did not once pick up a book (aside from the Shakespeare rendition of the tale) nor watch the animated series that are out there. According to one friend well-versed in the Legends, there were references to the Legends stories in the dialogue and events of this movie, and I will have to take her word for it. All I can comment on is Solo’s standing as its own movie and within the movie-verse I’ve grown up with.

To that end, I think Solo didn’t do so bad at all. It’s was thoroughly beat-up in the opening-weekend earnings race by pretty much every other franchise movie out there so far, and it hasnt fared well at all since, but I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of the movie. (For me, it meant that back when I saw it on a holiday weekend, I didn’t have to contend with a huge crowd or fight for parking, so YAY!)

I know the production had its ups and downs, and I’d forgotten Ron Howard was attached until I saw his name scroll by at the end. Whatever he was given to work with by the time he came on board, I think he got it all strung together seamlessly, as was his job. The script met its markers, and didn’t leave any glaring loose ends from what was promised in the beginning. The heart of the story is still boy-meets-girl, and after all the adventure and the battles and the Kessel run (12 parsecs, rounded down.) they managed to return to that thread in a very Han Solo way without forgetting the aloof nerfherder the rambunctious young scrapper grows up to be.

Since way back when I first learned about the movie, I was never in love with the casting of the lead, but I think what “Han Solo” character the actor lacked, (any utterance of “baby!” stands out as archaic here, for instance.) the script did the job in making up for. By the end, yes, I think they found a good match. This movie’s Han has a bit more energy and determination than Harrison Ford’s original incarnation, which adds to the world-wary charm by the time Han runs into Luke years later. The smuggler has seen some things by then, calmed down, learned better to pick his battles. There’s a believable progression there that adds depth to the character. I also think it respectfully sets to rest the whole “Han shot first” debate with a bit of fun.

The movie seemed to want to tie up a few origin-variances between the old Lucas-Star Wars and the new Disney-Star Wars. Watching Han and Chewie sort out their early differences was a highlight of the flick for me, and Han making all of his still-bold, early mistakes navigating a big universe was, as I said, a complement to the full growth of the character I think. The other characters that he learned from definitely left a mark on him, but none of them felt reverse-engineered or static at all. (And I think, if I’m honest, this is the best acting I have ever seen from Woody Harrelson.) As with the characters from the other movies, such as with Rogue One’s awesome crew, the good guys and bad guys in this one all had their own stories behind them and didn’t feel like they existed just to tell Han’s story. (Also, I kinda loved the implied backstory on why Lando is so attached to the Falcon. So that will be fun to watch for.) ((Also-also, Donald Glover nailed this character.))

This movie did get a little more 80’s style campishness with some of their designs in creatures and costumes and sets, (I promise, you will forget about the dumb Creature From The Claire’s Lagoon by the end of the first act.) but it was only distracting for me a couple of times. Mostly it was a fun exploration of the expansive world they’ve been building. It fits right in. There’s spaceship races and creepy monsters and explosions and an awesome soundtrack. There’s robots and aliens and Stormtroopers who can’t even aim their vehicles. There’s Warwick Davis even, but not an ewok or porg or Jar Jar in sight.

It’s a Star Wars story. I loved it. I wish this movie and Rogue One had been around when I was a kid so I could have seen those pieces in place from the start. If you haven’t yet, and if it’s still out in your area, go see it. You’ll have fun.

Writerly things: Take the train!

Train travel is still a viable and reliable transportation system in the United States, despite the popularity of planes or cars.  Christina Vuono, a 30 year old speech language pathologist from Philadelphia, PA, travels by train to Atlanta, GA, every year.  Amtrak is her preferred and trusted carrier.

“I like it. Now that I’ve tried a sleeper car I never want to go back. It takes longer but the conductors are usually friendly and helpful,” said Vuono. For her, it’s something of a different experience than that of planes and busy highways.  “I like seeing the countryside. I find it relaxing. I can read or do work.”

That change in experience is exactly what Amtrak is hoping will attract more customers and travelers over the long run.  Vuono, like many other customers, is a hobby-writer with a twitter account, and that combination is good for business. In the new age of social media and instantaneous word-of-mouth recommendations, the positive experience outlined in a single 120 character tweet from a happy traveler can encourage new ticket purchases.

This year, thanks to a chance twitter conversation with a writer who later took the trial pilot run, Amtrak rolled out plans for the Amtrak Residency program for writers.  The program is now a reality and a limited number of 24 passes will be awarded by application process over the next year.  The Amtrak Residency program will allow selected writers to take a round-trip, 2 to 5 day tour of the country on any of their long-distance rail routes in a sleeper car with a desk to help encourage writers’ creativity.

The application asks why a writer wants to take the residency program, requests a writing sample, and a writer’s twitter handle as confirmation of their intent as a “creative professional.” Anyone can apply at no cost.  There is no requirement that a writer be published, or even write a review of their experience if selected.  The applications are reviewed by a panel to determine approval for the residency program.

More information, and the application, can be found at Amtrak’s blog. http://blog.amtrak.com/amtrakresidency/

What would you write if you had a week on a train?  The next Great American Novel? A news piece on the changing historical/political landscape? A kid’s story about trains? Or a sci-fi novel about space travel?

 

Reviews

It has been decided – by me, of course, because I own this particular digital neighborhood – that I shall wander into the over-heated world of reviews. Book and movie reviews. Why would I do this? What gives me the right to opinionate on someone else’s hard work? I’m not published, after all, I have never accomplished what they have, so why should I begrudge their work?

The answer is simple. I’m a reader. A viewer. The audience.  If it works for me, if I like their work, then I can write a review to share that. If there are parts that don’t work for me, I can politely and thoughtfully explain what those were. Should the writers ever stumble on these web-documented thoughts, hopefully my point of view will be helpful rather than offensive.  Feedback is a writer’s friend and if they have gotten this far in their career that I would be reading their work off the shelves of the local bookstores, they have developed pretty thick skin. In the meantime, it goes toward my own stockpile of “things not to do” when I find those things that don’t benefit my experience of the story.

However. If I’ve bothered to read the book/watch the movie (or both) and think about it enough to write a review, there are very good odds that I don’t have anything scandalous to say about it. It is far more likely that I would be impressed and secretly wishing I could buy the author a cup of coffee and pick their brain for their success secrets. Maybe use the cuppa as a distraction to steal their writing pens.