Preparing for The Rise of Skywalker – Part IV: Solo
Solo is a 2018 science fantasy adventure film directed by Ron Howard, although due to the rumoured drama surrounding the production, some of the direction credits should also go to other parties. Set in the Star Wars universe, Solo is not a part of the iconic “Skywalker Saga”, but stands on his own, telling the origin story of the classic character from that film series.
The film stars Alden Ehrenreich as Solo, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany and Donald Glover, stealing the show with his portrayal of the sly Lando Calrissian.
Solo is basically a “western heist movie”, set in the Star Wars universe. It has all the ingredients. A train robbery, gambling, chases, gun fights, stand-offs and unstable explosives. The result is an classic story of action, thrills and betrayal that feels like Star Wars. However, this story doesn’t even mention the Skywalker Saga in any way, and only slightly touches upon the concept of rebellion against the evil Galacting Empire. Audiences expecting Rebels and The Force will be disappointed, as this is a different kind of story.
The acting throughout is solid, although I can be a bit jarring to see other actors take on the roles of such beloved characters as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. Harrison Ford is Han Solo, and filling those shoes is next to impossible. However, Alden Ehrenreich did a good enough job, but special mention should go to show-stealer Donald Glover, who not only playes the role to the hilt, but also brings the charm and the subtle humor of original actor Billy Dee Williams to the screen.
However, being an origin story set in such a well developed and beloved universe as Star Wars, creates challenges and problems. The film goes out of its way to show us that it belongs, contantly bringing up references, easter eggs and catch phrases. Much of the time, this works very well, and in many ways, Solo can be seen as a love letter to the so-called “Expanded Universe” of Star Wars. It has some great world building and locations, and elements from tv-series such as Clone Wars and Rebels are weaved in here and there. Other times, however, it feels forced, and (at least to me), having the film constantly remind me that this character is Han Solo and it is set in the Star Wars universe, quickly becomes tiring.
One of my biggest gripes, however, is the cinematography in Solo. The film is very dark. Too dark, actually. So dark that I have to change the gamma settings on my 4k HDR projector just for this film. I get the idea award-winning cinematographer Bradford Young went for: the only lights in the sets are the actual lights on screen. There were, from what I heard, no film lights off camera. The lights comes from “in universe” lights, like ceiling lights in a starship, or lights in a cantina and so on. This makes creates a very natural light, but also many dark areas and deep shadows. It is an interesting idea in itself, but I prefer more classic cinema lighting… and actually to see what happens.
Solo is a good enough Star Wars film, but being a huge fan of George Lucas, I have a hard time seeing the “magic” of Star Wars while watching it, and that has nothing to do with the beforementioned darkness…