A Contrarian View of ‘Solo’

It may be my favorite Star Wars film since 'Empire Strikes Back.'

Solo: A Star Wars Story is tanking at the box office and has been blasted by critics. It may be my favorite Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back.

The movie, which I saw with my daughters yesterday morning, has earned less in its first two weekends than Rogue One did in its first three days. There’s talk that it’ll actually lose money.

Some are blaming fatigue—there have now been four new Star Wars movies three years, compared to the one every three years pace of the first two trilogies.  Some are blaming competition with the Avengers and Deadpool movies, which target similar demos. Some are saying Disney was too complacent in its marketing.

The reviews, which have been mostly bad, certainly didn’t help.

Ann Hornaday for WaPo (“The young Han Solo movie is here. And let’s just say a robot is the best part.“):

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story” begins with the Star Wars franchise’s signature tag line, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” But it seems like only yesterday that the title character met his end in “The Force Awakens,” the first installment in yet another trilogy that feels like it’s trying desperately to take another bite of the original apple — one that only looks shinier and juicier, by comparison, the more chomps are taken out it.

As far as “Solo” is concerned, this dutiful excavation of Han Solo’s early years performs all the necessary feats of fan service that viewers have come to expect from seemingly endless iterations of the series.

A.O. Scott for the NYT (“‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Answers Questions You May Not Have Asked“):

“This was never about you,” someone says to Han Solo, which is odd since the movie is called “Solo.” I don’t want to make this about me, but there are a lot of questions that, in the 41 years since I saw the first “Star Wars” movie — fine! the fourth one; “A New Hope”; jeez! — it has never occurred to me to ask. Where did Han Solo get his last name? How did he and Chewbacca meet? What was the winning hand in the game of Sabacc that gave him possession of the Millennium Falcon? How exactly did he make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs?

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” answers all of these questions and more. This isn’t a bad thing, but it makes this episode, directed by Ron Howard from a screenplay by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, a curiously low-stakes blockbuster, in effect a filmed Wikipedia page.

Mark Zoller Seitz, writing at the late Roger Ebert’s site:

As unnecessary prequels go, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” isn’t bad. It’s not great, either, though—and despite spirited performances, knockabout humor, and a few surprising or rousing bits, there’s something a bit too programmed about the whole thing. It has certain marks to hit, and it makes absolutely sure you know that it’s hitting them. Everything that you expect to see visualized in “Solo,” based on your experience with previously stated “Star Wars” mythology, gets served up on a silver platter, from young Han Solo’s first meeting with Chewbacca to Han winning the Millennium Falcon in a card game from its original owner, Lando Calrissian, and making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs (that parsecs are a unit of distance, not time, is properly explained at last), to the fact that Wookiees hate to lose at three-dimensional chess and are strong enough to rip people’s arms from their sockets. We also get to see what some of our favorites were like when they were younger (Donald Glover’s Lando walks off with the movie). It’s fan service of a high order.

Whether you consider that a bonus or plus will depend on what you want from a “Star Wars” movie. In some ways, this movie is the antidote to the sort of “Star Wars” movie that viewers who despised the prankishly irreverent and oddly introspective “The Last Jedi” seem to have wanted: one where the payoffs to setups are italicized so that nobody can miss them, artistic license is subordinated to brand management, and every reference, no matter how small, that was so lovingly memorized by devotees of the franchise is placed under a spotlight for the audience’s recognition and self-congratulation.

David Edelstein for Vulture (“Solo: A Star Wars Story Hits All Its Marks — Except for the Most Important One“):

The movie is a good old-fashioned linear piece of storytelling, different in kind from the disjointed, multi-narrative spectacles of which Disney has made a specialty.

[…]

Ehrenreich? He has obviously studied Harrison Ford’s wise-ass cadences and arrogant, gunslinger stride. He’s a lightweight, but you can project the older Han on him, which is more than half the battle. But there’s a problem with the character that suffuses the whole movie and makes it less than the sum of its parts.

From the start, Han makes it clear that he doesn’t take orders from anyone. He’s his own man — a loner, Dottie, a rebel. “Solo” isn’t even his birth name, it turns out, but one he earns. But he has a girlfriend he adores and a surrogate family. He bonds so quickly and firmly with Chewbacca that he’s hardly a Solo act at all — he’s Han Duo. He’s rarely even alone onscreen! With Qi’ra reminding him constantly that he has a heart of gold and a nagging sympathy for social-justice warriors, there’s no real dramatic tension. Maybe in the next Solo film — there will be another, sure as shootin’ — he’ll become the Bogart-like cynic we met at the start of this whole saga, but something is lost when a prequel negates a character’s essence so firmly. Solo: A Star Wars Story hits all its marks except the one it needed to hit most: accounting for one of pop culture’s most cantankerous charismatics.

These critiques, which are representative, demonstrate the problems the filmmakers were up against. To the extent Ehrenreich’s Han Solo is consistent with Ford’s, it’s derivative fan service. To the extent he’s different, he’s falling short of the mark.

Having seen several of the reviews and having been mostly disappointed with the post-1981 installments in the franchise, I went in with low expectations. But, once I stopped trying to compare Ehrenreich to Ford and got into the flow of the movie, I was pleasantly surprised. Indeed, while making the judgment based on a single viewing would be premature, this may be my third favorite of the series, behind Empire and Star Wars (aka A New Hope).

Michael Roffman‘s review for Consequence of Sound (“Solo: A Star Wars Story Flies Casually Against All Odds“) hits at why:

[T]his is the first Star Wars movie in ages that “gets” Star Wars. Because really, it’s never been about lightsabers, space battles, and lavish throne rooms, it’s always been about the lingering notion that our underdog heroes might not make it out alive, that hope was truly all they had, and wit was their only way to prevail. The prequels could never find that feeling because all of its characters were powerful Jedis who were as exciting to watch as cardboard cutouts bobbing around a pond in Tallahassee. The latest round of movies have come close, but they’ve fallen short because, well, you have characters revisiting past story beats (The Force Awakens), being sidelined for asinine nostalgia (Rogue One), or becoming mass murderers and doing dumb shit like visiting imaginative cities for modern political allegories (The Last Jedi). Solo: A Star Wars Story eschews the regurgitated mumbo jumbo for a simple story about dirty rotten scoundrels.

In hindsight, even the bad Star Wars movies are fine.  I watched all of them again with my daughters over the last year and a half. A Phantom Menace, which I saw in theaters with my now co-blogger Steven Taylor, was actually fairly entertaining. But there was Jar-Jar Binks. Attack of the Clones had some good scenes but, you know, clones.  And, unlike just about everyone, I thought Revenge of the Sith easily the best of the prequels. Still, the storyline was complicated for the sake of being complicated and the dialogue sucked.

The Force Awakens was a welcome infusion of Star Wars after a decade-long drought. But talk about fan service! It was a veritable high school reunion. And the plot was incredibly derivative of the original trilogy, just with older heroes and weaker villains.

Rogue One was perfectly enjoyable. But talk about a movie we didn’t need. We got backstory on R2D2 got that recorded hologram from Leia. And we find out (spoiler alert!) that the insipid vulnerability of the Death Star was actually intentional. Fine. But the downside is that none of the new characters matter. Most of them get killed off and even the ones who did probably won’t be back because they’re not central to a story that we’ve already watched unfold.

And talk about movies that are unfaithful to an iconic character, The Last Jedi presents a Luke Skywalker that Mark Hamill himself thinks of as “almost another character.” Like Hamill, I thought the redirection was necessary, in that we can’t continue to have the franchise anchored around actors who debuted their role in 1977, but it was a weird flick.

Solo, by contrast, is the first straight-up Star Wars space western in decades.

Ehrenreich doesn’t have quite the star quality of a young Harrison Ford but that’s a high bar, indeed. But, unlike most of the critics, I find it quite plausible that his Solo would evolve into Ford’s over the course of the next few years. (Ehrenreich is 27; Ford was 34 when Star Wars came out 41 years ago.) Yes, Ford’s Solo is more cynical. But, for most of the movie, Ehrenreich’s Solo is motivated by the love of a woman who will betray him at the end. Oh, and so will his mentor. Mix those in along with another seven years cheating death in the Millenium Falcon and youthful idealism gets replaced by jaded cynicism.

Are there fan service elements to the flick? Of course. It is, after all, a prequel designed to serve as the origin story of an iconic character. I think it would have served well as the first film in a franchise, with something like Star Wars as a follow-on, introducing a larger cast. But it’s impossible to know, since we already know about Lando, Chewie, the Falcon, droids, and the like. It certainly offers the “lingering notion that our underdog heroes might not make it out alive, that hope was truly all they had, and wit was their only way to prevail” that Roffman correctly identifies as central to the original trilogy—with the significant caveat that we know Han will survive for decades.

You may be wondering why I have it tentatively ranked ahead of Return of the Jedi. Simple: there are no Ewoks in this one.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I haven’t seen the movie yet but it’s worth noting that one of the issues with this movie is that it went through two (technically three) directors before it hit theaters. The original directing team, whose names I forget at this point, was dismissed sometime late last summer, apparently due to the fact that the take they had on the movie was far from what the studio wanted. That’s when Ron Howard was brought in, something I was optimistic about notwithstanding the fact that a few of his more recent efforts have fallen short.

    The problem is that much of the shooting for the film had already been done by the time Howard took over, and it’s not clear how much reshooting he was able to do. In other words, it’s likely that the movie would have been somewhat different if Howard had been the director from the start.

    On another point, I tend to disagree about Rogue One. While it may not have been a necessary story to tell, I found to be a rather compelling one nonetheless. And the fact that all of the main characters died is somewhat easy to understand given the fact that they were essentially making another prequel to the Original Trilogy and leaving any of those characters alive would have arguably created a plothole that could never be resolved since those characters didn’t appear in any of the OT movies.. In any case, I think it fits in very well as what you might refer to as Episode 3.5, serving as something of a bridge between Revenge of the Sith (which I also liked more than most of the fanboys seem to) and A New Hope.

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  2. James Pearce says:

    Ehrenreich’s Solo is motivated by the love of a woman who will betray him at the end. Oh, and so will his mentor.

    This was one element that didn’t work for me, all the betrayal. The door opens and in walks the Scooby Doo villain, ripping off his mask? Nah, didn’t buy it. (I did like the gunslinger showdown that resolved that storyline, though.)

    I miss the old Chewbacca too. You know, kind of awkward and knock-kneed, maybe even a little stupid and child-like. I mean, we all knew Han boasted that Chewie could tear your arms out of your sockets, but was that actually supposed to be a thing he did?

    I think I’ll have to watch it a few more times to fully appreciate it.

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  3. Jen says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing this one. I also really enjoyed The Last Jedi, including Luke’s character in that movie, as it made sense to me that after fighting so hard to change things and then watch as everything slide back *would* make someone bitter, jaded, and willing to cut themselves off. I also really liked the way it upended tropes like chosen ones with a specific lineage were the only ones who could be Jedi.

    I have re-watched the original trilogy several times, and The Empire Strikes Back is the only one I find truly enjoyable. A New Hope is fine, but Luke is whiny, a lot of the dialogue seems silly (even worse dialogue in Return of the Jedi, that film is almost unwatchable as far as I’m concerned), and now, as an adult, I find the almost complete lack of women in that movie bizarre. I am fairly certain there are only two female speaking roles of any note: Leia and Luke’s aunt.

    No one can compare to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo. But I am looking forward to seeing this movie.

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  4. Mike Schilling says:

    Roger Ebert came back from the dead just to pan this movie?

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  5. michael reynolds says:

    My own contrarian view: Star Wars ran out of things to say after Empire Strikes Back. They’ve done nothing but mine the same characters, the same conflicts, the same weapons, the same mystical b.s. Lucas treats the original concept like the Bible or the Koran, as if everything necessary was contained within the sacred text and now we’re just writing Talmud. (I know, a bit of a tortured analogy.) It’s this reverential, pseudo-religiosity that loses me, along with forcing the movies to serve game developers and merch vendors – somehow across decades at the least they’re still using TIE fighters? Do they not have defense contractors?

    Can someone tell me a single interesting idea ever proposed in the Star Wars universe? It’s science fiction drained of all the most interesting parts of science fiction. And so many of the ideas that were already unimaginative in 1977 are ludicrous now. They’re seriously aiming guns by hand in dogfights? Really? Because we don’t do that now at a few hundred mph. They can make C3PO but not targeting software?

    Rebels vs. Empire, Rebels vs. Empire, yeah, we got it the first time.

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  6. Kathy says:

    Oh, dear. Two positive opinions of Revenge of the Sith…. I wonder if it’s still worht my time to read this blog 😉

    I won’t post a critique, but just mention I was very upset and disappointed that Padme died of nothing at all. And if anyone tells me she dies of a “broken heart,” so help me, I hope we never meet in person 😉

    Solo is ok as an adventure movie set in the Star Wars universe. Emilia Clarke and Donald Glover are fantastic, with Paul Bettany a close second (aided by good writing).

    What I find amazing about this movie and Rogue One, is that both center about a single line of story or dialogue in the first Star Wars movie. Rogue One comes form the line in the crawl about Rebel spies stealing the Death Star plans, Solo from Han’s infamous “Kessel Run” line.

    BTW, the most ridiculous line in all of Star Wars (not the worst, just the one that is so patently false as to be utterly ridiculous) is when Kenobi tells Luke “Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.” I mean, we saw the movies, and we rarely saw any Stormtrooper hit anything.

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  7. MBunge says:

    “Solo” is not a bad film, as basic blockbuster adventure flicks go, but it seems its main virtue will be to stand along side the NFL as a warning of what happens when you get into a pissing match with your audience.

    “Fatigue” has nothing to do with “Solo” cratering at the box office. It’s the origin story of Han Freakin’ Solo and manages to be a decent movie but is getting its ass handed to it by an R-rated Deadpool sequel. If fatigue meant anything, we’d be seeing it with super-hero films where between the MCU, DC, the X-Men, and Spider-Man, we’ve averaged two of them a year for 20 years!

    Mike

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  8. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    and now, as an adult, I find the almost complete lack of women in that movie bizarre. I am fairly certain there are only two female speaking roles of any note: Leia and Luke’s aunt.

    That’s true.

    But on the other hand, Leia is a kick-ass character in Ep. IV.

    Consider we see her do the following:

    Secure the Death Star plans
    Stand up to Darth Vader
    Withstand torture
    Stand up to Tarkin
    Refuse to disclose the location of the Rebel base, even when threatened with the destruction of her home world.
    Take charge of her own rescue
    Make a strategic decision to lead the death Star to the Rebel base to have the battle there.

    Luke and Han may have received the medals, and surely they helped, but without Leia all they managed to do was avoid capture inside the enemy’s battle station.

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  9. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Did you read the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn? Aside from the very plausible way in which it depicts a rising Empire, Thrawn is one of the best ever villains in science fiction. He actually has several real victories, and he’s competent in addition to being smart.

    I don’t usually read books based on movie universes, but I’ve read those.

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  10. teve tory says:

    I liked Star Wars the first time, when it was called The Hidden Fortress.

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  11. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s science fiction drained of all the most interesting parts of science fiction.

    You are talking as though it was ever intended to be “science fiction” in anything but the most superficial sense. It’s a fairy tale in outer space, and both Lucas and most Star Wars fans have always been the first to admit it.

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  12. Jen says:

    @Kathy: Completely agree that Leia was a kick-ass character in IV/ANH. She was amazing and completely flipped the script on the tired damsel-in-distress trope, which I loved as a kid, and even more as an adult.

    Luke’s whining about doing his chores, on the other hand…yeesh.

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  13. James Joyner says:

    @Jen: I never like these Luke/Leia comparisons. She was raised by a Senator to become a Princess (a process I don’t quite understand, to be honest). He was raised by a farmer to suppress his natural instincts to become a Jedi warrior and was reaching the point in his life where he was naturally rebelling against that.

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  14. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    She was raised by a Senator to become a Princess (a process I don’t quite understand, to be honest).

    I think what Lucas doesn’t know about politics and history would fill a very big library. Therefore much of what he presents is distressingly vague. Still, one can easily rationalize with a little effort thusly:

    First one ought to see the Old Republic as a confederation of sovereign states. Next one ought to assume these various states have different government systems, thus Alderaan can be a monarchy of sorts. Third, the Empire retained some structures from the Republic (Tarkin confirms this in Ep. IV, when he informs his officers the Senate has just been dissolved). So we can conclude Leia is a princess in Alderaan, regardless of whether this is an official title in a monarchy or merely an honorary one in a deposed or no longer ruling royal family, and also a Senator in the Empire.

    This doesn’t mean Jimmy Smits was a king or prince of Alderaan, for all we know it was Leia’s adoptive mother who held power. But he was a Senator in the Republic and might have stayed on in Imperial times.

    But of course, the real power in the galaxy resides with the First Speaker in Trantor. 😛

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  15. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    My favorite scene so far in all of Star Wars is Leia taking Han’s blaster rifle in the detention area and blasting away as she says “Someone has to save our skins.”

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  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Where did Han Solo get his last name?

    I always assumed it was from Napoleon Solo.

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  17. de stijl says:

    I have a really contrarian view, and this is from someone who likes sci-fi and fantasy: I find the whole lot boring and not really good movies.

    Derivative and not even decent homages to the source material. Shallow, uncompelling, uninteresting; static cinematography and indifferent editing. The first one is meh except for Carrie Fischer but with the creepy Leni Riefenstahl ending. Isn’t 12 parsecs a measure of distance, not time? (Einstein might have a quibble with that statement), but still. After than they blur: there was the one with the teddy bears, Luke trains with Yoda, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee actually had some panache), Darth Vader is Luke’s dad (the best take was SCTV’s “Give it up, Luke! I’m your father, eh?”), Leia is someone’s sister. Han sez “I know.”

    Then the prequels trilogy which made the first three look like masterpieces in retrospect – that poor kid playing toddler Vader, Natalie Portman, something happens. Jar Jar, the Senate debates something. Hayden somebody who really cannot act one whit. I have zero clue what happened over three movies and I don’t care to find out because it is inscrutable and boring AF.

    The new ones – I liked Daisy Ridley, she had style and something going on in her head that you could see on her face. Haven’t seen the other two yet.

    You all have every right to love and cherish these movies. I have every right to be bored right out of my skull.

    I also find The Beatles uninteresting, too. Sue me.

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  18. de stijl says:

    Speaking of being bored right out of my skull, here’s the cite:

    The Replacements, I’ll Be You (Official)

    https://youtu.be/k6cud1gp4RE

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  19. de stijl says:

    @James Pearce:

    Dude, you flounced days ago:

    At any rate, let this comment be my farewell.

    You can’t publicly flounce and then just show up again with no explanation or expiation.

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  20. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: The two most interesting ideas were what a galactic civization might look like, and Lucas’ inadvertent revival of Stoic philosophy in the guise of Jedi and the Force.

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  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    So ‘the Force” as the ‘aware ether’ or whatever the term was? So does that make Yoda Zeno? Hmmm. OK, I’ll buy that. I’m skeptical that is was a conscious choice by Lucas, but interesting nevertheless when one discovers (as one does again and again) that the Greeks thought of it first.

    @de stijl:
    Agree on Star Wars. Not on Beatles. I grant you that I rarely listen to Beatles songs while there’s still quite a bit of Stones on my ‘work’ playlist. But they were brilliant. The blues grounding of the Stones makes them more timeless, although I do wish Mick and Keef had paid a bit more attention on some of their lyrics.

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  22. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’ve found that ‘fessing to not really liking The Beatles is something akin to coming out at a super-happy-family Thanksgiving. or stating true and straight that “I’m an atheist” same sitch.

    It’s a minority view. of this I am very aware.

    I’m not a super Stones fan, either. They are way more interesting than The Beatles to me, but not that interesting in the wider scope. I got dragged to three Rolling Stones shows in the late ’80s / early ’90’s. It didn’t suck and I had fun with my friends and was glad they had a great time. That, in itself, is a really good night. Hey, I got to experience Alpine Valley as a concert venue!

    They were stoked and I wasn’t gonna go rain on any parade.

    I know when to shut up.

    Remember, I was a punk rock kid. I was born in ’63. With that vintage and pedigree, I may have been both predisposed to, and influenced by peers to not like those two stalwarts. My peers hated “hippie shit” with a passion. I didn’t fit the stock stereotype of late ’70’s punk kid either. I liked melodic. I liked instruments other than tars and drums. I wanted to explore more emotions than hate and anger. I wanted more.

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  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy:

    Solo (comes) from Han’s infamous “Kessel Run” line.

    “Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.” I mean, we saw the movies, and we rarely saw any Stormtrooper hit anything.

    Yeah, “twelve parsecs” is worse than Doc Brown saying “jigawatt” all the time, and I’m so happy to find someone else noticed that otherwise Storm Troopers can’t seem to hit the broadside of a barn from inside.

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  24. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: Oh, I don’t think it was a conscious choice by Lucas. Most likely he tripped and fell into the idea of a unifying force. But whatever the source of not-so-inspiration, I found it interesting to explore in a movie format, both because Stoicism is mostly forgotten and because I practice the philosophy.

    As an aside for the curious, the modern scientific equivalents of the “Force” are cosmopsychism or panpsychism.

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  25. James Pearce says:

    @de stijl:

    You can’t publicly flounce and then just show up again with no explanation or expiation.

    And yet, I persisted.

    (If it makes you feel better, you can imagine me like this. I’m the sarcastic guy at the end.)

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  26. michael reynolds says:

    @de stijl:

    I’ve found that ‘fessing to not really liking The Beatles is something akin to coming out at a super-happy-family Thanksgiving

    .

    No doubt. I never liked Michael Jackson. I recognize his genius, but that’s different than enjoying his music. I’ve never followed a band or committed to any musical genre as an identifier, though, as I think mentioned before, my playlist is dominated by ‘R’: Rancid, Ramones, Rolling Stones and old-school Reggae.

    My relationship with music is sadly limited and rather prescriptive. I use it largely to manipulate my brain into writing. I recently heard that Lee Child relies on three C’s: Caffeine, Cigars and Cannabis. Ditto for me, and add using punk rock as background music, especially for writing action scenes. Punk strips things down to basics, it’s about momentum and wild emotions – just like a good fight scene.

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  27. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    You sure cosmopsychism doesn’t involve cocktails and the cast of Sex And The City?

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  28. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Rancid is a really, really great choice. The Ramones is a great choice.

    Olympia WA. is my favorite Rancid song. Protect your ears, but loud as you can take is the right way to go. Red Hot Moon works too, plus skanking and old school tu-tone lacies. Roots Radical, Ruby Soho. Time Bomb. Rancid is a super solid choice. Ruby Soho is another great as loud as you can take it song. Play, repeat, repeat. Protect your ears, though – you only get one set.

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  29. de stijl says:

    Red Hot Moon video (almost) shows huffing though, which I despise. There is enough of it out there as it is just organically and it is tragic. It’s a one way street. Nothing good came from huffing ever. Well, maybe oblivion, but there are better ways if you need that.

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  30. de stijl says:

    @James Pearce:

    I love The Mist just because of the ending. That was very dark and perfect. A decent movie version of a King story, but the last five minutes were extraordinary. (Darabont re-used that whole cast for TWD, didn’t he?)

    Kudos on the “expiation” vid. You pulled that out your brain which is very cool.

    Here’s that last 5:43 of The Mist
    https://youtu.be/ktqNNsVJhUE

    King preferred Darabont’s ending over his own after he saw it. Good contemporary 2007 article from The A.V. Club on the differences between the novella and the film. https://www.avclub.com/book-vs-film-the-mist-1798213030

    You still flounced. You want backsies. I’m all out, myself.

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  31. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl: I’ve ignored the diss of Star Wars and the Beatles. But defending the ending to the 2007 The Mist? Please. Every defense I’ve heard of it has always revolved around its being a gut-punch. If not for that factor, I’m convinced, it would be almost universally regarded as ridiculous. It’s a friggin’, blatant deus ex machina–the kind that’s usually a red flag for lazy writing. (I also think it’s a bit of a ripoff of the end of Shaun of the Dead, the 2004 zomedy–and frankly it’s the sort of ending that works better in comedy. Maybe I misunderstood the Darabont film and it was intended to be darkly comic–as you might expect from a film that ends with the main character screaming at the sky.)

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  32. Kylopod says:

    As for King defending the ending, I’m not sure he’s the best judge of these things. I liked the ambiguous ending to the original novella, but King also has a tendency toward overkill in some of his endings (remember the ending to The Dark Half, where a flock of birds just suddenly come out of the sky and devour the villain?).

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  33. Kathy says:

    I didn’t want to bring this up before, but now that (likely) no one will read it:

    Of the four Star Wars movies of the modern era, Solo is the only one without a female lead, and also the only one not to make a decent showing at the box office.

    From this we can conclude without further examination that correlation does not equal causation.

    I liked the movie, I’m not sorry I saw it, I don’t begrudge the time spent seeing it, but I wouldn’t pay to see it again.

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  34. Lounsbury says:

    I too rather liked it. Almost as much as Rogue One and far, far better than the last installment of the main story line.
    Quite interesting the rather greater opening to the mixed race actors, and pairings. A subtle statement in the era of nationalist reaction.

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  35. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    You are so far off base, you’d get picked off in Tee Ball. (Hey wattya know! I don’t totally suck at snaps.)

    Thomas Jane was emoting. He had an actorly moment. It was a meta-trope shot. Yes, he was kneeling and shouting “NOOOO!” at an indifferent sky, but at least it wasn’t raining.

    Apparently, you’re not a fan?

    Maybe a George Miller styled road chase scene?

    I do like that ending, though.

    Speaking of George Miller we need the follow to Fury Road any day now.

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  36. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    I re-read the Dark Tower books last fall, and talk about deus ex machina. It’s a downpour of spontaneous magical plot savers. The last two books especially.

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  37. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    Apparently, you’re not a fan?

    Not a fan of the ending. I’m sort of a fan of the movie as a whole, which is to say I thought it was a solid film except for the ending. But the ending almost ruined it for me.

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  38. Hal_10000 says:

    @Kathy:

    I won’t post a critique, but just mention I was very upset and disappointed that Padme died of nothing at all. And if anyone tells me she dies of a “broken heart,” so help me, I hope we never meet in person

    I actually encountered a theory through Cinema Wins that made sense of that scene: that she died because Anakin took her life so that he could live (or she gave it up for him, or the Emperor used his powers to take her life to save Anakin). If you listen closely, his heartbeat actually stops when he’s being operated on and then resumes after she dies. And this is hinted at in the story of Darth Pelagius.

    I have a much higher opinion of the prequel trilogy than most people do. I can filter out the bad stuff and focus on the good stuff, which is abundant (see, e.g., Cinema Wins reviews of them). I find them especially effective if you watch them in order of 4-5-1-2-3-6, which is how I showed them to my daughter. As a flashback to the fall of the Jedi, it works. it sets up the parallels better. And the revelation of Leia is better handled in Sith than Return.

    My favorite scene so far in all of Star Wars is Leia taking Han’s blaster rifle in the detention area and blasting away as she says “Someone has to save our skins.”

    At bath time, I always say to my son, “into the bath, flyboy!”

    I’ll probably check out Solo at some point. I suspect I’ll like it.

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  39. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I actually encountered a theory through Cinema Wins that made sense of that scene

    It’s always possible to come up with theories to explain any apparent problem or inconsistency in a movie, book, or whatever. It’s one of the things fans do. But I think it’s pretty clear that Lucas essentially painted himself into a corner.

    It reminded me a little of how the movie Somewhere in Time handled the ending of the Richard Matheson novel it was adapted from (while we’re on the topic of changed endings). In the book, we find out in the early chapters that the protagonist has an inoperable brain tumor, and his impending death hovers over the entire novel. The movie, however, completely eliminates that plot point and the young man appears to be in good health. So how do they explain his death at the end? He’s so traumatized by what he goes through that he just sits in his room and starves himself–basically a mixture of heartbreak and suicide.

    I think something similar was at work in the Star Wars prequels. ROTJ has that scene in which Leia claims to remember her mom and implies that she died when they were little. But I don’t think Lucas had any clear idea how she was supposed to have died, and frankly, I suspect that when he was working on the prequels his initial idea was that Anakin kills her, but he pulled back from that because it was so dark. He could have had it go along with the prophecy that she dies in childbirth, but for whatever reason he decided to keep her alive long enough to name her babies. Of course that left open the question of why Leia claimed to remember her. Either it was a false memory or her latent Force abilities gave her the ability to remember all the way back to infancy.

    Heartbreak may be a real condition, but in fiction it seems to be a plot development writers turn to out of desperation. You can come up with some other explanation for what happens to Padme, but as far as the story is concerned, no matter how you cut it, it’s contrived.

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  40. Kathy says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I actually encountered a theory through Cinema Wins that made sense of that scene:

    As a rehabilitated trekkie, I shouldn’t criticize. So I won’t. but I don’t believe that for a nanosecond.

    Now, maybe it’s all the reading I’ve been doing lately on bronze age mythology, but here’s what should have happened:

    Anakin strangles Padme, either with his hands or with the Force, and leaves her for dead. Kenobi then fights Anakin (with better dialogue) and leaves him for dead.

    He goes back to Padme and finds her unconscious and on the brink of death. He does what he can, but she dies right there on the ground of Mustafar. Then he takes his trusty light sabre, cuts Padme open and removes the babies before they die.

    Later Palpatine finds Anakin as Kenobi left him, maimed and burned. He’s still alive, and barely conscious. In a rare moment of candor, he tells him “Lord Vader, I can keep you from dying, but you won’t ever recover your health and vigor. If I were you, I’d choose death.” Whereupon Anakin begs Palpatine to keep him from dying.

    Kenobi finds Senator Organa and tells him the children, future Jedi, must be kept hidden from Palpatine and Anakin. And they should be split up, so if one is found the other may remain safe.

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  41. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    They actually explained the “parsecs” and distance thing a long time ago in the expanded universe, and went with the same basic explanation in Solo. The route basically involves how close you can fly to a singularity and not get pulled in, a combination of ship engine power and navigational expertise. Of course, like most I really think Lucas just screwed up and people had to come up with a fancy way of explaining it, like on so many other points.

    My opinions: I liked Solo, much more than any of the prequels or the horribly derivative 7/8 (which also make the originals kind of pointless because what was the point of beating the Empire and freeing the Galaxy if it is back 30 years later?). Rogue One is my favorite Star Wars film since the original 3, precisely because it went with new characters and in different directions (and the plot actually explained around another Lucas stupidity, ie why there was such a glaring weakness in the Death Star design, in a reasonable way). And then it had the guts to kill all the heroes off. I wish Disney would spend more time exploring the universe, and less time on the Skywalkers vs Empire stuff.

    Solo Spoiler ahead:
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    Best bit of the new movie was the showdown at the end, where Beckett was pontificating and Solo just shot him. In many ways a massive middle finger to Lucas and his special edition remake: Han didn’t just shoot Greedo first, he was the only one who shot!

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