Solo: A Star Wars Story 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
It’s no secret that there was some behind-the-scenes controversy in making SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. The fresh, young, creative directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (THE LEGO MOVIE, 21 JUMP STREET) were hired and reportedly mostly finished with the film when Disney and the co-directors decided to part ways due to creative differences. In walks a veteran and widely considered safe director, Ron Howard, to take the reigns, reshoot and finish the film. My belief in the film definitely wavered after this move. However, I think I can safely say that the end product of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is a fun, adventurous ride with just the right amount of tension, humor, and personality to make this a worthy installment to the Star Wars franchise.
Years before the rebellion, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY follows the early rise of a young, crafty Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). Surviving on the sketchy streets of Corellia, Solo seems to have a knack and confidence to get out of any situation. Unfortunately, his partner and first love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), isn’t quite as lucky when they attempt to escape the planet and Solo vows to find a ship of his own to get back to her as soon as possible. Thankfully, things don’t play out as conventionally as in the mind of young Solo. While his motivation is the catalyst for the story, the plot takes some turns and introduces Han to the dangerous, unpredictable yet freeing life of a smuggler… And probably more importantly, a few key players along the way.
The set pieces are exquisite, staging beautiful locations and cleverly weaving in exciting action with some surprising tension. However, the strong performances and the personality that comes with them is what ultimately sells Solo. Thankfully, the film oozes charisma with plenty of colorful characters. How Han meets his eventual co-pilot and loyal companion Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) or the competitive relationship with the charming and cheating gambler Lando Cairissian (Donald Glover) are great moments. But the influence of a team of shady smugglers led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) or Lando’s sassy droid L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who definitely has her own independence, fighting for equality for her kind are the new additions that give the story a deeper identity from what we already know.
Unlike Episodes 1-3, SOLO doesn’t simply serve the purpose to talk about or explain the movies that we’ve already seen. However, that’s not to say its free of this charge. There are plenty of moments where the audience is force-fed a callback to a different Star Wars episode. But there is a bit of humor or even grand gesture that helps these somewhat cheesy moments work and even on some occasion give fans a “Woohoo” moment. For the most part, many of the scenes are able to both provide fan-service and deepen the characters organically furthering the action in the story.
Providing an almost Indiana Jones spirit, the screenplay by longtime Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan Kasdan, does an admirable job of delivering an easy to swallow, adventurous tone. While the two-hour-and-fifteen-minute runtime is a touch too long, the pace moves quickly. Alden Ehrenreich is an excellent young Han, full of rebelious, scoundrel-like moxie. But what ultimately convinces the audience to buy into the new face of such a beloved character is the familiarity sights of Chewie and the Millennium Falcon, who are both the most important counterparts to our buddy Han.
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is not groundbreaking as one of the great Star Wars storylines, but it’s a joyful ride and insightfully reinforces everything we know and love about one of the galaxy’s most interesting characters. On a couple of occasions it brought my audience to applause and on plenty more occasions to audible laughs. Maybe SOLO does play it somewhat safe, but it’s also a success. I for one, look forward to the next adventure with any of these characters. One might even say, “I’ve got a good feeling about this.”
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: This is an extremely dark transfer. That stood out to me very early on as i struggled to make out basic definition in the opening scenes. The movie was very dark in the theater, but on 4K, what passed or pale or washed out black levels is replaced with very deep, bold black levels. On one hand, that’s a good thing because the colors seem slightly smoother, but on the other hand, it makes the image almost too dark to watch in some cases. Once Han leaves Corellia, I thought the image would pick up, but it turns out the entire movie is very bland and flat, so the 4K doesn’t have much to work with. Even scenes where there is a pop of color, like with Lando’s shirt or Dryden’s swords, look bland and washed out. This is a very disappointing transfer, but I think it has more to do with how it was filmed than anything with the transfer.
Audio: I enjoyed the Dolby Atmos track, which features some nice surround effects and immerses you into the action. I wouldn’t say it’s lightyears better than the Blu-ray’s audio, but it’s definitely a nice track.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no 4K exclusive special features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which has the following special features:
The first question you probably have is whether or not the behind the scenes drama is ever addressed in any of these features and the answer is a resounding no. That’s not Disney’s style, but it would have been nice for them to address it head on.
Deleted Scenes (15:15): Eight scenes in total, none of which stand out. Key observers might recognize some brief moments that appeared in the trailers but didn’t make it into the movie.
Solo: The Director and Cast Roundtable (21:45): Director Ron Howard moderates a roundtable discussion with the cast of the film. They avoid the elephant in the room, but overall they seem to have a good time talking about the film.
Kasdan on Kasdan (7:50): The father-son writing team talk about the film.
Remaking the Millennium Falcon (5:35): The iconic ship gets its own featurette.
Escape from Corellia (10:00) and The Train Heist (14:30): Two key action sequences for the movie get their own featurettes.
Team Chewie (6:40): The Han-Chewie relationship gets its own featurette.
Becoming a Droid: L3-37 (5:05): A closer look at the scene-stealing droid and the voice actress that played her.
Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso (8:00): The settings and the card game get examined further.
Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run (8:28): This is a nice featurette focusing on the special effects and visuals in the film.