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Monday, 11 June 2018

Movie review: Solo: A Star Wars Story, dir Ron Howard (2018)

This tightly-plotted action movie resembles nothing so much as a shoot-em-up American “Western” from the middle of the 20th century. In the seats next to mine there was a middle-aged father with a posse of four 12-year-old boys that no doubt included at least one of his own children, and they really got into this silly film, which has little of interest for adults. When Solo (Alden Ehrenrich) and his love interest, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) started kissing at one point, one of the boys expressed his distaste for the sentiments being expressed on-screen in suitably dramatic fashion by bringing his hands to his mouth and making sounds as though he were throwing up.

The only point of interest for adults was the story of L3-37 (with the voice of Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who humorously provokes a general revolt on the planet Kessel when Solo and his team of bandits go there to carry out a heist, and who is in love with her owner, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) but is too proud to admit it to anyone even when asked directly. She brings a rare spark of life to an otherwise dead product. The extent of the absolute bankruptcy of the franchise is critical and nothing other than tonnes of money can conceivably bring it back to life again.

For Australians the other amusing aspect of this movie is the title. The word “Solo” was commandeered by Australian soft-drink manufacturers in the 1970s for a lemon-flavoured beverage. The drink has always been marketed to men on the back of a myth of masculine individuality, so slapping the word on a movie like this makes the whole episode feel like a brand of perfume that has been brought to market by some random celebrity with an eye for a quick buck.

The action is relentless and as soon as one problem is solved another one offers itself up for solving. But there’s no point to it all and there are no deeper themes being explored apart from the notion of feminine loyalty, which Qi’ra strongly embodies. This is not really important enough to compensate for a paucity of meaning elsewhere. Americans keep on telling themselves the same tired stories again and again, they can’t get enough of them, but nobody but themselves believes them. And giving young men more food for their violent fantasies is hardly heroic from the point of view of a film’s conception.

There are too many deaths being perpetrated in America every year because of unchecked access to guns, they don’t need any more aggrandising cultural products that feed into the same corrupt complex of ideas. The frontier and its violence were anyway a myth dreamed up in the 20th century by Hollywood in order to make money, and if anything can be taken away from this movie it is that unbridled greed will lead to misery or, if not that, at least general unhappiness. This is truly a movie for the age of Donald Trump.

3 comments:

roger of bangalow said...

Thank you for a humane review!

Matthew da Silva said...

Thanks for your comment!

Unknown said...

2k movies - First and foremost, I hate CGI when its overused and replaces story substance. This movie fell right into that mode. Sadly, the majority of movie goers seem to like CGI more than story. Unlikable characters were abound and amazing CGI chase scenes followed one after another with the predictable weak attempts of witty dialogue made this movie truly unique for the simple reason I fell asleep not once, but TWICE in this movie. That hasn't happened since I saw Avatar several years back. If you love CGI, see it. You will love it. If you don't, save your money and watch the first two. They are the only ones worth watching.
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