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Solo: A Star Wars Story (Blu-ray) (2018)
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Details At A Glance
Featurette-Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Team Chewie
Featurette-Kasdan on Kasdan
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Remaking the Millennium Falcon
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Escape from Corellia
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Train Heist
Featurette-Becoming a Droid: L3-37
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures & Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run
Year Of Production
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew
||Language Select Then Menu
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Pan & Scan/Full Frame
English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
|Original Aspect Ratio
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
The second standalone Star Wars anthology movie after Rogue One in 2016, Solo: A Star Wars Story certainly endured a bumpy production period, exacerbated by worrying press coverage. With director Ron Howard coming aboard late in the process to complete filming and reshoot a bulk of the feature, and with certain vocal fans sharpening their knives in preparation for the end result, it appeared that almost everything was working against Solo, but the resultant movie actually works, thanks to a charismatic cast, astute scripting, and focused filmmaking. It helps that The Empire Strikes Back scribe Lawrence Kasdan co-wrote the screenplay, collaborating with son Jonathan to hatch a history lesson about the titular scoundrel several years before his fateful meeting with Luke Skywalker. Although not perfect, Solo is a welcome entry to the Star Wars canon, providing slick thrills and an engaging narrative, representing another home run for the Disney-distributed Star Wars series. No matter its imperfections, it is still a d*** sight better than the prequels.
It is a lawless time, and the shipbuilding planet of Corellia is ruled by ruthless crime boss Lady Proxima (Linda Hunt). Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) dreams of becoming a pilot and buying his own ship to make a new life for himself with girlfriend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke). In a bold dash to escape Corellia, Solo becomes separated from his lover, which motivates him to sign up for the Imperial Fleet to develop his flying skills. Three years later, Han has been expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy, and instead serves as an infantryman. Encountering fellow prisoner Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Solo deserts the Empire, joining a band of thieves led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and becoming embroiled in a scheme to steal a hundred kilos of valuable starship fuel known as coaxium. However, complications arise and the gang is left in debt to gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), necessitating a seemingly impossible heist to steal unrefined coaxium from Kessel. Vos also insists that his top lieutenant, Qi'ra, accompanies the team. The requirements of the job lead the crew to veteran smuggler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), who has the benefit of a top navigational droid in L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and the fastest ship in the galaxy: the Millennium Falcon.
Solo has much to work through, striving to cover the genesis of Han's surname, how he met both Lando and Chewbacca, and the events which led to everyone's favourite smuggler taking ownership of the Falcon. The Kasdans shrewdly solve the issue of the Kessel Run as well, demonstrating exactly why Solo brags about a unit of distance as opposed to time. The very notion of a Solo-centric spinoff does inherently forbid character development since the events of the original trilogy represent his "origin," and deepening Han's character within a prequel would threaten to take away from the payoff at the end of 1977's Star Wars, when the detached, money-hungry loner unexpectedly swoops in to help Luke during the Battle of Yavin. Although Solo lacks a significant arc as a result, and is therefore somewhat shallow, the Kasdans nevertheless find fertile dramatic ground to delve into. Perhaps an extra segment could have explored Han's youth since he speaks about running jobs on the streets as a ten-year-old, but Howard and the Kasdans wisely elect to get to the meat of the story as quickly as possible.
One of the reported reasons behind the sacking of original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller related to the pair creating more of a farce played specifically for laughs, butchering the Kasdans' script in the process. With Howard taking over the controls, Solo has less humour than anticipated, standing in stark contrast to 2017's surprisingly amusing Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Amazingly, the switch in directors is seamless, and Solo never feels like a fractured work of conflicting creative visions. Admittedly, however, certain lines of dialogue feel too on-the-noise, and Han's relationship with Qi'ra - which was evidently designed to provide heart at the centre of the chaos - fails to gain much traction. In addition, unlike the recent saga entries which were shot on celluloid, Solo was captured digitally, and darkness unfortunately pervades the cinematography by Bradford Young (Arrival). Remarkable special effects notwithstanding, the movie simply looks too dim, marred by a drab colour palette crying out for more vibrancy - it's a far cry from the lush, colourful visuals of The Last Jedi. Nevertheless, Young's framing remains magnificent, with frequently stylish compositions and some instantly iconic images throughout.
Despite a hastened production schedule, Solo's digital effects continually impress. Considering the decision to retain the original release date in the face of a hasty directorial change, it's relieving to behold such superb craftsmanship. Mixing practical effects and CG, there's often an appreciable tangibility to the visuals, as one would expect from a summer movie which reportedly cost up to $300 million to produce. Furthermore, the decision to shoot on real sets and locations when possible is beneficial, resulting in an effective tactile aesthetic as opposed to something more overtly digital. Solo is chock-full of electrifying set-pieces, ranging from a nail-biting opening speeder chase on Corellia, to a climactic shootout permeated with an agreeable western vibe. But nothing can top the elaborate heist sequence atop an Imperial locomotive high in the mountain peaks, which is beset with complications. It's a gripping, technically proficient sequence, adrenaline-pumping and fun in equal measure. Admittedly, some of the CGI - particularly during the Kessel Run - looks obvious, but these moments are fleeting. Topping everything off, the original score by John Powell (Jason Bourne) manages to find its own sound while subtly evoking John Williams's seminal contributions to the series. Williams actually composed an exuberant track for Solo's opening, which appropriately sets the tone.
Even though Ehrenreich does not look or sound much like Harrison Ford, he certainly looks the part of Han Solo whilst in costume, and manages to capture the essence of the iconic role. The Hail, Caesar actor was no doubt under a lot of pressure, but he's instantly likeable and natural, while his performance is more than a mere act of mimicry. Ehrenreich may not match Ford, but who could? Meanwhile, the ever-reliable Harrelson is predictably top-notch, and the movie makes great use of Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke. Glover is ideal casting as Lando, making for the perfect successor to Billy Dee Williams. Encapsulating the character's inherent coolness and nailing the appropriate mannerisms without feeling forced, he's a real bright spot, and it's only a shame that he feels somewhat underused. Indeed, more scenes with Glover and Ehrenreich together would be welcome. Additionally, Bettany sinks his teeth into this villainous role, while Thandie Newton makes a positive impression as Beckett's lover. The ensemble's sole downfall is Waller-Bridge as L3. Ostensibly included as an answer to Alan Tudyk's K-2SO in Rogue One, L3 does not work on any level. Despite Waller-Bridge's spunky performance, the droid sounds like a hipster from a bad Diablo Cody film, with tone-deaf dialogue and jokes which fall flat. Furthermore, a subplot involving Lando harbouring feelings for the droid is completely half-assed.
Solo: A Star Wars Story has its shortcomings, particularly with a beefy 135-minute runtime and some needlessly dense plotting, but this is nevertheless an enjoyable, buoyant Star Wars adventure bolstered by a charismatic lead. The set-pieces are consistently thrilling, while the picture also manages to fill certain gaps and continue to deepen the franchise's ever-expanding mythology. This is a minor, perhaps even disposable Star Wars adventure, but that is precisely what Solo needed to be. Furthermore, unlike Rogue One, it leaves enough time between its dénouement and the events of A New Hope to allow for sequels, and Solo's last scene suggests that there is more of Han's past to explore if any further adventures are on the cards.
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The latest Star Wars movie debuts on home video courtesy of Disney in a variety of flavours: regular Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray (both with and without bonus discs), and 4K Blu-ray (including a steelbook variation). Whereas Disney's Marvel titles continue to receive mediocre encodes with middling bitrates on Blu-ray, Solo: A Star Wars Story is thankfully given an entire dual-layered 50GB disc to itself, while all the extras are housed on a separate BD-25. The resulting 1080p, AVC-encoded high definition presentation has been mastered with a superb average bitrate approaching 33 Mbps, to minimise compression issues. This Blu-ray presentation retains the movie's theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1, and the encode has undoubtedly been performed competently, with the high bitrate helping matters. However, it's not an instant home run like Disney's releases of Rogue One or The Force Awakens, as the digitally-shot source doesn't exactly lend itself to 1080p Blu-ray all that well. Indeed, cinematographer Bradford Young's style is very deliberate, bathing the specifically-graded image in shadows, dim greys and oppressive blacks, making this the furthest thing imaginable from the bright, insanely colourful Star Wars movies to which we are accustomed.
When the transfer is on, it's really on, with firm textures on faces, costumes and sets. During the opening speeder chase through Corellia, the presentation often soars despite excessive shadows and areas of darkness. Likewise, the transfer acquits itself admirably in Lady Proxima's dim, blue-tinted chamber, faithfully retaining the colour grading whilst resolving adequate textures and maintaining satisfying sharpness. However, owing to the deliberate lighting scheme and the limitations of SDR 1080p, the presentation tends to look skewiff and flat at times, struggling to resolve fine detail and highlights. This is especially true in certain scenes when dim lighting is involved, such as in the bar when Han first meets Lando. Contrast is merely so-so and blacks aren't inky enough, though again this traces back to the limitations of the format with its restricted dynamic range. When Han and Qi'ra are at the Coronet Spaceport at the 10-minute mark, the image suddenly looks soft all-round, lacking the tightness and precision we expect from this format. This is particularly noticeable during mid shots when faces are shrouded in shadows, as skin looks overly smooth due to poor highlights. In wide shots during the spaceport scene, object delineation is strictly average. Nevertheless, during better-lit close-ups of Han at 13:35, facial textures are more noticeable and highlights are improved. Wide landscape shots on Vandor-1 are superb, with mountains looking sharp and with ample intricacies on display. But at night, the transfer again struggles to resolve textures, instead looking mostly smooth and flat. The sky at night is a mushy, undefined mess.
Luckily, most of the cockpit scenes look terrific, with ample fine detail on faces and the meticulously-designed set itself. These scenes are often sharp, too, allowing you to make out every nook and cranny of the Falcon's cockpit. Additionally, L3 - a seamless mix of practical and digital effects - looks very pleasing more often than not, with nicely resolved wires and working parts. And at the transfer's best moments, the hair on Chewie's body is sharply defined. However, the inconsistencies of the presentation are evident throughout Solo's two-hour duration. For every satisfying facial close-up, or sharply-refined landscape shot, there are dim shots which look smooth and flat, while blacks usually look more grey, with the image appearing overly murky at times. Hell, shots of space at the 63-minute mark are milky black, with no inkiness or sense of depth. Colours never pop, with the palette looking deliberately muted and bleak. Bradford Young's cinematographic style simply isn't a good fit for the limited colour space of 1080p Blu-ray, just like 2016's Arrival. On the bright side, I was unable to detect any outright encoding anomalies, such as macroblocking, banding or aliasing. Furthermore, "grain haters" should enjoy this one, as Solo was shot digitally with various Arri Alexa cameras, and the resulting image is noticeably clean, with not much in the way of source noise. Noise does sneak in, which is more noticeable in some scenes than others, but it's extremely fine and never distracting. This is all true to how the movie looked at the cinema.
I feel like I'm being extremely harsh on this transfer, which is not exactly intended. The bottom line is that Solo: A Star Wars Story looks good, sometimes great in 1080p, and casual viewers with smaller screens will have no issues with it, but videophiles with larger, more expensive television screens will have some reservations. Nevertheless, it is eminently watchable, and is certainly better looking than the movie's more compressed iTunes stream. I certainly do not want to imagine how Solo would look if the bitrate was significantly lower. Indeed, whoever encoded the disc does deserve plaudits for doing a serviceable job with a difficult source. I'm just glad that Disney are also offering a superior 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray alternative.
A selection of subtitle options are available. The English (for the hearing impaired) track is free of issues to my eyes. It's worth pointing out that subtitles automatically appear for non-English dialogue, depending on the language of the chosen audio track - they are not burned into the master.
Video Ratings Summary
Solo: A Star Wars Story was released in Dolby Cinemas with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, but as per usual, this standard Blu-ray is only permitted a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix while the Atmos mix is saved for the 4K edition. As ever, there's something slightly off with this audio mix, as Disney unfortunately continue to neuter audio mixes for home video. Solo is not as utterly appalling as something like Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is the low bar for Disney audio, but it never reaches the heights that it had the potential to reach - and that's disappointing. The primary issue is one of flattened dynamic range and a lack of low-frequency effects, which serves to make the track sound a tad limp on the whole. Indeed, even when large vehicular engines are heard or blasters are fired, there is some subwoofer activity, but the lack of LFE is instantly noticeable. Voices sound slightly hollow, which occasionally renders dialogue difficult to understand. The coaxium explosion on Vandor-1 does exhibit some satisfying LFE and surround activity, but it's still not as deafening as it should be. In terms of dynamic range, the surround channels are used for some separation and panning effects during certain scenes, with sounds of water drops in Lady Proxima's chamber, the sound of a TIE Fighter flying overhead at 17:15, or Beckett's ship leaving Mimban at 24:45. However, the track is primarily front-centric - the surround channels are utilised for John Powell's score, but volume is noticeably lower. Indeed, the surround activity is very muted, which often makes the track sound like an old stereo mix as opposed to brand new 7.1 blockbuster audio.
On a more positive note, the track still gets the job done. The mix is still suitably loud during the major action set-pieces, while prioritisation ably brings out dialogue amid sound effects and music. Dialogue may be a bit hollow and lacking in pristine clarity, but at least it's not drowned out by other sounds. I found the track to fare a bit better in the movie's latter stages, with the Kessel Mines shootout and the subsequent Kessel Run sequence sounding suitably loud, though you do need to crank up the sound higher than usual to get the full effect. Additionally, I didn't detect any drop-outs, sync issues, pops or clicks - the track is free of such bothersome encoding artefacts. Like the video, I am being overly harsh on this audio transfer, but only because I know it had the potential to be much better - I saw the film in the cinema with Atmos audio, and it sounded fuller and deeper than it does on Blu-ray. For those interested, the disc also contains English Descriptive Audio (in Dolby Digital 2.0), as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. I concentrated on the lossless 7.1 mix for this review, and the score is reflected below.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
As with Rogue One, there is no audio commentary included. Instead, the set only offers a selection of video extras; fifteen minutes of deleted scenes, and over ninety minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes covering screenwriting, shooting, digital effects and sound design, though unfortunately not music. It's a characteristically strong selection of extras, but the lack of a commentary remains disappointing.
Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable (HD; 21:45) Director (and moderator for the featurette) Ron Howard sits down with Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Alden Ehrenreich, Paul Bettany, Joonas Suotamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Thandie Newton. Howard asks the actors a variety of questions, which leads to amusing discussions - it's obvious that everybody gets along. Although they don't explicitly mention original directors Lord and Miller, Howard asks Ehrenreich and Suotamo about the filming of their fight scene in the heavy mud, as it was the first thing that was shot on the picture, before Howard came aboard. Howard's first day of shooting is also covered, which was the day that George Lucas visited the set. It's enjoyable to see these types of candid, light-hearted discussions about the making of the movie, though this could have run for a solid hour.
Team Chewie (HD; 6:41) This brisk, fast-moving behind-the-scenes featurette concentrates on Chewbacca, logically enough. The Kasdans reveal their approach to the relationship between Han and Chewie, while the sound designers cover their efforts in creating Chewie's vocabulary, and the creation and application of the elaborate costume is covered as well. Other topics include the stunt training, and an analysis of Chewie as a character. There is plenty of on-set footage intercut with the interview material.
Kasdan on Kasdan (HD; 7:50) Beginning with an excerpt from an archival 1993 interview with Lawrence Kasdan, this extra concentrates on Solo's screenwriters. Lawrence reveals that he actually chose to write a Solo-centric movie, while Jonathan discusses his upbringing and history with the Star Wars franchise. They talk about their working relationship and writing the movie, while Lawrence's history with Star Wars is also explored.
Remaking the Millennium Falcon (HD; 5:36) Various members of the crew reveal the thought process behind envisioning the Falcon when under Lando, including the interior and exterior differences to the ship we know and love. The crew actually used the Falcon set from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with adjustments. Construction of the Falcon is shown, while Glover waxes lyrical as he gives us a tour of the inside of his ship.
Escape from Corellia (HD; 9:59) The speeder chase through Corellia is covered here. The desire to achieve as much as possible in-camera is touched upon, and we are given glimpses of the vehicles. Han's speeder was designed to resemble a muscle car from the 1970s, and the chase itself was influenced by '70s car chases. In addition, the design of Corellia is explored in agreeable detail - the planet has been referenced before in movies, but never actually shown on the big screen. The use of digital effects is also discussed, with VFX comparisons being offered. Various pieces of concept art, as well as a generous selection of on-set footage, is included throughout to show how the sequence was shot.
The Train Heist (HD; 14:30) The longest featurette is dedicated to the outstanding train heist sequence. Cast and crew speak about the conceptual work on the sequence, with the design of the train and the movie's Western influences being touched upon. Previz and "stunt viz" is covered, and we get to see both the location filming as well as the soundstage shooting, to give us an idea of the challenges involved in bringing the sequence to life. Other topics include the complex sound mixing, the digital effects (including the creation of the character Rio, for which we get to see Jon Favreau recording his lines), and the Coaxium explosion. As with the other extras on this disc, this is insightful and fascinating, rather than fluffy or EPK-style.
Becoming a Droid: L3-37 (HD; 5:07) L3 gets her own featurette here. The design of the character is touched upon, including the astonishing amount of practical effects to make the droid look as tangible as possible on-screen. Waller-Bridge gets a bit of interview time to talk about the character and its philosophies. It's also nice to see the rear projection used for the Millennium Falcon cockpit.
Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso (HD; 8:02) The location of Fort Ypso, where Han plays a game of Sabacc with Lando and a group of aliens. Production designer Neil Lamont walks us through the entirely practical set, full of intricate details and embellishments to make it feel as authentic as possible. The incredible puppetry is also touched upon, with the crew committed to achieving as much as they could with practical effects. The crew even had to establish the game of Sabacc, including rules and playing cards, and we get a brief tutorial on how the game is played.
Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run (HD; 8:29) Howard was committed to creating a heightened immediacy during shooting, which led ILM to create rear projection screens for the actors to see whilst in the cockpit, and these rear-projected images are what is seen in the final movie. Mountains of behind-the-scenes footage shows shooting the cockpit scenes, and Waller-Bridge expresses how exhilarating it was to see the jump to lightspeed happening in front of her on set. The sound design for the Kessel Run sequence, and the Falcon in general, is covered too. This extra ends with credits for the featurettes, solidifying that this is meant to be taken as one big, almost 90-minute documentary.
Deleted Scenes (HD; 15:18) There are eight scenes to view here. These can be viewed individually, or via a "Play All" function. The scenes are as follows:
- Proxima's Den (1:20)
- Corellian Foot Chase (1:45)
- Han Solo: Imperial Cadet (1:56) - This deleted scene shows how Han's career as a pilot came to an end and how he was re-assigned to an infantry unit on Mimban. The information is valuable, but it's easy to see how this would have affected pacing.
- The Battle of Mimban: Extended (2:00) - As implied by the title, this is additional battle material on Mimban involving Beckett's crew. This should have been kept in considering how frenetic it is.
- Han Versus Chewie: Extended (5:33) - This does get excessive, making it easy to see why it was trimmed.
- Snowball Fight! (00:46) - This is a nice little beat, no doubt a contribution of Lord and Miller as it's rather funny.
- Meet Dryden: Extended (1:13)
- Coaxium Double-Cross (00:39)
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
Supplemental material is identical to the U.S. release. There are various retailer exclusives with different packaging, but that comes down to your personal preference. In terms of content, it's a draw. Buy local.
It severely underperformed at the box office and critical response wasn't overwhelming, but Solo: A Star Wars Story remains an entertaining, competent Star Wars adventure that's better than it had any right to be. I liked it at the cinema, and it holds up on home video.
Disney's Blu-ray arrives with a mediocre 1080p transfer that's limited by the movie's deliberate visual style, as well as a somewhat underwhelming 7.1 audio mix that suffers from Disney's usual tendencies of late. However, there is an enjoyable selection of special features available on the included bonus disc. All things considered, this one still comes recommended.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, March 15, 2019
|DVD||Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|