Solo: A Star Wars Story (4K Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 3-Oct-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 135:46
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ron Howard
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Alden Ehrenreich
Joonas Suotamo
Woody Harrelson
Emilia Clarke
Donald Glover
Thandie Newton
Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Paul Bettany
Jon Favreau
Erin Kellyman
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music John Powell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Cantonese
Korean
Mandarin
Thai
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    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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Transfer Quality

Video

    Even though 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story underperformed at the box office and reportedly lost money for the House of Mouse, Disney thankfully elected to release the movie on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, and the disc's 2160p transfer unsurprisingly improves upon its rather underwhelming 1080p counterpart. Despite Solo's beefy 135-minute running time, Disney predictably opt for a dual-layered BD-66 as opposed to a triple-layered disc, though at least there aren't dozens of additional audio mixes fighting for space and compromising the bitrate. Although the transfer's video bitrate is not among the highest you'll see on the format, Solo still looks pretty d*** impressive on 4K Blu-ray all things considered, with a HEVC/H.265-encoded presentation framed at its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Disney momentarily authored discs with Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range, much to the delight of videophiles, but that practise appears to have abruptly ceased, with Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Black Panther to date the only Disney pictures to receive the Dolby Vision treatment on disc. Solo: A Star Wars Story is only HDR10, but the impressive use of High Dynamic Range is among the disc's biggest assets. Still, this is not a conventionally good-looking presentation, which is entirely traceable to the digital source and how the movie was produced.

    Like Rogue One back in 2016, Solo: A Star Wars Story was shot digitally with a variety of Arri Alexa cameras at resolutions ranging from 3.4K to 6.5K, and was reportedly finished with a 4K digital intermediate. However, due to the colour palette and use of sometimes oppressive shadows, the resulting UHD transfer doesn't carry the overwhelming textural pop that you'd expect from a native 4K production. Still, the transfer frequently bests the 1080p Blu-ray in terms of fine detail and textural precision, revealing more precise skin textures and costuming intricacies. There is a tonne of fine detail in the CGI as well, from the digital creatures to the digital spaceships and scenery, all of which was ostensibly rendered at 4K if IMDb is to be believed. Furthermore, the added resolution of the 4K encode better resolves the light layer of source noise that occasionally sneaks into the image, which is more noticeable in some scenes than others. Additionally, the presentation exhibits fantastic sharpness at its best moments, revealing every nook and cranny of each droid and every large-scale set. There is heavy smoke during some of the scenes set on Kessel, particularly in the mines and during the shootout in front of the Millennium Falcon. Whereas the 1080p Blu-ray struggles to resolve textures amid the smoke, the 4K fares better. At times the 4K transfer could do with more textural pop, but for the most part the presentation thankfully doesn't look overly smooth or smeary. Highlights are better too, though they are subtle at times on account of the dim lighting scheme chosen for certain scenes.

    As ever, it's not purely the resolution or the superior video encode which improves the image, but the addition of HDR and wide colour gamut to boot. Perhaps Dolby Vision (which is how the movie was exhibited theatrically in Dolby cinemas) could have brought a bit more balance to the image, but the HDR10 layer is nevertheless incredibly satisfying, improving the image in a number of ways. I noted that the night-time scenes on Vandor-1 at the 27-minute mark were extremely problematic on the standard Blu-ray, but this 4K presentation performs much better thanks to HDR. The background imagery in said scene, which looks like a mushy, indistinct mess on the Blu-ray, is more pronounced here, and the image looks deeper. Shadow detail and object delineation is also improved, with shadows not demolishing fine detail like it does on the regular Blu-ray, demonstrating this format's impressive capabilities. When Han meets Lando inside a dim bar at the 53-minute mark, there is more noticeable detail in the darker parts of the frame, making for a more pleasing and lifelike image. Additionally, the HDR restores specular highlights to the skies of Vandor-1 during the train heist, with clouds looking better resolved, while more sharply-defined textures are visible on the surrounding mountains. Another benefit of HDR is improving the pop of explosions and laser blasts, in addition to bright light sources in otherwise murky scenes. The train heist is another superb example of this, with the colourful laser blasts, sparks, explosions and light sources on the train (as well as on the magnetic stormtrooper boots) being emphasised all the more. Likewise with the colourful buttons in the Falcon's cockpit. Explosions on Mimban are brighter, and you can almost feel the heat now. Even the hologramatic game table in the Millennium Falcon is more noticeably vibrant, and that's before discussing the outstanding Kessel Run sequence, or the climax on Savareen.

    Clarity on the whole is improved - this is probably the best this movie can get considering the way the visuals were designed. Blacks are pale and milky on the Blu-ray, and thankfully they are improved here, though they're still not as gorgeously inky as they could have been, which again traces back to the movie's intended visual style. Contrast is also improved, permitting the frame superior darkness without turning the image into a mess of undefined greys and unnatural brightness. The movie's colour palette on the whole is bleak and almost monochromatic by design, but the addition of High Dynamic Range gives the visuals more vibrancy; as a result, this transfer doesn't look as flat as the standard Blu-ray. Lando's wardrobe on the Falcon is more colourful with HDR, too. Hell, the blue colour of Han's speeder in the opening speeder chase is also more discernible. In short, more pleasing colours are preserved here with the palette permitted superior dynamic range and a wide colour gamut. I did see some reports online about macroblocking in this transfer, but I was unable to detect any such artefacts at any time, and I was looking for it. I checked the supposedly problematic timecodes, but the transfer never falters on my display. In addition to the lack of macroblocking, I couldn't detect any traces of aliasing or banding either. It's a sensational video encode from top to bottom, making me all the happier that Disney finally adopted 4K Blu-ray (they were the last major player to do so).

    At the end of the day, Solo: A Star Wars Story will never look like pure eye candy no matter the format, due to the deliberately bleak colour palette and use of dim lighting and shadows. But out of what's available, this 4K Blu-ray is undoubtedly the superior presentation, as it resolves as much fine detail as the source can allow, and the colour palette is given an appreciable boost. It's definitely the superior way to experience this movie on home video, and in some ways it looks better here than it did at the cinema.

    Numerous subtitle languages are included. I sampled the English (for the hearing impaired) track and found it impeccably formatted and easy to read. As with the regular Blu-ray, player-generated subtitles appear for the non-English dialogue - they aren't burned into the master.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Whereas the standard Blu-ray and the 3D Blu-ray were only permitted DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio tracks, Disney's 4K release offers a Dolby Atmos mix with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core. Thankfully, this Atmos track represents a marked improvement over the Blu-ray's DTS soundtrack, sounding fuller and more impactful, with superior dynamic range as the track takes better advantage of the surround channels. During the battle sequence on Mimban, there's decent surround activity to create an immersive soundscape, putting you in the thick of the war zone. Separation is evident, with explosions and gunfire coming from individual channels all around, and there's ample volume to the sequence to boot. The entire train heist sequence, meanwhile, is loud and impactful, with the subwoofer accentuating each laser blast, explosion, hit and vehicular engine, while the coaxium explosion demonstrates satisfying low-frequency effects. The shootout at the 80-minute mark likewise showcases satisfying surround activity, with the sounds of blasters and canons filling the rear channels, and exhibiting some noticeable separation.

    In short, whereas the Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 7.1 track sounded primarily front-centric and dynamically compromised, this Atmos mix makes more satisfying and frequent use of the surround channels, with rear channels constantly delivering ambience and John Powell's rip-roaring score. It's worth noting that I'm unable to assess the overhead activity since I don't have an Atmos set-up, but I was able to glean plenty of the track's nuances from my vanilla 7.1 set-up. Clarity is also outstanding for the most part, and the mix never falls victim to any hissing, drop-outs, sync issues, or other encoding anomalies. However, the Atmos track is not quite perfect - not all dialogue is rendered cleanly, and there could be more low-frequency effects to make the audio more impactful at times. You'll also need to crank up the volume a bit higher than usual, which has become the norm for Disney audio tracks. But considering the underwhelming nature of the standard Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 7.1 track, and considering the low-bar for Disney audio (Avengers: Age of Ultron), this track is quite serviceable on the whole. More casual viewers without surround sound systems probably won't realise that anything is wrong. It was easy to become immersed in the experience, and there weren't many shortcomings to break me out of it.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The 4K disc itself contains no supplemental material. The extras can all be found on the special features disc, the contents of which are outlined and reviewed here.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Various retailer exclusives were released with different cover and packaging variations, but supplemental material remains the same. Buy local.

Summary

    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 4K disc presents the movie in the best quality to date; the 4K transfer is extremely good, only limited by the source, while the Dolby Atmos audio is also borderline great. Perhaps the addition of Dolby Vision could improve the video, and the audio could stand to be a tad better, but I was still highly satisfied with this disc despite a few minor shortcomings. The 4K disc includes the standard 1080p Blu-ray, as well as a bonus disc with nearly two hours of video extras. This is a smart buy - highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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