Solo: A Star Wars Story (3D 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 134:46
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered 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 $34.95 Music John Powell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio
French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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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

    In spite of its disappointing box office performance, and despite the ostensible demise of 3D in the home, Solo: A Star Wars Story has earned a 3D Blu-ray from Walt Disney Home Entertainment, who present this Star Wars adventure in MVC-encoded 1080p, framed at its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Live-action native 3D titles are essentially kaput as of 2019, and therefore Solo was shot in regular old 2D before being subjected to a post-production conversion. (One supposes that the CGI was rendered in 3D, but I cannot be certain). To maximise the quality of the presentation, Disney make use of a dual-layered BD-50, and the 135-minute movie is given the entire disc to itself. The results fare more or less as expected - Solo's post-conversion was more to do with uniformity (since all Star Wars movies are released in 3D now) than artistry. Despite the enormous CGI-laden set-pieces, the picture simply doesn't lend itself to 3D due to the visual design - Bradford Young's cinematography is deliberately dim and dark, and the movie was graded very specifically to look overly desaturated and lacking in lush colours.

    The conversion itself is mostly workmanlike and rote; the presentation never looks too flat or lacking in 3D effects, but neither is it enormously impressive or able to reach the heights of the 3D format's best titles. Still, the conversion does manage basic dimensionality when the visuals permit it. Han hotwiring the speeder at the very beginning demonstrates strong separation with the individual wires and Han's hand, while the wide landscape shots of Corellia often appear to stretch back into the television. The battlefields of Mimban are extremely murky, but 3D effects are still strong for the most part, with characters looking properly three-dimensional as opposed to looking like flat cardboard cut-outs. Digital characters such as Rio are likewise impressive in this sense. The transfer fares even better during the train heist on Vandor-1, which is more bright and colourful, allowing the presentation to better bring out the landscapes and render the vehicles. Thus, the landscapes appear impressively vast in 3D, while the size of the train and the scale of the cliff are better emphasised. In fact, this particular set-piece is more exciting and involving in 3D, justifying the disc - and the purchase - by itself. Even better is the Kessel Run sequence; all of the spaceship action is consistently impressive in 3D, while shots looking out the cockpit truly make you feel as if you're looking out a window. The monster while approaching the Maw looks convincingly three-dimensional, and all external shots in the maelstrom convincingly push back into the TV.

    External scenes on Savareen, in generous daylight, are also a fine fit for 3D. The wide, establishing landscape shots have convincing 3D push and separation, while close shots of characters fare quite well. Other sequences are not quite as impressive, with scenes aboard Dryden's yacht carrying extremely perfunctory and unremarkable 3D, while the dim bar on Fort Ypso leaves much to be desired. Holograms - such as Lando making a hologrammatic recording of himself, or Qi'ra speaking to a hologram at the end of the film - take on convincing dimensionality. It's an inconsistent 3D presentation, but at least the highs are true highs.

    Meanwhile, the transfer exhibits the same traits as its standard 2D Blu-ray counterpart - i.e. Young's dim cinematography is not a good fit for the limited colour space and dynamic range of 1080p. Textures never dazzle, and the presentation struggles to resolve eye-popping highlights. From time to time, the transfer does manage to resolve relatively satisfying fine detail, particularly on digital characters like Rio, while all of Chewie's hairs are distinguishable. However, instances of genuinely impressive texturing are rare - for the most part, the presentation looks smooth and low on fine detail, with a degree of softness throughout the majority of the movie. When it looks good, it looks good. But when it looks mediocre, it's disappointing. But it's the colour and contrast which represents the biggest disappointment - even though this is a 3D image, the movie still exhibits a flat colour palette, while contrast is noticeably weak, with milky grey blacks (see the oppressively dark scenes on Fort Ypso). The palette is dulled further thanks to the 3D glasses, which does the colours no favours. I suppose the lack of "pop" is inevitable, which again makes me disappointed that 4K Ultra HD 3D is not yet a thing on home video yet.

    The encode is fine for the most part, though I did detect some minor macroblocking at times - see the transition from the Mimban battlefield to the subsequent scene in the trenches with Han and Beckett. Some minor 3D anomalies, including very minor ghosting, mostly around fine edges like character ears, were also detected, but thankfully nothing major. Ultimately, the best way to experience Solo is the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, and this 3D presentation is definitely not among the best on the market, but it's not a total loss. It's worth pointing out that, as of August 2019, Disney has stopped 3D support in the Australian market - The Incredibles 2 was the last 3D title released by the House of Mouse, who chose to eschew 3D releases of both Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. It therefore appears that Solo is the last Star Wars movie to be released on 3D Blu-ray in Australia.

    Subtitles are included. As ever, it will take a little while to adjust to reading subtitles in 3D.

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

Audio

    Solo: A Star Wars Story was released in Dolby Cinemas with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, but as per usual, this 3D 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 a French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 mix. I concentrated on the lossless 7.1 track for this review, and the score is reflected below.

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

Extras

    The 3D disc contains no extra features, and the 3D-only release contains no additional discs. However, you do have the option of buying the 3D Blu-ray with an included 2D disc as well as a bonus disc featuring a variety of video extras.

R4 vs R1

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

     3D discs appear identical worldwide. There are overseas editions with the 2D disc as well as the bonus disc, but we also get that option in Australia.

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.

    The 3D presentation is... inconsistent. There are some genuinely impressive sequences in 3D, but the source doesn't often lend itself to the additional dimension. It doesn't help that texturing and sharpness are so mediocre. The disc also contains a pretty good DTS-HD MA 7.1 track, and there are no special features on the 3D disc. All things considered, this is a recommended buy for fans of the movie and of 3D, but at sale price.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, September 03, 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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