Friday, January 17, 2020

The Complete Star Wars Movies and TV shows Time Line Ratted

(NOTE: This Post Has Been Updated for 2020)

    This is it, Star Wars month is officially over, and what better way to cap the month then to re-cap every single installment in the series, and give each my own personal ratting. I'll be aranging them in order of release, and include all the theatrical movies, TV movies and TV shows. Also, for the first time, I’ve always wanted to rate a group of films with the best score out of 10.

Star Wars 4: A New Hope (Theatrical Movie) (1977)
My personal score is 8.5/10
It's the cinematic achievement that launched a mega franchise. However, I can't help but feel that it's only real strengths are just "being the first", and an abundance of nostalgia, because other wise I don't think it's quite on par with some of it's successors. Still, it’s the classic Sci-Fi adventure we all grew up with and even though it’s over 30 years old, the story, characters, sets, visuals and imagination behind this film are still just as great, timeless and inspiring as ever.

The Star Wars Holiday Special (TV Movie) (1978)
My personal score is 1/10 
The one shining contribution is the introduction of Boba Fett, who absolutely shines when on screen. However, it's just not enough to compensate for this specials lack of fun, painfully boring scenes, un-imaginative premise and lack of attention to being both a holiday special or for that matter, a "Star Wars" special. Even the novelty of a full cast reunion isn't enough to recommend this stinker. 

Star Wars 5: The Empire Strikes Back (Theatrical Movie) (1980)
My personal score is 9/10
Squeals don't get any more inspiring then this. While its not my absolute favorite in the series, "Empire Strikes Back" absolutely has a secure spot among the best of the saga. It introduced us to the breakout character of Yoda, has darker plot threads, strong character development, a tight script, and some highly improved action scenes – most notably that stunning battle on Hoth.

Star Wars 6: Return of the Jedi (Theatrical Movie) (1983)
My personal score is 10/10 
Here it is, the Star Wars movie that just seems to have it all ... internal human struggles, a sinister ensemble cast of classic villains, memorable creature effects, rousing action highlights, the most epic three-way climax of the saga and above all ... I feel "Return of the Jedihas the most emotionally satisfying conclusion to any film in the franchise. Despite not being as tightly constructed as it's predecessor, you just cant beat the on-screen conflicts between Luck and Vader, which land "Return of the Jedias my personal favorite entry in the entire "Star Warssaga.

Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (TV Movie) (1984)
My personal score is 6/10
At times, this live-action Ewok spin-off can be charming, and rather nostalgic as it was actually the first thing I ever saw in the "Star Wars" series. However, it’s also dated, annoying and meanders at times. A lot of the creatures and locations are cool to look at, but the acting is wooden and the story is average. "Caravan of Courage" stands as a great children's adventure film, but probably best reserved only for little kids, the young at heart or those determined to watch every installment in the franchise. 

Star Wars Droids (TV show) (1985)
My personal score is 5.5/10
While the very first "Star Wars" TV series is by no-means awful, I still can't say it's anything special either. Anthony Daniels still brings the character C-3PO to life with lots of charm, and even his friendship with R2-D2 is still as great as ever. Unfortunately, the show is still average, lacking any real excitement, or effective universe building, and in the long run it only provides a handful of worthwhile episodes. 

Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (TV Movie) (1985)
My personal score is 7/10 
A surprisingly Darker, livelier and more action packed film then the first live action Ewok movie. The story is more exciting, there's an expanded fantasy setting, and the acting is a lot better. It may not reach the same heights of many of the theatrical "Star Wars" movies but in regards to all the TV movies and spin-offs, this is one of the better small-scaled offerings.

Star Wars Ewoks (TV show) (1985-1986)
My personal score is 5.5/10 
Do you want any more Ewoks ... well, here's a cartoon show weather you asked of it or not. As far as children's TV shows are concerned, "Star Wars Ewoks" is perfectly harmless. Thanks to its cute cast and imaginative setting, the show is honestly quiet charming on some level, but at the same time it's obviously not that out of the box either. I truthfully wouldn't even recommend it unless your a die hard fan that needs to watch everything under the Star Wars banner. 

Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace (Theatrical Movie) (1999)
My personal score is 6/10 
I still have some nostalgia reserved for what is considered the worst film of the series. There are some good effects on display, occasional adventure highlights, and arguably one of the greatest light saber duels of the whole franchise. Unfortunately, the film is still brought down by its un-engaging story, overly long detours, lack of emotional depth, bland characters, wasted villain and in the end it really doesn't add anything special to the franchise. 

Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones (Theatrical Movie) (2002)
My personal score is 6/10 
There are some small improvements over the last film, mostly in regards to the action, excitement on display and even some cool villains. Yet truthfully, I actually find more faults with "Attack of the Clones" then it's predecessor. The characters are noticeably blander then before, including a lead protagonist that sets a new low for main hero characters, and the film sadly favors meandering plot exposition over story.    

Star Wars: Clone Wars (TV show) (2003-2005)
My personal score is 7/10 
The creators of this Mini-Series certainly have respect for the source material of "Star Wars" and have a lot of credible things to offer with just a small collection of shorts. While I never found the animation that captivating, it is still impressive on some technical level, and it also leads to some atmospheric highlights. It’s all around a competent series, worth watching, but I just don't find it that memorable or that re-watchable either ... at least when compared to other animated "Star Wars" offerings.

Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith (Theatrical Movie) (2005)
My personal score is 7.5/10
While this movie has its problems ranging from plot holes to character flaws ... it really isn't that bad. The performances are stronger, the music is great, the action is exiting, the mythology is explored, there's even some emotional highlights, and there was clear effort given to make this conclusion to the prequel trilogy something special. In my opinion, "Revenge of the Sith" is far from perfect, but better then what most people give it credit for.  

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Theatrical Movie) (2008)
My personal score is 7/10  
As a pilot for the TV show, it works fine and dose a good job introducing us to the new characters. It's actually something to saver as this is the only theatrical Star Wars movie to feature some of my favorite characters like Ahsoka and Capatain Rex. Plus there's plenty of entertaining moments, but as a theatrical movie it ultimately looses itself with a week story, wooden animation and one too many noisy action scenes. It relay should have just been a 4 part episode in the show, but as it is ... I can't help but like this film on some level. 

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV show) (2008 – 2014)
My personal score is 10/10
While it was canceled without some proper closure, this was still a surprisingly good show that managed to hold its own in the "Star Wars" franchise. The characters were memorable, the stories are greatly improved over many of the recent films, the animation was beautifully detailed, the action is thrilling and as a whole, this show really stands as a nice gem among all the different "Star Wars" spin-offs and even some of the movies. Truthfully, along with the "Knights of the Old Republic" video games and the Original film trilogy, I find this show to be one of the definitive chapters in the Star Wars saga.   

Star Wars: Rebels (TV show) (2014 - 2018)
My personal score is 9/10
 Following up on "The Clone Wars", "Rebels" proves that "Star Wars" has a lot more fresh ideas and fun space adventures to offer. With a completely original cast of colorful characters (as well as some familiar favorites like Darth Vader, Ahsoka, Rex and Maul), a brisk pace, awesome battle scenes and even a subtle sense of hummer, this show accomplished the unthinkable and stands as yet another great entry in the ever expanding "Star Wars" saga.  

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Theatrical Movie) (2015) 
My personal score is 9.5/10 
Not only dose the Force awaken in this new film, it's also a revival of old school "Star Wars", with a great sense of outer-space adventure, the return of life-like animatronics, and of course a reunion of our favorite original cast. However, there's just enough new twists, energy, hummer, and a powerhouse new cast of intriguing new characters which allow this film to stand on it's own, as well as stand tall and strong as one of the franchise's best installments.  

Rouge One: A Star Wars Story (Theatrical Movie) (2016) 
My personal score is 9/10

The first stand alone Star Wars anthology movie hits all the right notes, expands upon the universe, breaks the narrative formula while still staying rooted in familiar grounds, thrills us with one of the franchises most epic finales, and has the courage to deliver one of the franchises most emotionally impactful endings. Despite a rough first act, Rouge One not only delivers, it opens the door for countless new possibilities. 

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny (TV Show) (2017-2018) 
My personal score is 6.5/10
While this female centered mini-series is nothing demanding, it's still perfectly harmless, as well as cute and a cool excuse to bring all the Star Wars girls together in one program. Actually, seeing all the Star Wars girls grouped together has me wondering in they'll be the equivalent of Disney's Princesses for a new generation. 


Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Theatrical Movie) (2017) 
My personal score is 7.5/10 
Gorgeously filmed, action packed, and unafraid to take chances, "The Last Jedi" may almost be too ambitious for it's own good. Regrettably, for all it's strengths, it's also a rather unbalanced film at times. Both the tone and passing are inconsistent, there's ponderous detours and some of the films daring risks don't always pay off. Still, it conveys a solemn message, and it's departure from a predictable formula make it a "mostly" worthy companion to its predecessor.     

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Theatrical Movie) (2018)
My personal score is 8/10
An unnecessary, but perfectly welcome little adventure in the Star Wars cannon, largely thanks to it's charismatic cast, nostalgic tie-ins and a refreshing sense of "fun" that really allows us to just escape into this universe. It's only real short comings are occasional murky lighting, a script that's a bit safe to a fault and a noticeable lack of villains - minus one epic cameo. 


Star Wars: Resistance (TV Show) (2018-2020) 
My personal score is 6/10
Have you ever wanted to see the "Star Wars" equivalent of "Top Gun" ... well, well. While "Resistance" lacks the griping stories, exciting battles and menacing villains from previous "Star Wars" TV shows, it at least compensates with a refreshingly simple premise, a multilayered setting, a unique art style, and features surprisingly down to earth characters. While this wont be a series to take home, it's still fine for all it aims to be. 


Star Wars - The Mandalorian (TV Show) (2019) 
My personal score is 8.5/10
The very first live action Star Wars series takes us on an exciting walk-about through the seedy underworld, with a compelling lead (and his adorable side-kick) at the helm. While the show admittedly feels like it's holding back at times, it's never the less guided by a passionate team who clearly love and respect the source material, as well as put a pretty penny into the shows gorgeous look, and there's no shortage of white knuckled action and western style shootouts to boot.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Theatrical Movie) (2019)
My personal score is 8.5/10
The ninth episode in this epic saga aims high to be a grand, triumphant curtain call, and ... it takes a large suspension of disbelief to except certain plot details, the narrative can be a little clunky, and it's perhaps a little too reliant on nostalgic call backs. Yet, the emotional character highs were still present, the spectacle was in every frame, and the adventure aspect never once let down. Maybe it wasn't a perfect home run ... but a powerful entry in the series. 

The End    


Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) (Movie Review)

      When it comes to my absolute favorite movie characters, one that ranks right at the top for me is Indiana Jones as portrayed by Harrison Ford. As a kid, he was the awesome action hero I always wanted to be, and Harrisons portrayal of him was about as iconic as they get. Along with his first three theatrical movies, I also owned the home video collection of the live action series “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones”. In this series, the young Indiana Jones was played mostly by Sean Patrick Flanery, and while he wasn’t on par with Harrison Ford’s performance, I was still able to except him as just a younger version of my favorite character. The series also didn’t develop or explore his character, it just gave him a variety of different adventures to impark on, and I enjoyed it for what it was. For the longest time, I’ve also wanted my favorite “Star Wars” character Han Solo to get a similar series, one that would revolve around him as a younger man going on different and unique adventures in the “Star Wars” universe. Well, I never got the live action series I wanted, but I certainly got a theatrical movie in 2018 simply titled “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, and for me, that was more than I could have hoped for. This marks the fourth theatrical “Star Wars” film to be released under the Disney banner, and at this time, fans have been expressing a lot of fatigue of the series. I for one was thrilled to finally get a strait forward outer space adventure with a younger Han Solo at the helm, and after it was done, the film did nothing ... but re-ignite my excitement for potential, future “Star Wars” films.    

     Our adventure begins on Han’s home world of Corellia, where crime is everywhere, and runaways are forced to serve under a giant centipede creature named Lady Proxima. On a side note, I love the design and animatronic puppet work of this character, as it proves once again that the best creature effects are the practical ones in front of the camera. One day, the young Han Solo decides its finally time leave his filthy home planet, take his new place among the stars as a pilot, and most importantly start a new life with his girlfriend Qi'ra. 

Unfortunately, sneaking off the planet is no easy task, as our young heroes are met with opposition at the departure station. In a deeply griping scene, Han is sadly separated from his girlfriend, who gets apprehended, while Han escapes to join the Imperial Navy. This opening was outstanding and instantly got me hooked for the ride to come. Years later, Han deserts his post and joins a team of pirates lead by one Captain Beckett. After failing a heist, Han finds himself reunited with his love interest Qi’ra, only to discover that she’s under the thumb of a dangerous crime lord, who Han now owes money to. A plan is then set in motion to pull off a heist, to pay off the crime lord, and somehow maybe even free Qi’ra … unless of course she has a more sinister elegance then Han knows. From there, the movie plays out almost like a Sinbad adventure in space, as it’s not really about exploring the main character, but having a likable lead take us from one crazy encounter after another. Sometimes a shady dug out where our heroes have to use their wits, and other times it’s surviving dangerous encounters with other pirates or giant space squids. We also see how many of Han Solo’s iconic staples come to be, like how he became friends with Chewbacca, how he became Captain of the Millennium Falcon, how he flew the Kessel Run, and how he even got his name.

      It’s hard for me to state if this is a good story or not, because so much of it depends on what you’d want from a movie centered around Han Solo. If you want a deep, character driven story that explores him in ways never seen before, then this will do very little for you. However, I felt that all of Han Solo’s real character growth took shape in the original “Star Wars trilogy”, so in my view, the only option left for a film centered around his younger self is to make him a likable presence to lead us on a fun space adventure. 

In this regard, I feel the film satisfied on all grounds. Alden Ehrenreich may not be on par with Harrison Ford, but I still felt he escaped his long shadow, and was a very charming screen presence in his own right. I get the impression that Alden Ehrenreich could have shined as an original character, and the title of Han Solo is keeping him from being as charismatic as the actor genuinely is. Still, I loved watching him in this film, I thought he was very likable, and I cheered for him all the way. I will admit, I felt the film got a little too caught up in crossing off a check list of events we’d expect to see in a Solo Origen film, when it could have potentially explored some deeper family topics, like why he abandoned his original family name, etc. Never the less, I still enjoyed seeing how certain Solo character traits first took shape. I loved when Han has his “love at first sight” moment with the Millennium Falcon, as it’s just him sitting down in the cock pit, watching the ship go to lightspeed for the first time, and you can just feel him taking it in as a life changing moment. It was there in that scene I was saying to myself “oh yeah, that’s Han Solo without a doubt”. I also liked seeing how Han met Chewbacca, and how their friendship took shape. Plus, while this film contains many nods to classic Solo staples, I feel it has some new material that add some merit to the character. For example, this film contains one of my favorite new Han Solo lines during a scene in which he and Qi’ra are sharing a drink. She asks what they should drink to, which Han responds with “Lets drink to … and see where we go from there.”, which is a great original line for a character swamped with memorable quotes. It was also great to see a side of Han we never got to see in the original trilogy. While he always had a level of charm to his personality, he also had a bed side manner that stemmed from believing he knew better than those around him. That was a trait that came about through age and years of experience, yet in this film, we see Han as a star-y-eyed innocent who thinks he can take on the galaxy, no matter what it throws at him. At last, while this isn’t an in-depth character centered story, I feel it has just enough cornels of one to balance out.   

     All the meaningful seeds of heart and a good character story come in the form of the love interest Qi’ra, who’s brought to life with an equal amount of charisma by Emilia Clarke. Being completely transparent for a moment, I’ve had a crush on Emilia Clarke ever sense I fell in love with her breakout character from “Game of Thrones”, so I can’t help but feel like I was already conditioned to like her on some level, regardless of what her character in the film was going to be like. 
As it turned out, Qi’ra has now subtled with me as one of my new favorite Star Wars girls. Although, this admittedly becomes a double edge sword, as I found Qi’ra a far more interesting and compelling character then Han Solo himself. This is a woman who’s as good as they get, and her love for Han is very real, yet her current place in life is forced to serve an evil crime lord, and in order to keep the ones she loves safe, she has to commit to doing some awful things in his name. When she goes on her journey with Han, you can see her open up, genuinely enjoy herself for who she knows she is, and convey her feelings toward Han, yet you can still see the person behind her eyes who knows that she just can’t fully escape the life she’s trapped in. That’s the kind of character worthy of Shakespeare status, but the movie just never takes full advantage of what it’s got. The issue is that the scrip needs Han to have a story arc with Captain Beckett played by Woody Harrelson, and that relationship just isn’t as interesting. Clearly the film is trying to make Beckett the figurative John Silver to his Jim Hawkins, but I never once felt that same connection or chemistry, largely because his character arc with Han just doesn’t balance alongside Hans relation with Qi’ra. Also, Woody Harrelson just doesn’t look like he wants to be there, while on the other hand, I get a genuine feeling of both commitment and joyful fun from both Emilia Clarke and Alden Ehrenreich in their respected roles. In my view, the character Beckett should have been dropped completely, that way the film could have centered on the more compelling relationship, and would have also led to a more impactful ending … but I’ll talk about that later.    

     Completely putting aside which relationship deserved the most focus, this movie might just contain my favorite ensemble cast behind “The Force Awakens”, as I loved every character on screen, and loved the respected actors even more. It’s hard to explain, but there was something about seeing these characters play off each other that was extremely satisfying, and such a joy to watch. I loved their banter, I loved how their individual personalities bounced off each other, I loved that they were both friends and competitors in equal measure, and it was such a treat just to see some fresh new faces aboard the Millennium Falcon. It’s just not Star Wars to me without that ship, and it’s always very gratifying to see new characters aboard it … or in the exception of others, their old characters with new actors. Even some of the supporting players added a lot to the film. I loved the alien monkey named Rio, who’s a very original species and voice actor Jon Favreau brings him to life with so much personality. It’s just a shame he was pulled out of the movie so soon, because he was a welcomed presence. The droid L3 was a character I could have probably done without, but sense she’s here, I’ll go ahead and say that I loved the effects on display, as that droid looked more real than any other droid I’ve seen in this series. Even the voice actress for L3 was very good, and the overall design of this robot was wonderful.

      Also, while Chewbacca has always been an icon, he’s truthfully never been one of my favorite characters … but this movie changed that. I absolutely loved Chewbacca in this film, his action scenes were great, his relation with Han was great, and he just seemed to have more personality then usual. Of course, the big show stealer that everyone was excited for is Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian. Holly cow, what a perfect cast choice, as he not only looks the part, but it really feels like a younger version of Lando. He basically steals every scene he’s in, and his chemistry with Han Solo is spot on. Perhaps my favorite exchange of theirs is when Lando looks over his beaten ship, turns to Han and says in a sarcastic voice “I hate you”, to which Han smiles and follows up with “I know”. Honestly, it was so natural and in the moment that I would have never realized it was a call back to his famous quote from “Empire Strikes Back”, unless the internet didn’t point it out to me. My favorite individual Lando line in this film comes after Beckett gives him a touchy ultimatum, which Lando colorful responds to with “I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it … but I’ll accept it.” I also liked seeing his personal collection of capes in his closet. The one Lando related topic I didn’t care for was his relationship with the droid L3, as it was … questionable to say the least.

       Now following on the heels of “The Last Jedi”, I’ve heard plenty criticism that, by comparison, “Solo” plays it too safe and doesn’t take enough risks, to which I respond with … actually, the film does take some ambitious risks that previous Star Wars films haven’t dared to do. For example, “Solo” is the first Star Wars movie that doesn’t bank on the novelty of a main villain, which was quiet the gamble. Seeing new iconic villains in a Star Wars movie is like seeing your favorite comic book villains in superhero movies, and it’s just something we feel needs to be present in each film. This film however throws the concept of a lead antagonist under the buss, and chooses to do something that’s more thematic. 

The villain of the movie is a generalization of how the crime, poverty and corruption of the galaxy brings out the worst and most desperate actions from seemingly good people. Through the course of the film, Han is betrayed by two close friends, but neither do it because their evil, it’s merely the complications of their current life status that’s forcing them to act out of desperation. There’s an extremely dangerous group of pirates lead by one Enfys Nest, who present a threat to our heroes, but they actually have noble intentions, and are resorting to violence once again out of desperation. Even the Empire isn’t acting out like traditional villains, and are just present for once, which I fond very refreshing. Now there is a crime lord named Dryden Vos, played very well by Paul Bettany, who can be branded as a bad guy, but even he isn’t what I’d call a main villain. Obviously he’s not in the movie enough to earn that title, but he also isn’t evil the same way all other villains in this series have been. He has no sinister motivations that our heroes need to thwart, he’s really just a businessman who acks hostel when a job goes south. He even tries to sit down and negotiate possibilities before resorting to violence, so I can’t really brand him as a run of the mil “Star Wars” villain.  

     Another thing I fond refreshing about “Solo”, is that despite some riveting action sequences, there are no large-scale Sci-Fi battles, which have characterized the franchise to this point. There’s a short scene in the opening with Han running through trenches during his Imperial days, which was an effective homage to World War 1, but it wasn’t like a large-scale battle scene. Most of the action felt tighter, more contained, and it did a better job putting me in the action. When Han and team pull off their big heist at the spice mines, all the laser shooting action and mayhem feels practical and intense. There’s two stand out tracking shots that really pulled me into the excitement. The first was a tracking shot following Lando as he dashes across a battle field to aid a fallen comrade. The second was a tracking shot of our heroes backing up the ramp of the ship and into the Falcon without any cuts. Also, whenever characters did little things like twirl their blasters in hand, or boost a hover car, I always felt that jolt of energy. My favorite action set piece by far was the train heist, which closed out the first act of the film. This scene was very creative, with a train that operates like a roller-coaster, multiple adversaries shooting at our heroes, high stakes, and lots of tense choreography as characters maintained balance on the vehicle. 

    In general, the big take away scene is watching the Millennium Falcon make the classic Kessel Run. This was a highly entertaining scene, and probably my favorite outer space sequence since the asteroid field chase from “The Empire Strikes Back”. After accomplishing their big heist, The Falcon gets lost in a giant gas cloud, which is like an expansive space labyrinth with multiple twists and turns. It’s full of uncharted passage ways, enemy ships on the hunt, gravity wells and a giant squid monster. I love the atmosphere of this scene, as well as the concept of being lost in a giant space nebula. Aside from being very creative, this is also an important moment when we see Han take command of the Falcon, and how Chewbacca becomes his co-pilot. The line “I’ve got a good feeling about this”, was a little on the noise, but I liked it still. I also loved how this scene made select call backs to classic “Star Wars” music. The great John Williams returns to conduct the music for this film, which is welcome, but he doesn’t provide the film with an original score that really stood out. After composing the iconic Indiana Jones score, I was hoping he’d bring something just as legendary to Han Solo, but that sadly didn’t happen. The only piece of music I really loved was the Enfys Nest score, which gave me chills, and reminded me of the opening theme from “Ghost in the Shell”. Also, while on the topic of classic music, I personally loved hearing the imperial march as part of their recruitment adds … that for whatever reason just had me smiling from ear to ear.

      Let’s talk about director Ron Howard, who for the longest time I’ve wanted to see in the directing chair of a Star Wars movie. His first start at acting was George Lucas's “American Graffiti”, they both collaborated on the underrated fantasy movie “Willow” and still to this day I view Ron Howards “Apollo 13” as one of the best the genera has to offer. He was even supposed to direct “The Phantom Menace”, but just couldn’t commit to it at the time. So, putting him in the directing chair for “Solo” felt as perfect as you could get. He certainly knows how to work with his cast, and there’s select shots that really credit his directing talents. I especially love this one shot when a band of pirates make a sudden arrival, and the scene is framed though a whole in a rotating fan. However, I truthfully wasn’t too pleased with the overall look he gave the film. All the color is muted, and there’s a real emphasis on dark, murky locations. I get that it’s supposed to go along with the overall crime flavor of the film, but still I would have preferred to look at other colors rather then browns mixed with ugly yellow. The effects on display are top notch, and I love the films commitment to practical creature puppets and animatronics. I love when Han sits down at a gambling table surrounded by all these unique alien designs, and each with their own personality. The one location I found myself really disappointed with was the crime lords saloon, which just felt very boring and lifeless. The design of it is great, and I love the golden singer in the center, but she just needed an up-tempo song, and the location once again just needed more color.   

     The film was also marketed as a western in space, which I thought was a great idea. I loved the western elements featured in “A New Hope”, and I’m a huge fan of shows like “Firefly” and “Cowboy Bebop”, which were also like westerns set in space. While “Solo” certainly utilized familiar elements of the genera, it didn’t really feel like a western until the third act of the movie. This is when all the classic western tropes and visuals came into play, like stand offs in a desert setting, and a cool foreground shot of a gun in the holster. The climax is also appropriately subdued to fit the tone of a western. Han, Qi’ra, and the crime lord Dryden Vos get into a little scuffle in his office, which supplies the finale with just enough action, but the important scene is a quick gun dual between Han and Beckett. This is classic western 101, when everything in the film leads to a showdown between two cowboys, and their fate rests on who has either the wits or brains to pull the gun first. However, as I eluded to before, I just didn’t feel the connection between Han and Beckett to justify the emotional context of this scene. Personally, I feel that a standoff between Han and Qi’ra would have been far more impactful, and a dramatic turning point in Han’s life. Still, I was mostly satisfied with this finale, and I really just appreciated a small-scale climax as opposed to yet another large-scale battle closing a Star Wars film.   

      Now we come to what is personally my favorite moment of the whole film, a moment that took me by surprise, and really got me excited for future Star Wars anthology films. Up till this moment, the film had been really mature about how it handled fan service, as it briefly named dropped some popular bounty hunters, and we got to see some expanded universe creatures like the Pikes, which was very cool to see, but for the most part, this film stuck to being a Han Solo film. This final scene however was solely for us fans, and I feel it was earned, because it’s the only real Star Wars fan service moment. When all the action is said and done, it’s revealed that Qi’ra this whole time was working for none other then … Darth Maul. 

Let me start by saying that I’m a huge fan of the animated TV shows “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels”, which are both in the same continuity as the movies, but none of the previous films ever acknowledged them. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” had small Easter eggs throughout, but this was the first major event from the animated shows to be acknowledged in one of the films, and it gave me chills all over. The very casual Star Wars movie viewers may remember Darth Maul as the main villain who perished at the end of “The Phantom Menace”, but he also came back in a multi-layered story arc from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and continued into “Star Wars Rebels”, and this scene might be just the hook to get some of the movie fans into watching the animated shows. This brief Darth Maul cameo also gave me renewed hope that perhaps one day I’ll see some of my favorite Star Wars characters from the animated shows in live action form and on the big screen. Also, Darth Maul has always been one of my favorite villains from this franchise, and I felt that he got the shaft way too soon. So, to see him on screen again in a live action, theatrical Star Wars movie was a dream come true. Heck, he actually had more to say in this three-minute cameo then he did in all of “The Phantom Menace”. One little detail I loved is that when Maul ignites his blade, the red glow is reflected in Qi’ra’s eyes, and it’s a chilling visual that I don’t recall seeing in any of the previous films. Now, I don't know if this scene is leading into another TV show or movie, but I'm really excited to see both Qi'ra and Maul in something together. At last, it was beyond gratifying to finally have both Sam Witwer and Ray Park contribute their talents to the role of Darth Maul. While Ray Park was the physical performer for Darth Maul in “The Phantom Menace”, Sam Witwer was the voice of Maul in both “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels”, and having them both together playing Maul in this film was just a thing of beauty.

      When all is said and done, I can respect why fans would have split views on the film. I can see why some would right this off as “just another Star Wars movie”, but I can also see how some may view “Solo” as a refreshing change of pace. Speaking personally, I’ve always felt that every installment in the franchise following after “The Empire Strikes Back” has been trying too hard to be the next absolute best film in the series. “Solo” by contrast is the first film that just felt content to be a good enough movie, and that really made me respect it. It was refreshingly simple, fun and bound together by a charming cast. When ranking all the films, this one sits comfortably in the middle, not one of the best, but certainly not one of the worst. It’s just a perfect little adventure film, and I feel it’s very healthy for long running franchises of this size to just have something okay for once. I felt it gave me a little more then I was hoping for, I’ve grown to like it more with repeat viewings, and I really hope it warms up to fans over time. It’s one of those films I can just put on when I’m in the mood for Star Wars, but I don’t exactly feel like watching one of the major films, and that for me in turn makes the film feel a little special. Considering all the drama and production woes that went on behind the scenes, it’s actually kind of a miracle that “Solo” turned out as good as it did.

All my "Star Wars" movie grading's reflect how I personally feel when comparing this film to other installments in the franchise, and not movies in general, so with that said ... I give “Solo: A Star Wars Story” ... 4 stars out of 5.