That Miller and Lord cut of Solo you were hoping for? You already saw it.
I was always sold on his father, Lawrence Kasdan for writing The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and writing and directing Silverado (and his superb work on non-blockbuster films like Continental Divide and Mumford), but Jonathan Kasdan (who co-wrote the screenplay to Solo: A Star Wars Story with his father) has filled in the remaining gap in what is probably the year’s best home video special features package. That would be the extra features that accompany the home release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, available now. The included features have key deleted scenes, most of which would have served the movie well were they included in the theatrical release (like Han’s fall from the Imperial Navy), and the least of which is plain fun that every Star Wars fan should love (like a snowball fight between Han and Chewbacca)–eight deleted scenes in all. The home release also contains insightful featurettes that demonstrate the love for the saga and the vision, skill, and craftmanship that came together to create the film. But it’s missing an audio commentary. More on that in a minute.
Director Ron Howard, production designer Neil Lamont, special creature effects designer Neal Scanlan, director of photography Bradford Young, and the Kasdans, along with other members of the crew, provide fantastic insight into the influences and experience of creating the movie. The best features include Team Chewie, with interviews and footage of Joonas Suotamo in and out of costume, and Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso, where we see the historical art influence on the Sabacc card game scene, and Solo: The Director and Cast Roundtable, a a refreshing and eye-opening look at how Howard and the key actors came together. Also included are short featurettes Kasdan on Kasdan, Remaking the Millennium Falcon, Escape From Corellia, The Train Heist, Becoming a Droid: L3-37, and Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run. Across all these, keep an eye out for Tim Nielsen, supervising sound editor and sound designer for Skywalker Sound, whose creativity is the kind of effort that caused Ben Burtt to get the Oscar for his work on the original Star Wars. Watch these features and see why Nielsen and his team should be in the running for Oscar for his work on Solo: A Star Wars Story this year.
Director Ron Howard, who replaced Christopher Miller and Phil Lord late in production of the film, bent over backwards to treat the departure of the two prior directors with grace and respect, which means he hasn’t discussed much detail about his work on the film. We never thought we’d learn “who contributed what” to the film, but that is where Kasdan’s notes come into play. Released in advance of the home video release this past week, they shed some light on what went on behind the scenes, what could easily be Kasdan’s personal, unrecorded, audio commentary notes–had Lucasfilm included one in the features. From a certain point of view, the inclusion of so many scenes developed by the initial director duo reflect the theme of the saga: Miller and Lord–seemingly two rebels against Lucasfilm/Disney who had a vision for Star Wars and for whatever reason were sidelined–were able to have much of their vision survive in the final cut of the film. Howard’s role seems to have been both Fixer and Closer, in addition to giving his personal touch to certain scenes, something addressed well in the features. Kasdan’s notes (not included with the home release but reproduced below) are the ultimate backstage pass into all the creative minds behind what must have been a difficult film to make (Star Wars plus Star Wars fandom sometimes reflects the Dark Side of the movies all too well).
Kasdan’s reflections reveal why so many scenes in the movie appealed to me as a fan who grew up with the films and was at the young age that George Lucas first targeted for the original films in the 1970s and early 1980s. Kasdan (who was one of those children of production staff like Mark Hamill’s kids and received the whole set of Star Wars toys every year from the studio at Christmas) sounds like one of the kids in the neighborhood you would have gotten together with to play with your action figures (even if he wasn’t old enough to see the original movies in the theater). You’ll find literary sources for some of the characters, movies that inspired specific scenes, like Paths of Glory and McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and other influences, some obvious and some you may have missed, including Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, H.P. Lovecraft, David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen, and even NASA‘s Hubble image of The Pillars of Creation. And you can instantly tell Kasdan’s love for the original Marvel Comics (which comes through throughout the film), the bounty hunter Bossk, and the single best addition in the prequel trilogy, Darth Maul.
Definitely watch the movie first, and if you skipped it in the theater (you missed out on the most fun rollercoaster ride of the year) don’t miss it now. In Kasdan’s notes (originally posted on Twitter), “C&P” is a shortcut for Christopher Miller and Phil Lord:
Any film can be made 10,000+ different ways, whether it’s The Last Jedi or Solo or anything else. Behind the scenes features and commentary from production staff provide insight into why these creators made this movie this way. And even if you don’t like the result, their respect for the material, the understanding of their legacy, and their desire to create something worthy cannot be denied.