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Tag Archive: Solo: A Star wars Story


Review by C.J. Bunce

When Lando Calrissian showed up on the doorstep of Han Solo and Leia with a toddler Ben in tow, Han knew the outcome couldn’t be anything good.  In Daniel José Older‘s novel Star Wars: Last Shot–A Han and Lando Novel, it’s Lando that causes angst for Han, but it also gets him away from a home life where it’s just not happening for the former smuggler and decorated General of the Rebellion.  Someone has set off some assassin droids and if your name was ever on the title for the Millennium Falcon, you’ve been marked.  The mastermind behind the droids is a character inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, a medical student plucked from his good life and plunged into a maddening existence where he begins to merge men with machines.  For Fyzen Gor, droids are the more advanced form and he will stop at nothing until the galaxy knows it.  Enter Han, Chewie, Lando, and Ugnaught, an Ewok tech guru or “slicer,” an attractive Twi-lek who Lando has his eyes on, and a young hotshot pilot, and you have a Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven story plucked from the pages of classic Marvel Comics.

But that’s the present, or at least the present time as it existed a few years after the events of Return of the Jedi, where only part of the story takes place.  Both partners Han and Chewie, and Lando and companion droid L3-37 have each encountered Fyzen Gor and his enigmatic Phylanx device before–once before Lando loses the Falcon to Han during Solo: A Star Wars Story, and once afterward.  Star Wars: Last Shot presents three parallel stories all culminating with the present search and confrontation with Gor to learn the secret of the device.  L3-37’s theme of droid rights is a significant element in this tale, and further expands L3’s influence on the future beyond being merged with the Falcon’s computer.  Despite several key cyborgs in the Star Wars galaxy (not the least of which being Luke and Darth Vader), this novel is Star Wars taking on cyborg themes not usually found in the franchise outside the early comics, themes you’d find wrestled with previously in other sci-fi properties.

The prequels live on.  Adding to the surprise presence of Darth Maul in Solo: A Star Wars Story, writer Older resurrects many bits and pieces from the Star Wars prequels, including a Gungun who makes clear that Jar Jar Binks was not emblematic of the alien race.  We also encounter many names, aliens, and places from past stories, like aliens reflecting the likes of Bossk, Hammerhead, Ewoks, Ugnaughts, and Cloud City from the original trilogy.

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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 RunAcross 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 on the Millennium Falcon set of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

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).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Not since Donald Glut’s novelization of The Empire Strikes Back.  That is the last novelization in the Star Wars universe that was as fun as Mur Lafferty’s new novelization of Solo: A Star Wars Story–Expanded EditionThat’s saying a lot, because Glut’s exciting prose is what got many of us through the 2.5 year wait period before The Return of the Jedi arrived, in the dark days before VHS.  Lafferty writes with quick, succinct sentences that zip the reader through the action-packed, roller coaster ride of a story.  This is the space fantasy and space Western nostalgia that fans of the original series were hoping for when the prequels and sequels came along.  Electric and classic like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the novelization energizes an already great movie.  Of course screenplay writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan deserve the appropriate praise for the bones of the story, but the novelization provides everything else that couldn’t make it into their 135-minute movie.

Best of all is a three-page epilogue that directly ties Solo: A Star Wars Story together with not just the obvious connections you already know with Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the original trilogy stories.  The novelization introduces an intersection with two other major characters from the Star Wars saga no one could possibly predict.  As good as the gambling scene was between Han and Lando at the end of the movie, it’s a shame this scene did not become part of the film.  No spoilers here, but the book is worth reading for the epilogue alone.  You’ll also find a revealing scene between Qi’ra and L3-37, and a surprising, hilarious exchange onboard the Millennium Falcon between Lando and Chewbacca.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Expanded Edition has an apt subheading, because it is precisely what sets it apart: expanding on every major character’s backstory.  Han and his encounters with Lady Proxima on Corellia and life in the Imperial Navy (including an appearance by comic book characters Tag & Bink) are told in flashback memories.  Chewbacca‘s thoughts are fleshed out, too: how he got to where we meet him in this story, and his passion to help Sagwa and the other Wookiees escape from the muddy spice mine on Kessel.  We learn what happened to Qi’ra right after Han left her behind, as she is sold to another slaveholder and finally falls into the clutches of Dryden Vos and Crimson Dawn.  Lafferty expands on the relationship between Val and Beckett, including their first encounter, too.  And most enlightening is the heavily emotional inner-workings of Lando‘s droid L3-37 and how her mechanics–plus a little coaxium–made the fastest ship in the galaxy all that it would later become.

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Last weekend Julien’s Auctions sold an original Star Wars prop at a price that puts it among the highest prices ever for the public sale of a Star Wars movie prop, and it’s not going to be the last time you see it, like you’d find with most auction sales.  We have covered previous auctions here at borg.com for higher selling items (like the original Robby the Robot last November that sold for $5.375 million), and this latest prop didn’t catch up with the pieced together R2-D2 that sold at Profiles in History’s auction last June for $2.76 million, but it’s still impressive.  This time it was a Han Solo non-firing prop blaster from Return of the Jedi that resulted in the auction’s big win.  It sold at $550,000, which included the auction house “kicker” or buyer’s premium of a hefty $100,000.  The winning bidder?  Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which added this to their Star Wars collection that already included a Luke Skywalker lightsaber said to have been used in The Empire Strikes Back, purchased last year at auction for $450,000.  With most auction lots landing in private hands never to see daylight again, this is a rare instance where fans may get a chance to see this on display in person.

No other franchise touches Star Wars when it comes to auction prices paid for screen-used memorabilia, and the cream of the crop has been props associated with named characters.  Pieces of Star Wars costumes, some associated with the bankrupt Planet Hollywood chain, have sold at auction over the years, mostly incomplete, including a Chewbacca mask (for $120,000 in 2007 at Profiles in History), Darth Vader components (like a mask, for $115,000 plus premium, at Profiles in History in 2003), C-3PO parts (like his head, for $120,000 in a 2008 profiles in history auction), multiple Imperial troopers, Princess Leia’s slave outfit from Return of the Jedi (for $96,000 at Profiles in History in 2015), and the aforementioned R2-D2.  Screen-used models also have fetched a hefty sum, including the filming miniature model of the Rebel Blockade Runner spaceship from the opening scene of the original Star Wars that sold for $465,000, and a miniature filming model of a TIE Fighter that sold for more than $400,000.

Another Han Solo blaster, a prop weapon that fired blanks unlike the Julien’s prop but was also from Return of the Jedi, sold as part of the Stembridge Armory Collection back in 2007 for $201,600.  The Julien’s blaster had the distinction of being owned by Return of the Jedi art director James Schoppe, the kind of provenance high-end collectors flock toward.  Another Luke Skywalker lightsaber, from the original Star Wars, authenticated by producer Gary Kurtz, sold in 2005 at Profiles in History for $200,600.

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Less than one month away, San Diego Comic-Con returns to the San Diego Convention Center full of writers, artists, publishers, TV and movie studios, and vendors with representation from every major property and franchise.   Legos, Sideshow, Super 7, Mattel, Funko, Mondo, and more.  Already distributors have begun previewing convention exclusives–those sought-after rare collectibles usually available only at the show, but sometimes available afterward in small quantities if all of the inventory from the show isn’t pre-ordered or purchased on-site.

We think it’s time to share some of the best exclusives scheduled to be available at San Diego Comic-Con this year for those of you who are attending or have friends attending that can pick up items for you.  Just can’t decide what to spend your money on?  Check out the SDCC 2018 website for even more information from the vendors and more collectibles.  There’s too much for anyone to be able to see everything at the big Con, so we’ve listed booth numbers so you can make sure you don’t miss out on those toys, posters, and comic books that you simply must have.

These aren’t all the exclusives you’ll find at SDCC 2018–we’ve selected a sampling of some of the best items from popular vendors who have previewed their items with still three weeks until the convention.

Now on to the exclusives.

Gentle Giant is releasing a variety of exclusive mini-busts, plus this large-scale version of the classic Kenner Star Wars action figure.  You’ve seen Boba Fett from Gentle Giant here before–the original was borg.com‘s favorite toy of 2012 and one of the best action figure re-creations we’ve seen.

This exclusive provides one more chance to get this figure, this time reflecting original packaging from Return of the Jedi (sorry, no firing backpack).

From Alex Ross Art (Booth #2415) pick up limited prints and comics, including these new variant covers for Amazing Spider-man, Issue #1:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s truly a rare summer when a new Star Wars movie is in theaters–the last time was in 2005 with the release of Revenge of the Sith.  As with the past three post-Disney acquisition Star Wars films, several publishers have released tie-in books for the latest Star Wars chapter, Solo: A Star Wars Story.  Some books provide fans with a behind-the-scenes tour, others provide novelized backstories, and still others provide an in-universe look at the story.  For a behind the scenes view you’ll want Abrams’ coverage of the concept art in The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story (reviewed at borg.com here).  For an in-galaxy view of the characters and places, the book you’ll want to get your hands on is DK’s next chapter in their Star Wars book series, Solo: A Star Wars Story–The Official Guide, by Pablo Hidalgo.

The Official Guide is written like the magazines in the 1970s and 1980s that would follow on the heels of a blockbuster film, a “souvenir” type book that would highlight anything everything fans of the film would want to know more about.  The key feature of this full-color hardcover volume is the high-quality, detailed photographs, particularly of the characters, costumes, and props–perfect for cosplay reference.  It also includes some great detail in its several images of the re-imagined early Millennium Falcon.  Especially in a film of the Star Wars universe, where one of the trademarks is inclusion of enormous crowd scenes with varying peoples of different backgrounds, races, species–and names–moviegoers often miss most of the background characters.  When a costume can cost thousands of dollars to design and construct, it’d be a shame to simply leave the characters in the background.  So that’s where The Official Guide becomes a unique resource.

In no other book will you find all of these new characters from this latest Star Wars film.  They have names and backgrounds, and their cultural objects they carry say something about them.  But this is Star Wars, so you can expect to see the latest stormtrooper variant (like patrol trooper, fleet trooper, mudtrooper, and range trooper), as well as denizens of the most recent hives of scum and villainy (like the Grindalid Moloch, the Corellian Rebolt, shipping magnate Crev Bombaasa, and, hey, that’s Ron Howard’s brother Clint as Ralakili, running the droid fights).  A great two-page spread features the new many incarnations of mechanical fellows from Lucasfilm’s droid shop.

Here are some pages from the book, courtesy of the publisher:
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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy and the new film Solo: A Star Wars Story should take note of the fourth installment of Abrams Books’ Star Wars artbook series.  The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Phil Szostak not only looks behind the scenes of the production of the second of the modern anthology movies and fourth of the modern sequels, it reveals the finest and the most evocative Star Wars-styled concept art created since The Empire Strikes Back.  Taking a different path from the episodic sequels, the creators that imagined the look for Solo took their inspiration directly from the work of Ralph McQuarrie (original trilogy production illustrator and concept artist), Joe Johnston (original trilogy ILM art director), Harry Lange (original trilogy art director and set decorator), and Colin Cantwell (the first Star Wars spacecraft designer), concept artists behind the original Star Wars movie.  Including artwork both used for the final creation of sets, effects, and costumes, as well as imagery that didn’t make it to the final cut, The Art of Solo provides visuals fans back to the 1970s have only dreamed about.

Solo is also the first movie of the post-Disney period of Star Wars to draw back to the actual input from George Lucas for more than merely sketches and early descriptions of his earliest ideas from 1973.  Lucas was involved from the beginning, planning a Han Solo movie since before the Lucasfilm sale, and so this sequel has inspiration and concept direction from the creator of the franchise himself.  Lucasfilm/ILM lead concept designer James Clyne, production designer Neil Lamont, costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman, Neal Scanlan‘s creature department, and Rob Bredow and Pat Tubach‘s visual effects team were aware of the unique challenge facing this film–creating something faithful to the original trilogy and beloved characters while also taking the look and feel of the space fantasy into new territory.  The result is a film full of different worlds that still feels “Star Wars-y,” as the designers call it.  For this film, that meant a Western homage mirroring the American journey of settlers from the East Coast to the West Coast, and also importing story elements found in Akira Kurosawa’s Westerns, among many other classic films.

Many of the portraits and landscape paintings are poster-worthy.  Earthbound physical locations were tracked down to define new worlds Corellia, Mimban, Vandor, Kessel, and Savareen, along with CGI renderings, all to look like they belong in the Star Wars galaxy.  As Star Wars was created in the 1970s–taking place ten years prior to the original Star Wars–the artists looked for styles and ideas from the 1960s via movies, bands, computers and technology, and other cultural influences for costumes and set decorations.  So before Emilia Clarke was cast as Qi’ra, images of the character needed to establish her locations and costumes included drawings that look very much like Grace Kelly.  Incorporating images of younger versions of both Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams were obvious choices for creating their first looks, like the duo at the gambling table where Lando would lose the Falcon to Solo.  But soon Alden Ehrenreich’s image became the face of Han Solo.  All along, Chewbacca was Chewbacca, only the crew aimed to convey a different view of the Wookiee, where having all his hairs styled in place was no longer important–this was the young, wind-blown companion from the past, the one quicker to tear someone’s arms off.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Maybe you don’t need the Old West to have a great Western after all.  Bringing back the feel of the first third of the original Star Wars: A New Hope with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid level of fun and humor, Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters with something for every Star Wars fan.  The saloons may be different and so are the sidearms, but this is the story of a young gunfighter, complete with the related outlaws and mercenaries, partners and betrayals, card playing, and gunfights.  With the sweeping adventure of The Empire Strikes Back, the perfectly rebuilt and repackaged nostalgia of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and a jumping off point for a galaxy of possibilities for beloved characters we only thought we knew, director Ron Howard delivers.  Not weighted down by the gloom and doom of the Dark Side in Rogue One or the rest of the Star Wars films, this Star Wars story creates new and original locations and situations for a few familiar characters plus many new ones and still ties into the overall episodic stories, taking place after Revenge of the Sith, but before Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One.  Yet we meet many new characters and questions are raised in the film that beg for one or more sequels to this branch off the main Star Wars saga–we can now have many new tie-in novels, comics, TV series, and maybe even movies to keep it all going.  If you didn’t think The Last Jedi captured the nostalgia or fun of earlier Star Wars films, then Solo is for you–not since The Empire Strikes Back has an entry in the saga been such a rollercoaster ride.

Surprises?  In a film that could have just filled in the blanks, the surprises were dished out from beginning to end, including some big ones we won’t mention here.  The overall tone is something out of Amazing High Adventure, and it makes perfect sense: It’s Silverado in space.  Screenplay writer Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplay with son Jonathan Kasdan), known for writing Westerns Silverado and Wyatt Earp, prior Star Wars entries The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, and that greatest of adventure movies Raiders of the Lost Ark, was the perfect match to veteran director and movie icon Ron Howard.  The Western inspiration is supported visually in the Frederic Remington-inspired colors and landscapes.  You can spot the World War II movie references along the way, too, that Kasdan and Howard no doubt enjoyed as moviegoers over the years, like Von Ryan’s Express.  The relationships between characters evoke gangster movies and even pirate tales like Treasure Island.  Science fiction fans will see parallels to Han’s band of mercenaries in both the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels and Joss Whedon’s Serenity crew in the Firefly television series.

The Kasdans smartly injected those scenes every fan has thought about, pulled from passing references throughout the original trilogy to become fully realized plot threads, and then they folded in so much more.  Without the religion and mysticism of the Force, Solo: A Star Wars Story breaks the precedents of the saga as space fantasy to become arguably the first end-to-end science fiction movie of the franchise.  And it’s not just a fun movie.  Viewers will get plenty to think about.  Characters here are sometimes swapped into positions taken by other characters (and beasts) in prior movies in a way that will make moviegoers want to take another look at the prior films again.

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Now that you’re all recovering from your Star Wars Day activities and readying for Free Comic Book Day today, let’s look at the latest from Solo: A Star Wars Story.  We seem to be transitioning from the high of the Avengers: Infinity War in April and heading toward the premier of Solo on May 25.  And there seems to be no stopping the marketing folks at Lucasfilm.  If you’ve been a fan of Star Wars since the beginning, you may find a new Lucasfilm video the greatest thing since blue milk.  It’s the beginning of the scene where Lando and Han play cards, and Han offers up ships as the stakes.  Is this the exact scene we’ll see in theaters, or one pretty close to it?  It seems pretty likely, although don’t rule out last-minute edits as was done with Rogue One–the other awesome Star Wars Story–where much of the trailer footage ended up on the editing room floor.  Check it out below, unless you want to wait to see it in the theater, but you’re not going to see it in this “virtual reality” 360 degree way in the theater.

Does this sneak peek hint at the future of the theatrical experience?  We’ve seen the 360 degree clips before for other films, and some home video formats do allow the viewer to take control and move around during a film to some extent.  How will that translate to the theaters years from now?  Something like you’d find in a high-end theme park ride?  Never before could moviegoers have such a detailed look at a film, in advance of release.  Take a look at those aliens, like the two-headed fellow to Lando’s right, or the arthropoid with chelipeds to his left (that’s Therm Scissorpunch).  These aliens are exquisite, instantly evoking the original Star Wars cantina where most of us first met Han and Chewbacca.  We’re in for a great ride.

But there’s more: a new clip featuring the first scene with Chewbacca and Han flying together, backed by some of John Williams’ best music: sweeping, evocative cues from his “The Asteroid Field” music from The Empire Strikes Back.  And another clip from director Ron Howard features some new looks at Chewbacca in front of and behind the camera.  It just gets better and better.

  

In case you missed it yesterday, we have two highlights of this year’s Star Wars Day, both out of the UK.  First up is the latest Abbey Road album cover homage.  The Beatles albums have been parodied and honored in thousands of ways over the decades, but we love the above image of the original four cantina action figures from Kenner incorporated into the famous zebra crossing (if you know the source, let us know and we’ll credit it).  And Heathrow airport went above and beyond for May the Fourth, with this fantastic flight schedule.  Bravo!  (But Alderaan?  Too soon!).

Our new Lando, Donald Glover is hosting Saturday Night Live tonight.  The show released a revised Solo poster for him.  Take a look at it, plus a dozen new Solo posters and marketing image updates below (glasses, collectible tickets, buttons, and three trading card sets of 28 cards, too!), and the latest great clips, and don’t forget it’s Free Comic Book Day!  Glover recently provided a tour of the Millennium Falcon (we’ve included that below, too):

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Sometimes so many trailers are in the queue it’s time to stack ’em, pack ’em and rack ’em.  For us, that means it’s time for another installment of Trailer Park.  We have a new Deadpool 2 trailer, reportedly the final trailer, and this time we meet the supporting characters.  We have two new Solo: A Star Wars Story television spots you might have missed (do you say Han rhyming with Stan, like Lando does, or Han rhyming with Ron, like everyone else does?).  We have the first look at Denzel Washington returning as Robert McCall in Equalizer 2.  Plus another TV spot for next week’s Avengers: Infinity Wars.  What else… one more trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.  That’s a lot of sequel trailers.  You’d think we were already living in The Stacks.

And posters!  The studios have released several new movie posters to gawk at, including a late-breaking UK poster for Solo, a Deadpool 2 poster by Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld (an homage to New Mutants, Issue # 98), a poster for Equalizer 2, and, directly from Jamie Lee Curtis, the first look at the return of Michael Myers in the late 2018 release of the Halloween reboot.

    

So what are you waiting for?  Check out these six trailers:

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