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Solo: A Star Wars Story

In Hollywood there is no such phrase ‘too much of a good thing’. If said thing makes buckets of cash then the formula gets repeated until the well runs dry. The ‘Star Wars’ films are a great example. Spanning 8 films in the official saga and now 2 others in the ‘Star Wars universe’, the over-abundance of the franchise is plain to see. ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ continues the money-making machine. Whether the world really needed it is a moot point as the accompanying merchandising spin-offs will ensure it makes dollars despite what dour critics may say.

Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) is a cynical scoundrel flitting between one dodgy deal to the next. Part of a gang led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Solo joins in any criminal deed going. When Beckett plans the ultimate heist, Solo is joined by shady opportunist Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and beastly Chewbacca. The motely-crew becomes caught between warring factions whilst attempting to steal huge loot in a world filled with galactic miscreants.

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is a reasonable time-waster without being memorable. All the elements fans know and love are there with numerous nods to previous films. Ehrenreich and Glover successfully embody the well-known characters with roguish charm. The CGI is also amazing with the action sequences matching the dazzle seen elsewhere. Whilst the screenplay’s general familiarity is its main strength, it often becomes its weakness.

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ suffers from not taking risks. This could be attributed to the strict producing of the Disney company or Ron Howard’s typical ‘safe pair of hands’ direction. Every story beat feels predictable with the villains not especially memorable. There isn’t much of a threat with the film suffering from most prequels in that audiences know the main characters survive to see future movies. Only the performances, CGI and action save it from being totally forgettable.

A middling entry in the Star Wars saga, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ plays it safe for casual audiences and die-hard fans. It doesn’t add much to the overall series mythology and suffers from an air of pointlessness. As a slice of escapist entertainment it works but as a compelling entry in the saga it falters with the dark side of Hollywood greed just as deadly as any wayward Jedi mind-games.

Rating out of 10: 6

Ready Player One

Nostalgia is a huge business. Rose-coloured glasses are never in short supply as people look back with fondness on at least one aspect of their lives. Movies are no different with a plethora of celluloid product indulging in our craving for yesteryear. Directed by the master of cinematic melancholy Steven Spielberg, ‘Ready Player One’ is steeped in 1980’s-style retro glory. Based on Ernest Cline’s novel, those who grew up in that decade will be in nirvana as its characters take a trip through a catalogue of neon-infused memories.

In the future, most of humanity escapes into a computerised haven called Oasis. An on-line place where anyone can control their destiny, its power is immense. One player, Wade (Tye Sheridan), takes up a challenge set by Oasis founder James (Mark Rylance). Creating a competition for those who complete difficult obstacles with the winner gaining a fortune and total control of Oasis, James seeks a worthy heir. Wade dives into the virtual world presenting its own threats as the world’s future hangs in the balance.

‘Ready Player One’ is a glossy movie full of CGI and action. Spielberg knows how to direct amazing action sequences with his flair in making them interesting clearly seen. He’s a cinematic magician who conjures new ways of putting characters in peril with the ‘on-line world’ giving him licence to push imaginative boundaries. Infused with themes of humanity’s increasing reliance on machines and how they isolate people, ‘Ready Player One’ seems a natural for a fast-paced diverting time. That it isn’t is due to poor characterisation and story.

Apart from Ben Mendelsohn’s role as an evil corporate genius, none of the other characters register as they are all bland cut-outs which the on-line versions of themselves only highlight. Had more time been spent on exploring their ‘real world’ and how it came to be such a wasteland, ‘Ready Player One’ may have had more depth. Despite Spielberg’s presence, he fails to fully put his unique identity on it as it relies on nostalgia done by others. This then turns the last act into a mess with non-stop pop culture references plus the endless battle for control of Oasis becoming boring.

Whilst providing a visual feast, ‘Ready Player One’ is a lesser entry in Spielberg’s film catalogue. Had it been handled by another director who doesn’t have the weight of high expectations, the film may have been better. It offers a lot of surface thrills, but underneath the CGI, ‘Ready Player One’ has little to sustain the nostalgic longevity it lovingly displays.

Rating out of 10: 6