Review | Solo: A Star Wars Story (Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital)
Carl makes the Kessel Run for this Han-ds down superb SOLO standalone Blu-Ray
Despite a disappointing box office take, the Star Wars stand-alone movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the best moments in Star Wars history. Forget all the behind the scenes upheaval and reported trouble, this is a film for all Star Wars fans. After the divisive, The Last Jedi, all fans of the epic space saga were looking for a film to reignite their passion and bring them all back together again.
This is that film.
Fans had reservations about any other actor portraying the lovable Corellian Rogue other than the legendary Harrison Ford. I must admit that I myself was one of those doubters. To me, anyone else playing Han is sacrilege. However I decided to give the new guy a chance and put all the negativity behind me, I sat enthralled watching the film in IMAX and ended up fist pumping at some moments and cheering at several others. I shouldn’t have been so worried!
The film has finally hit Blu-ray, DVD and digital download. This is what this article is about. Enough has been said about the film by critics, audiences and cinema-goers worldwide and everyone has their own opinions on the film as do I.
After the quite frankly appalling release of The Last Jedi on home formats by Disney earlier this year, I wasn’t holding out much hope that this release would be any better. The Last Jedi’s release was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. The sound was awful, the picture was inconsistent and grainy at times and I let Disney know that their treatment of the films home release was disgusting and unacceptable. Well, they must have listened because this release more than makes up for it. It’s not perfect by a long shot but it’s a vast improvement. Not that I thought so at first.
My brother and I decided to buy the digital release on Amazon Prime when it was released. We both were excited to see the famed Kessel Run sequence again and to experience it at home, with family and snacks galore. To have John Powell’s score with a new theme from legendary composer John Williams added in blasting from home surround sound speakers and sound effects galore in the comfort of our respective front rooms. We both couldn’t wait!
The digital release is as disappointing as The Last Jedi’s release on all formats. The sound is god awful, the picture not up to standard and is a complete letdown. The Falcons engines roaring through the speakers? More like a tinny mouse fart. I’ve heard better sound quality from a 35mm cinema print of a 1930’s film. At first, the picture was all smudgy and inconsistent but after my wi-fi warmed up, the picture smoothed and transformed into the quality I have come to expect from Star Wars. However, the subpar sound quality left a lot to be desired, and in that moment my hatred for Disney’s releases returned full tilt.
Again, as I have done for the past three Star Wars releases (Rogue One, The Last Jedi and of course this one) I ordered the Blu-Ray from the USA and bought one over here in the UK; and ordered a steelbook copy too. Two of which remain unopened and placed in my collection with the other being unwrapped and gracing my Blu-Ray player. Add to that, I bought the DVD for my collection too and I was all set. After the disappointment of the digital download, I wasn’t expecting much.
The Blu-Ray is quite frankly superb. Although not on par with the release of Rogue One quality wise, it’s a vast and noticeable improvement over The Last Jedi’s. The colours are vibrant, you can actually see what’s happening on screen and takes your breath away. The Kessel Run sequence in particular now looks amazing at home. Seeing the Falcon fight off the TIE fighters while flying through Carbonbergs in the maelstrom is amazing. The effects look totally believable, the stunning sets are brought to life in amazing clarity and helps the viewer become immersed in the film. This is almost how Star Wars should be viewed in the home. Nothing will ever beat sitting in a darkened cinema watching it on the big screen but this comes close. The Maw comes alive on the small screen. The Falcons engines light up superbly. Dryden Vos’s yacht interior leaps out at you and you find yourself seeing things you missed the first time.
Of course, there are many standout sequences throughout the film. Mine is of course (if you couldn’t tell) the Kessel Run but it’s rivalled in quality by the Conveyex sequence. I never thought I’d see a train heist in a Star Wars movie. The entire sequence is delightful. The images leap off the screen at you with an unrelenting pace. Enfys Nest and her band of cloud riders soar across the screen in glaring colours contrasted by the whiteness of the snow-covered mountains against the silver/grey of the Conveyex train. The new Range Troopers (sadly underused as are the new Patrol Troopers and the Mimban Troopers) stand out well with their magnetic boots holding them onto the trains rooftop while trying to eliminate the thieves. The whole sequence plays well and quality wise is a standout. In contrast and maybe with a nod to Rogue One, the Mimban sequence is how it should be. Dark and grey with flashes of colour here and there. Rogue One did this to perfection showing us a Star Wars war movie. Here director Ron Howard uses the same pallet as Gareth Edwards used. No streaming sunlight or vibrant colours here, this is a dark and murky mud world. Again the Blu-Ray format is used to almost perfect results. The imperial troops being blown to pieces, the imperial walkers being dropped onto the planet’s surface are crystal clear and add a new dimension to the film. Like the Corellian speeder escape sequence, the colour pallet is used to show the hopelessness and desolation of this world.
The sound mix is almost perfect too. Engines roar, explosions erupt, blasters fire in a grand mix of sound. Background discussions can be heard. Background music underscores the images on the screen. Everything that SHOULD be heard in a Star Wars movie CAN be heard. Again, Disney must have listened to the dissatisfaction of the fans with the previous films’ home release as this is a world away from that disastrous mistake. This is what we deserve. This is what we expect. This is what we want. This is what we demand. I want to hear the effects and dialogue and music, not have to sit so close to the TV to hear any of it. Disney can now be forgiven for The Last Jedi’s Blu-Ray just as long as they keep the love of the film up and not just throw it onto a disc without any thought for quality.
Again, Lucasfilm doesn’t fail with the bonus features. Since the release of the original trilogy onto Blu-Ray, we have been treated with the respect we deserve by the company. This is a highlight from Lucasfilm. They know we want to know even the smallest and insignificant details about the film and its production and again they don’t disappoint. From the cast and director sitting around the roundtable discussing how they came to be in the film and where they were when they got the call they were in the film (Thandie Newton’s recollection is funny and totally understandable!) through to the remaking of the Millenium Falcon, Behind the scenes footage of various sequences, special effects and costume pieces make this an all round good package. What makes it a great package is the deleted scenes. I think that with the exception of two of the deleted scenes, the rest should have been left in the film. The extended fight between Han and Chewie on Mimban stands out as probably the best of the bunch. However, other scenes show the friendship and comic rivalry between the two. These enrich the viewers understanding of the basis of their relationship at its embryonic stage and in my mind should have been left in the final cut.
Thus it saddens me to review the DVD version of the film. Yet again, we are treated to a Vanilla release of the film. A one disc monstrosity that contains only the film and no special features at all. Since the DVD release of The Force Awakens, DVD buyers have been given just the basic treatment with Star Wars films from Disney. DVD may be slowly dying out but come on, the DVD consumer deserves better. The picture quality is pretty decent and the sound isn’t too bad but compared to Blu-Ray, it’s the equivalent of the old VHS vs DVD comparison. VHS was good, DVD is almost 100% better. DVD was good but Blu-Ray blows it out of the water.
All in all, the Blu-Ray is a must-have for your collection. This is how a Star Wars film should be released for the home market. Sadly, the DVD is only a must-have for collectors or those people who don’t really care for special features or extras. Completists will buy it no questions or thoughts given. The rest will buy it if they want to or sadly just pass it by.
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Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!