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Posts Tagged ‘film review’

10 Reasons You Want to Watch BLADE RUNNER, The Original

Blade Runner, The Original

I rewatched BLADE RUNNER last night in a friend’s home-theater with a group of folks in their 20s and 30s. For some, it was their first time viewing the film.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones to have seen the original BLADE RUNNER on the big screen during its first weekend release. I was a young highschooler at the time, a huge sci-fi fan and living in Burbank, California. I remember my older brother and I driving west over the Hollywood Hills, as we did often in that era, to make sure we were getting the biggest bang for our buck. Our theater of choice that night was The Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

It’s not easy to describe to a new generation of filmgoers how important this film was at that time. Most folks in the film industry, especially directors point to BLADE RUNNER as ground-breaking. Ridley Scott made BLADE RUNNER after finishing the film, ALIEN. He also made it after his brother had died of cancer. The dark setting of BLADE RUNNER reflects a dark state of mind. Don’t expect cheerfulness here.

YET…you don’t have to be a filmmaker to appreciate BLADE RUNNER.

 

Here are 10 Reasons Every Sci-Fi Fan Ought to Watch BLADE RUNNER

Oh, and watch the FINAL CUT. 2007 version. There are seven versions of this film. Kind of crazy, I know.

  1. Cult classics happen for a reason. Following its meh release in 1982, a slow-building respect, awe and cult following emerged.
  2. BLADE RUNNER influenced the next generation of filmmakers, especially dystopian and sci-fi writers/directors.
  3. This is a brilliant screenplay (especially once R.Scott took out the clunky voice-over narration), though there are many fans of that version of the film.
  4. Take pleasure in watching a young Harrison Ford perfectly embody the main character, Richard Deckard.
  5. You like The Man in the High Castle? Philip K. Dick wrote that novel. BLADE RUNNER is an adaptation of his weird classic, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  6. You’re a Battlestar Galactica fan? Here is a chance to see Edward James Olmos (Captain Adama) in a role you would not expect.
  7. Complicated villain. Rutger Hauer…what a performance!

    Hauer as Roy Batty

  8. The sequel is excellent and makes a lot more sense if you watch the original first.
  9. This is not a movie for the weak, nor is it for the mindless. You will have to think and process the experience after viewing.
  10. Because of number 9, it’s a great film to see with a group of friends. At the very least, the post-film discussion won’t be boring.

 

If you want to totally nerd out on BLADE RUNNER, I recommend this very long and thorough article in Cinephilia & Beyond

CAPTAIN MARVEL: Female Empowerment and the Superhero

A REVIEW OF THE 2019 FILM AND A FEW OTHER OBSERVATIONS

In the last ten years, the urging of audiences around the globe have pushed the film industry to re-think the way it portrays people of color and women, folks who might not have been featured in stories (especially superhero stories) as headliners.

A number of different types of heroes have emerged victorious: Wonder Woman hit the scene big in 2017, the Black Widow in the Marvel universe has taken an elevated seat (will not spoil, but she plays an essential roll in Avengers: End Game, released this past month), and Black Panther, another Marvel character and storyline that incorporates not only one African character, but an entire culture.

All those films/characters broke open that hunger into full fledged box office $ and now, CAPTAIN MARVEL enters the scene.

Captain Marvel. First of all…I have to say. What fun! I loved this film and I noticed after emerging from the fog of the fictional dream what the credits indicated. I noticed how many women worked on the writing. The WRITING. I cannot emphasize this enough. Women were put into positions of power, able to make decisions about the story.

  1. Directed by Anna Boden
  2. Screenplay written by Anna Boden and a dude named Ryan
  3. Story credits going to Anna Boden, Nicole Perlman, Geneva Roberson-Dworet, Meg Le Fauve, and yes…a dude named Ryan

Ms. Marvel

So…when there was a shouting match in the writer’s room about what the character is thinking and feeling and the actions she is about to take…Ryan might have been “out-shouted” by the women. That was a good thing for audiences everywhere.

Wonder Woman was an amazing film, but women were not in the writing credits. A woman was instrumental in the direction of the film, which is awesome, but women did not “create the character”…in fact…here are the names of the writers:

  1. Zach Snyder
  2. Alan Heinberg
  3. Jason Fuchs

I’m not saying these dudes were bad people, insensitive to female motivation and feminine issues of power and agency, but…they are three dudes and there are zero women in terms of the story creation.

What was it like to be in the writer’s room of CAPTAIN MARVEL versus Wonder Woman. I imagine there was a difference.

And for me, even before I saw the credits, CAPTAIN MARVEL struck a note about women differently than Wonder Woman did. I noticed how the character’s strengths and flaws made sense to me as a woman.

CAPTAIN MARVEL was not a perfect film and there are problems (as an author I foresee them) with how incredibly powerful the creators have made Carol “Captain Marvel”. What is to keep her from showing up every other day and solving the world’s issues? The implication from Avengers: End Game is that she is super dang busy with solving the universe’s issues with evil, so she can’t bail them out every time there is a problem.

A problem a lot of great woman face, I suppose.  They want to help people, but have too much to do and not enough time on their hands…CAPTAIN MARVEL sounds like any number of Saints in the Catholic Canon. “If there were just more of us…” said one lady saint to another…

Indeed…I hope there will be more female heroes portrayed in the superhero universe in the coming years.

By the way…for those interested…there is a weird subtext to the Wonder Woman mythology. Click here to read an article about the man who conceived of the character:  The Creepy Creator of Wonder Woman

But don’t discount this creator/writer too quickly. He is said to have written this in a letter to the publishers of DC Comics:

“Look, if you had a female superhero, her powers could all be about love and truth and beauty, and you could also sell your comic books better to girls,” he said. “And that would be really important and great because she could show girls that they (girls) could do anything.”

 

 

 

Film Review of Annihilation, Echoes of Ripley and the Alien Franchise…

This is a review without spoilers.

 

Don’t miss this film. It’s easy to watch. Right now ANNIHILATION is free for Amazon Prime members.

 

Five Reasons to Watch this Film

 

  1. It puts forward a non-humanoid portrayal of an alien species invading our planet–always a welcome change in sci-fi land.
  2. Watch it for the tension, mystery and suspense (on par with films like Alien and The Thing).
  3. Watch it for dynamic, mostly female cast. Realistic and flawed characters with agency and intelligence.
  4. Watch it for the beautifully imagined world. The CGI and other effects are a visual feast.
  5. I also enjoyed the creepy music. I expect it will make your skin crawl as it did mine.

 

Lena

ANNIHILATION is based on The Southern Reach Trilogy novels by Jeff Vandermeer. Watch the film and read the first book (in particular), also called Annihilation. To read my review of the first novel, click here. The film diverges enough from the novel, spoilers aren’t an issue. Both stand alone and give the consumer something different. The most important commonality in both is the main character: Lena, as named in the film. She is not named in the book, but is only known as the biologist.

 

Alex Garland wrote the screenplay based on the trilogy, but focused on the first book. He takes that novel told in the first person, a story relayed by the journal entries of the biologist, and creates something that makes sense for the screen.

 

In one of the film’s earliest scenes, a comet or asteroid hits Earth, near a lighthouse on the North-Eastern coast of the US. Within a few years (we learn later), an anomaly develops in and around the area where the asteroid hit. It becomes circumscribed by what the government people call, the shimmer.

 

The story of Lena opens with her sitting in a chair in a mostly empty hospital-type viewing room. She is dressed in scrubs, surrounded by men and women in hazmat suits, many of whom watch her through windows. One man is interviewing her about her journey into the shimmer. She is only survivor who has returned of a 5-person team. As he questions her, the story unfolds.

 

The casting of ANNIHILATION is strong, with nuanced performances by Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh (as the psychologist and expedition leader).

 

This film was released on a February weekend in 2018, the weekend following the release of Black Panther. While the Marvel masterpiece sucked nearly all of the movie-going public into the theaters, one, two and three times to ooh and aah over that story, the graphics and the unfolding of a Wakanda power struggle, ANNIHILATION quietly drew its small and eclectic audience. It left the theaters before the Hollywood press had a chance to say much about it. In truth, even without Black Panther as competition for eyeballs, the film was rated “R”, and therefore would not have attracted the masses.

 

However, similar to a film like Under the Skin, this story is so creepy and alien in a way that pushes the imagination, the sci-fi fanatic will adore it…as should biologists, who will see their discipline elevated in a way not often witnessed on the big screen.

 

If you are a DVD watcher, here is a link for purchase.

ANNIHILATION dvd

 

I end with a favorite quote:

“Was it carbon based? What did it want? It came here for a reason. It came here for a reason. It mutated everything.”

BIRD BOX: A Review with a Couple of Spoilers

Watch and Enjoy. BIRD BOX is an Entertaining Film as Long as you Know that These Images and Themes Have Been Seen Before

BIRD BOX was produced by Netflix and released for public consumption on December, 21, 2018. According to Netflix data, 45 million people watched BIRD BOX in the week before Christmas.

For those who didn’t watch it over Christmas, like me, here’s the review…

This story is a Quiet Place, but without the husband (there is a stand-out dude…Tom, played by Trevante Rhodes…who becomes a stand-in husband and Father, but for a short portion of the film). The story portrays a mother, Sandra Bullock, as Malorie, who gives birth shortly after a catastrophic alien invasion? The film does not make this clear…Is it really aliens? At one point, there is a reference to North Korea and bio warfare…but one can be pretty sure it’s more along the alien invasion spectrum. Creatures are mentioned in one of the early scenes. Most eager scifi fans will swallow yet another apocalyptic scenario and accept the tragedy as instigated by something otherworldly that impacts every person, mostly in a negative way. (99% of the human race does not thrive under its influence…yes, that’s a spoiler of sorts, but then you probably knew this).

There is some challenge in writing a review of this film with zero spoilers, because the narrative is so familiar to so many of us, but I’ll try. 

Here’s the premise…After an alien invasion (I think) every person becomes infected with a psychosis. This is spread from person to person through what they see. What do they see? That remains a mystery, but the results can be seen and they are catastrophic. Those infected figure out ways to kill themselves. Society drifts into destruction. Those who survive either do so by covering their eyes or a few see and don’t kill themselves right away. However, they become crazy people who attempt to get everyone else infected. The aliens are never seen by the audience, though they are heard and they are drawn in charcoal on paper by one survivor (one of the crazies). The aliens appear (in his drawings) as demons or devils. It’s possible this is some kind of bio-tech warfare and the creatures/aliens are all imagined, part of the psychosis. The audience isn’t in the know on that one.

Sandra Bullock finds herself responsible for two children and needs to figure out a way to get them to safety and a place where they can thrive. For that to happen, she needs to float them down a river, blindfolded. The story opens with her getting on the boat after lecturing the two little ones on the dangers of the trip and the importance of never taking off the blindfold, but the real body of the film takes place in backstory.

BIRD BOX portrays what A Quiet Place never did…the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic alien invasion that jacks up humanity. In BIRD BOX, the audience sees the unraveling. In A Quiet Place the viewer needs to imagine that unraveling. However, in BIRD BOX, the audience needs to imagine the villain. In A Quiet Place, the audience gets a clear view, eventually, of the alien that is bent on destroying humanity and by the end, a possible way to defeat it. That “ending” note is missing from BIRD BOX. It does not deliver enough answers about the mystery. Does an unseen villain ruin this film? Not exactly, but if a sequel is ever made, I will expect answers.

Regarding the similarities between the two films…It did strike me right away that in BIRD BOX, covering eyes is important, while in A Quiet Place not speaking is essential…which begs the questions…is this a theme that our current audiences want to explore? What if we had to survive in a post apocalyptic world without our sight or without speaking? Maybe the post apocalyptic universe is too easy…or maybe too familiar? I suppose, the next film of this ilk will explore surviving without hearing, or how about without tasting. Apparently, the public hungers for the answers to these question. I suspect, the quandary has to do with our over-teched and over-connected reality, but maybe there is another yearning I don’t yet comprehend. Another similarity between the films is the prominence of a pregnant mom as a survivor during a horrid moment of human existence.

I will say, the film (free for Netflix users) BIRD BOX is an entertaining jaunt. If you can get past the unknowns that are never explained…watch it and enjoy the drama that can only unfold at the end of the world.

 

Film Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Hello audience of All Sci Fi! Welcome to the second guest post. My name is Abby Jensen and I am Susi Pritchett Jensen’s daughter. She raised me with a strong love of good stories and science fiction. I also am lucky enough to be one of the first test readers for many of her stories and her novel. I have been helping my mom set up this site for the past year and am very excited to write my first content for it!

 

 

No Spoilers Review:

We have a longstanding tradition in our family of seeing a movie on my mom’s birthday because it’s so close to Christmas. This year she chose SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. My brother and I had already seen it once, but it is definitely the kind of film you can go back to and enjoy more every time.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is an action-packed, hilarious, and heartwarming story of family told from the perspective of Miles Morales, a Black/Latino middle school boy. Miles faces the standard coming-of-age problems of a mixed-race kid from gentrifying Brooklyn, along with a plethora of classic Spider-Man villains to save not just his universe, but the entire multiverse from collapse. It’s also rated PG and is accessible to kids as young as 7 or 8 (younger if they’re precocious.)

The writers deftly deal with multiple Spiderman comic universes, keeping them accurate, in-character, and interesting for both kids and adults. If you are a nerdy parent looking to introduce your kids to comic books, this film could be an excellent inroad. And even if you aren’t familiar with Marvel Comics, Spiderman, and especially Miles Morales as Spiderman, is incredibly relatable for people of all ages. After all, anyone can wear the mask, which Miles and the Spider gang (from the other universes) discover together. All they need is a persistent willingness to get back up after every hit.

What impressed me more than the well-handled story, was the unique animation style. As a designer, I was dazzled by the ways the visuals connected to narrative elements in the film. High quality 3D computer animation has been around for long enough that it finally seems like studios are willing to experiment with the medium. For SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, Sony uses animation to its full potential, creating a colorful comic-like universe for Miles. The textures and chaotic 3D effects connected with the disruptions of the multiverse evoke the unknowns of multiple dimensions in a way that is familiar enough that even kids will appreciate it. 

3 Reasons You and Your Kids Should See SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

  1. The message is inclusive and accessible to kids as young as 7 and as old as me (a 23-year-old kid.)
  2. The animation is beautiful and artistically adventurous, both of which add to the story.
  3. Miles Morales, a black/latino middle-school kid, brings one of the most relatable superheroes ever created to 21st century gen-z relevance.

A QUIET PLACE, Film Review with a Slight Spoiler

Science fiction pops up in the darndest places, some of those places are quiet places. Okay, okay…so that’s a bit of a spoiler, but why the heck did it take me so long to hear from someone/anyone that this film was about people surviving an alien invasion. I think some of why is because of the code of mystery that surrounded this film when it came out. Everyone seemed reluctant to tell…

I assumed A QUIET PLACE was horror/suspense. Most of the trailers indicated that this was so. I did not get the chance to see this film in the theater, but I might have tried a lot harder had I known about the scifi underpinnings. At some point, both my kids saw the film and told me with a wink and a nod that I should definitely view it. “It’s really good,” they said, “and not gory like a horror flick.”

That comment from them made me think it was for sure a horror flick, a well done horror flick, but still, horror all the way.

So…I didn’t get it. In fact, I might have missed the film altogether had it not been for a friend spilling the beans recently.

“You’ve seen A QUIET PLACE, haven’t you? There are aliens in this film.”

Okay, so now I know and now you know and it’s not a huge spoiler. The first view of the alien comes by the end of the beginning sequence, about 7 minutes into the film.

However, this story is not alien-centric. It’s family-centric in a really great way. The premise of an alien who hears its prey and only then comes to destroy, but leaves survivors alone if they are silent, now that is a fun and new angle on the alien invasion story.

Five reasons I recommend A QUIET PLACE, directed by the lead actor, John Krasinski

  1. Superior storytelling, lots of tension and heart. The idea of watching a silent film has been lost to the modern audience. In this creepy portrayal, there are powerful swaths of storytelling in which the visual completely dominates the viewing experience. That feels new and vibrant, in part because the visual story telling in A QUIET PLACE is well done.
  2. The family unit (not one individual) is the protagonist and each of the members are smartly drawn. A deaf character adds depth to the unfolding drama. We root for all of them. (Dad played by John Krasinski. Mom played by Emily Blunt. Daughter played by Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress.)
  3. Powerful and brutal villain(s). Ugly too.
  4. Inspiring examples of the will to survive and the costs we incur, AKA the suffering we endure, to love one another.
  5. Juxtaposition of idyllic scenery/cinematography and the unknown, the mystery of that which is not seen, the horror that is waiting to besiege.

The story unfolds in a post-alien invasion rural US (the locale is possibly somewhere East of the Mississippi, maybe Vermont). The aliens, rarely present, including their spaceships are not seen in the film, have come to Earth and have destroyed all living creatures who make noise (even animals that sniff about and snarl). It seems the aliens have no visual acuity, but can hear from very very far away and once they hear, they come to kill almost immediately. Those who survive the invasion are attempting a life in silence, including the protagonist family. The audience meets them initially as they tiptoe through a drug store (they are all barefoot) and scavenge for medicine and goods. The audience deduces, this is one town of millions of towns and this is one family among thousands of surviving groups? One other survivor is seen in the film…Let’s just say, he doesn’t last long.

Imagine your family trying not to make any noise. Imagine trying to communicate, trying to thrive without vocalizing. Imagine feeling pain without crying and playing monopoly without table chatter. Imagine that your life depended on staying silent. Herein lies the tension of the film. Also, there are discoveries to be made about the villain and how to defeat it/them. Might something be unearthed by our protagonists? Perhaps, but at what cost? You’ll have to watch the film to find out. $5.99 to rent on iTunes.

ARRIVAL, Film Review Without Spoilers

I recently watched ARRIVAL for a second time through Amazon Prime. In my first viewing, I was in a theater and I loved it. This second go-around, I was not disappointed. I watched with a group of my cousins who are all film/scifi nuts. The viewing was free for Prime members.

ARRIVAL is rated PG 13…it’s somewhat creepy and suspenseful, but a middle school child or a sensitive viewer could probably handle the production. I’m not sure why it did not receive the PG rating. It unfolds without graphic violence and there is no explicit sexual content. One might call ARRIVAL a quiet film, but the subject matter takes it from the quiet realm into the epic and deeply thoughtful.

ARRIVAL was released in theaters to much acclaim in 2016. The film is based on a short story by Ted Chiang. Eric Heisserer wrote the screenplay. I hope to read and review Chiang’s short story in a future post.

The film unfolds with slow intensity primarily around one character, Louise Banks, played wonderfully by Amy Adams. Banks is a linguist recruited by the US government to learn the language spoken by aliens who have alighted in giant oblong space ships in twelve locations around the globe.

The story is a linguist’s dream and as a science fiction fan, I recall a number of novels that view first contact in light of language and communication. China Miéville’s Embassy Town is a good example. In a story such as this, violence is often threatened, but not center stage. Mysteries and the push to understand the other dominate the narrative.

 

Five quotes from the screenplay to pique your interest:

  1. “If this is some sort of peaceful first contact, why send twelve? Why not just send one?”
  2. “Language is the first weapon drawn in a conflict…”
  3. “Are they scientists or tourists? If they’re scientist, they don’t seem to ask a lot of questions…”
  4. “If you could see your life from start to finish, would you change things?”
  5. “Meeting you…was more important that seeing the stars…”

Five reasons to watch this film.

  1. It’s free if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
  2. If your family is into science fiction, ARRIVAL is a crowd pleaser which you can show to your kids with a clear conscience.
  3. Potential discussion about language and linguistics, the puzzle and the importance of communication.
  4. Female hero with lots of brains and only a few characters to keep track of.
  5. Potentially leads to fruitful discussion about love, suffering, beauty, grace, even religion.

To buy this DVD, click here.

UPGRADE, Film Review

UpgradeUpgrade
Original Screenplay by Leigh Whannel

A Film Review without spoilers

This film is rated R. It’s a brilliantly told story, a must see for the scifi fan.

Watching UPGRADE will make you reticent about using driverless cars and all digital modes of communications. The film takes place sometime in the future, but not too far into the future. Tech has evolved. Driverless cars operate on the road alongside the old fashioned kind. The main character, Grey, is a mechanic and a technophobe, who works on non-driverless cars. His wife, Asha, works in tech and owns a driverless car.

While riding in that car together, the computer goes haywire and crashes them in a slum. Gangsters descend on them. Both Grey and his wife are shot. Asha dies. Grey is left with a severed spine and faces the prospect of living the rest of his life as a quadriplegic. A high-tech guru offers him the chance to walk again through the use of an experimental chip called stem that will reconnect Grey’s brain to his spinal cord. As Grey contemplates the offer, an offer made in a dark room of the guru’s isolated mansion, for which he needs to sign a confidentiality agreement, the guru asks him: What would Asha want?  Grey agrees to receive the stem chip. The audience knows this is a Faustian bargain.

UPGRADE is a film that will not have the mega-media behind it, but it is worth seeing. It was made for good reason and ought to be celebrated, especially by the scifi community. Here are five reasons why you ought to watch this film (especially if you are a hardcore scifi fan and over the age of 16…the rating is for real…brutal violence in this one).

  1. UPGRADE is a perfectly crafted script. Leigh Whannel writes and directs with stunning precision. From the beginning (a drop of human blood falling into the engine of a car…flesh mingling with the machine) to the end (the shedding of blood and establishment of a hierarchy in regard to human versus machine), every image, every word spoken by the characters…each scene is packed with meaning. The writing is deliberative and tight, everything a film or a well-told story ought to be.
  2. The main character and the peripheral characters all make sense in the world created by Whannel. All of them behave like real humans (or like human-machine hybrids) in the way one might expect. I give extra love in my reviews for this one. I want to see characters on the screen who make sense.
  3. Tension and action are delivered in full. If you’re a bit squeamish about violence, like I am, you might need to keep your eyes shut here and there. However, I was delighted by the car chases, the detective narrative and the ratcheting up of tension as the main character grapples with his relationship with the stem chip.
  4. The plot twists are well-earned and not predictable. You may feel like you understand what you’re seeing and where the story is going, but there are surprises you likely won’t anticipate.
  5. The climax sends the viewer into contemplation and hopefully discussion (For this reason, I advise trying to watch this film with a friend). All great films lead their audiences to think and question. UPGRADE, like the best scifi, raises questions about morality, ethics in regard to AI and other worthwhile topics, like, where-the-hell-is-our-tech-society-headed?

If you need a little more motivation to spend that 10 to 12 dollars, here is the trailer.

To buy the dvd of this film, click here.

 

 

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, Film Review

han solo and chewbaccaSolo: A Star Wars Story

Original Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan

Directed by Ron Howard

Film Review without spoilers

 

A Fun Film Overall, to watch it, click here.

I walked to our local cinema to watch Solo yesterday and exited the theater content overall, pleased with many of the film’s sub-narratives that made sense within the Star Wars universe. SOLO is primarily a feel good film and appropriate for kids (a dad and his two boys, ages 6 and 8 were in the theater and not overwhelmed by the gore). Gruesome violence is downplayed, though there are more than a few dead bodies by the end of the film, including Chewbacca pulling the arms off of a bad guy. (The audience laughed…but, we never see the bleeding body, just the two arms held up by Chewie).

SOLO is a fun ride for the Star Wars fan or someone who might not care about complex emotional narratives. It’s a space-romp with a number of laughs and swash-buckling action. What rang true? Young Han Solo is charming with a big screen grin that will win the hearts of those who adore good hair and a handsome face. Charm, in fact, is one of the most identifiable characteristics of the younger Han Solo. Others are:

  1. His optimism in the face of terrible odds
  2. His ego, connected to his piloting skills (The Millennium Falcon coming into the hands of Solo, following a gambling event with Lando Calrissian fills out a nice piece of backstory)
  3. His rogue/tough exterior with a subtext of goodness/romanticism and devotion to that which is just
  4. His loyalty (The Chewbacca mini-narrative is wonderful and touching).

All the characteristics listed above are present in the young Solo, but with a bit more naiveté than we see in the later version when the audience meets the more jaded version of Han Solo in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE.

What Was Lacking?
It all seems too easy for Han Solo…

Real grit in the face of trauma was less present than I expected, resulting in a somewhat shallow story. The boy Han has grown up on a planet called Corellia, seemingly with little nurture or supervision. Corellia, the filmmakers let you know, has a reputation as a horrible place, yet the audience meets Han as a young twenty-something, empowered and rebellious and unflappable. The setting portrayed in the opening sequence features children living in squalor, but Han is clean and confident, so confident, he is willing to defy a crime boss (this crime boss is a giant centipede-like-creature that lives underwater, but emerges to speak…speaking perfect English actually…ain’t that something!) As Han escapes from Corellia, he is separated from a young woman he loves, Qi’ra. Even at this point, he does not break down or show extreme distress. He enters the Imperial Navy to learn to fly and vows to return for her. I was not convinced saving Qi’ra was driving his ambition to become a pilot. I sense no desperation in this character who is now a pawn in the humongous bureaucracy, which is the Imperial military.

The next time the audience sees Han, he is a part of an Imperial infantry division. He has been kicked out of flight school for insubordination. He is on an unnamed planet waging war with his comrades. It is a dark, smoke-filled environment. A chaotic battle is taking place. The scene is horrifying. Soldiers are dying left and right, diving into trenches, a few are screaming after enduring injuries. How long did Han fight with these warriors? Did he care about any of them? Was he traumatized by this? He is being used by the Empire to oppress those who are battling to stay free. Han never claims to care about politics, but we know he cares about certain people (and a Wookie and the Millennium Falcon). He grows attached and becomes loyal. Why no emotional engagement in this place? If he is defended against emotional engagement, it’s likely there is trauma, trauma that would impact his character. That might have been an interesting angle to take with this film, but instead the filmmakers hurry the story along. Han abandons his defeated and dying fellows in the military and joins up with a crew of thieves. Han escapes the trauma a second time. It all seems too easy.

So…this weekend, there is a bit of buzz about SOLO not making the money the filmmakers had hoped. There are a few news stories out (and it’s only Sunday of second weekend since its release) that indicate a significant decrease in the audience numbers. What does that mean? As with any of the gigantic film franchises that are emerging in the last thirty years, there are films that rise to the top quickly, but fizzle…and those that percolate and stay with you. I’m guessing, SOLO won’t stay with us in that same way that NEW HOPE, EMPIRE or even ROGUE ONE does, but sometimes, that’s okay. Not every film can be great, but a flick like this can still be great entertainment and in this case, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, delivers for the whole family.