In order to understand why the film ”Solo: Star Wars Story” attracted attention and collected $200 million for the first weekend, despite the fact that the whole project of ”Wars” is more than 40 years old, one must take a closer look at the origins of this, without exaggeration, grandiose cycle.
It began with anthropology. George Lucas studied this, not superfluous for any director, science in college. His favorite book was the famous treatise of Joseph Campbell ”The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. The central idea of the book – the majority of folklore legends have a common plot structure. Comparing and analyzing the myths of completely different peoples, Campbell calculated this general story: an archetypal protagonist embarks on a journey, as a result of which he undergoes initiation (sometimes quite painful) into adulthood, defeats monsters and villains, acquires a kingdom.
This is really an unprecedented situation: based on the study of the fairy tales, Lucas created a fairy tale (remember the famous beginning: ”Once upon a time, in a distant galaxy…”), similar to which no one had ever seen on the screen. The appearance and nature of the characters, weapons and magical abilities were recognizable for the ”inner child” that is present in each viewer, and at the same time had no analogues in the previous cinematograph. Here there are their warriors (Jedi), dashing space pirates (Khan Solo and Chewbacca on the ship ”Millennium Falcon”), a beautiful Princess Leia, a sinister (and tragic) black knight Darth Vader, even a couple of jesters – joker and a short man, robots C-3PO and R2-D2, respectively; plenty of monsters and there are magical artifacts – light swords that have their own character and are subject only to the chosen ones. For the audience of the twentieth century, the dramatic opposition was also important: the colorful insurgents of the Republic – against the dictatorship of the Empire, whose aesthetics of uniforms, parades and constructions in places resembled the Third Reich. If you add revolutionary, at that time, special effects, it becomes clear that Lucas breathed new life into film fantasy.
Fantasy in the cinema also did not stand still. Finds of the ”Star Wars” are gradually becoming obsolete. In 1999-2005, Lucas released three more episodes, however, despite the good fees, these prequels for artistic value were inferior to the initial trilogy. It was in search of the necessary update that the producers initiated the production of spin-offs, that is, offshoots from the axial plot. ”Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016) was no longer a fairy tale, but a military drama: the Jedi did not exist, and no one was perfect; such a ”The Dirty Dozen” in space. The graft of realism turned out to be useful. Both the critics and the audience were delighted.
”Solo: Star Wars Story”– the second spin-off. Its director was a two-time Oscar winner Ron Howard (1954), famous in particular for the psychological thriller ”Game of Reason”, and also has experience in fiction ”Apollo 13”, the adaptation of Dan Brown’s ”Da Vinci Code”, ”Angels and demons”,” Inferno”.
Howard continued the line started back in ”Rogue One”: he does not tell the tale, but plays with genres and even with the history of cinema.
We find the protagonist, the future super pilot Khan Solo (so far just Khan) on the planet-shipyard of Corellia, a huge industrial zone, ruled by bandits and soaked with corruption. The main boss of the villains, by the way – such a Lady Proxima – a huge caterpillar (hello, Lewis Carroll).
Howard does not want to outdo Lucas. Yes, here there is a journey and the character’s initiation too, however Howard works in the context of the movie. In other words, if Lucas operates with the mythology of authentic cultures, then Howard addresses the mythology of the cinematographic to, so to speak, second-order myths.
To begin with, Ron Howard himself is one of the members of the Lucas’ universe and was familiar with the author of ”Star Wars” even before they appeared. In the movie ”American Graffiti” (1973), the full-length debut, which made Lucas famous, Howard plays one of the main roles – a city playboy with a tough car and a difficult future. And, in fact, in the first scenes of ”Solo”, where a brazen youth (Alden Ehrenreich) steals a flying car and rushes along with his enthusiastic girlfriend through the apocalyptic landscapes of Corellia, simultaneously discussing the brands and advantages of various vehicles, Khan also appears as the embodiment of desperate, lost, enamored protagonist of ”American graffiti”, only at the stage of the final release of freedom from the care of teachers and parents.
Actually, after the adrenaline prologue the fateful journey of the characters begins. The resourceful Howard combines it with another type of narrative – the novel of education. The first stage of growing up in completely different aesthetics – in the trenches of war, leads the Empire against another captured planet. Dirt, shooting, trenches, chaos, senseless violence, unrighteous command – all this visually clearly appeals to the front movie about the First World War. Khan went to study at the Imperial Academy of Pilots, but flew out because of a rebellious character – a typical premise for this kind of adventure. Actually, he would have disappeared here, but he faces the same sort of daredevils led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), simultaneously releasing the hairy monster – the aforementioned Chewbacca – in an extremely ridiculous episode, where opponents aired the differences with moaning Wookiee language.
And then, as it is necessary for growing up of the protagonist in the American blockbuster, we have a pure western, even to be exact – a spaghetti-western, in which shadows are not less than light. All as it should be – and the gun at the Khan’s hip, and the demonstration of confrontation from behind the back from a low camera, so that the holster was clearly visible, and an underground casino with scammers, and a great robbery of the train, and a grandiose battle in apogee, and a duel with the main pagans Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) in the denouement. Only the character of Woody Harrelson (”evil”, if you consider Khan as ”good” and Vos as ”bad”) in the cowboy coat is worth it. Unless instead of horses – all sorts of high-speed technology.
What is driving the whole conflict? The struggle for resources, for coaxium, is a very valuable raw material for the production of fuel for interstellar flights. The truth is, these treasures are needed for different purposes: some need it for domination, another for struggle against tyranny. One of the most brilliant soldiers of freedom is the robot-feminist L3. The image is truly unique; a victim of double oppression – robots by people and women by men, she under the finals takes up the enchanting rebellion that all the Star Wars combined have ever seen. Robots, interspersed with humanoids of a good dozen of races, break racks, crash equipment, beat the guards, and it’s all amusing and exciting at the same time.
29-year-old American actor Alden Ehrenreich coped with his work, actually, and playing the right one – a daring pantywaist Khan, able to find a common language or quarrel to death with almost anyone, anarchic warrior of good, devoid of excess sentiment; and in character, and internally is almost an ideal opponent of Tobias- Harrelson, who, like some dark side of Khan, is a variant of his future.
But the future of this particular guy is Harrison Ford, the same cowboy without fear and reproach from the legendary ”New Hope” 1977: not so the appearance as the similarity of temperaments testifies in favor of such evolution. Such an actor’s ellipse closes the connection of times inside the endless song of ”Star Wars”.
Actually, Howard managed to do almost impossible: after 9 films, using the history and mythology of cinematography, to create a bright film-novel, filling it with the acutely topical themes – feminism, ecology, exploitation of the poor, war in the third world. That is, add a decent chapter in the cosmic epic, using the methods of the father-founder of this epic.
This whole scheme was a pure adventure. But Howard began – and won. Another one Khan Solo with a camera instead of a blaster.
The force was exactly with him.
Text: Kostyantyn Levin