Tag Archives: Emilia Clarke

Review: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

dfn-solo_a_star_wars_story-720A high-flying adventure, Solo: A Star Wars Story deftly navigates any number of potential disasters. It’s never quite thrilling, though, or even occasionally unpredictable; instead it’s a safe, steady, and professional journey to a known destination.

This appears to have been the plan all along. Lucasfilm executives, led by Kathleen Kennedy, are evidently most concerned with protecting an extremely valuable franchise. Still, defying any past fan concerns about his casting, Alden Ehrenreich creates a young Han Solo who is distinctive from the archetype that Harrison Ford inhabited.

Han has been lovestruck at an early age by Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). They grew up together in the lower reaches of Corellia, a well-populated planet where the only means for advancement appear to be off-planet. Their plans to escape together are dashed at the last possible moment, which leaves Han wandering by himself, with his only goal to reunite with his beloved Qi’ra and realize their dreams.

In the meantime, he’s a drifter and a scavenger. When he encounters a criminal group led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), he falls easily under a new sway of possibilities: adventure awaits!

Writer Lawrence Kasdan, who kickstarted his career by writing The Empire Strikes Back, Body Heat, and Return of the Jedi, here collaborates with his son Jonathan Kasdan to fashion a narrative that borrows from classic Westerns while cloaking them in updated stylings, as the older Kasdan did with Silverado. It forms a very solid backbone to the story that is told, while allowing for a good degree of humor.

And the latter point may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, prompting the eventual firing of original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. To be fair, we may never know what, exactly, led to their directorial demise — was it their working methods? Was their footage unsuitable? — but it’s become apparent that Lucasfilm and Kennedy have a very definite, fixed perspective on what they want the new Star Wars films to be.

Ron Howard is an experienced craftsman, though it’s been quite a while since he made anything truly exciting or surprising. So it’s not a shock to see that he has done similar work here. It’s fine, it’s somewhat above average … it’s pleasing because it’s not a disaster.

As someone who has seen every Star Wars film during its original theatrical release, Solo: A Star Wars Story falls solidly in the middle range of achievement. Perhaps that is all that should be expected at this point in the life of the franchise.

The film opens in theaters throughout the known galaxy, including Dallas and Fort Worth, on Friday, May 25.

Review: ‘Terminator Genisys’

'Terminator Genisys'
‘Terminator Genisys’
A curiously lumpen yet assaultive adventure, Terminator: Genisys is a collection of climactic moments laid end to end, in the feverish hope that they will add up to something.

They do not.

It’s a very loud movie, with nearly every, wearingly familiar action sequence crying out for attention as though it were something special. Alan Taylor, who directed several dozen episodes of often acclaimed television shows before making his feature debut with Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World in 2012, helms the movie as though it were a double-length, “very special” episode of Game of Thrones (one of the shows he directed), the historical fantasy tropes replaced with time travel obfuscation.

Emilia Clarke, another hardy Game of Thrones veteran, looks splendid in her many action poses as Sarah Connor, a redoubtable heroine whose characterization here falls somewhere in the cracks between the first two movies in the franchise, in that distant era before sequels were viewed more as stepping stones to additional installments in a never-ending series. Clarke, however, is stuck for much of the movie between Jai Courtney and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former a good-looking, well-muscled, rather empty cypher as Sarah’s would-be savior/lover Kyle Reese, and the latter an older but no less sturdy and lethal Terminator who is programmed to protect Sarah at all costs.

The screenplay, credited to Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry), struggles mightily to devise a new scenario in which the key franchise properties may co-exist, and decides to toss out the third and fourth installments, which is no great loss. The story begins in 2037, with the defeat of the planet-wide network of self-aware, intelligent machines known as Skynet. The battle has been led by John Conner (Jason Clarke), but at the moment of triumph, he realizes that Skynet has used its trump card, a time-travel device that sends a Terminator back to 1984 so it can kill John’s mother, Sarah. John has served as mentor to Kyle Reese, and so Kyle is chosen to chase through time after the Terminator and protect Sarah.

Obeisance is paid to James Cameron’s original film as well as the first sequel, in the person of a very dedicated T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee), before the plot begins to diverge and new, overlapping strands emerge, taking convenient advantage of time-travel loopholes and character twists to push the film forward.

Watching Terminator Genisys is an exhausting experience. The rat-a-tat action sequences have no rhyme or reason to them, and they are framed and edited in the outdated modern style, in which motion is prized over coherence. The desperate attempt to recast Schwarzenegger’s Terminator as an even more sympathetic machine — Sarah calls him “Pops,” just because — becomes more cloying as the narrative fizzles out, especially due to the absence of chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney. Jason Clarke is stuck with a thankless role; J.K. Simmons shows up as a cop, for reasons that are never apparent.

Emilia Clarke probably fares best out of the whole mess, constantly giving hope that the movie will rise above its routine intentions, while Schwarzenegger does exactly what’s expected of him: act like a machine, move well, and crisply deliver his lines. The movie as a whole delivers a similar, minimum load of interest and excitement.

The film will have advance preview screenings at select theaters this evening before opening wide across Dallas on Wednesday, July 1.