‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ on Blu-ray and Digital: Taking Special Effects to New Heights

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This weekend our family was able to enjoy an advance copy of Solo: A Star Wars Story on our Movies Anywhere digital account. The film is now available to the public on Blu-ray and digital download starting today!

GeekDad Jim MacQuarrie offered up an excellent “10 Things” post for the film itself last May. I don’t disagree his insight: the film is a fun, excellent, suspense-filled, action-filled, plot-twist-filled story; the film does a good job hanging between the known plots of Episodes 1-3 and 4-6 but can still stand alone as a fun movie. Our family didn’t see Solo in theaters (I am so ashamed: things got complicated with my sons’ end-of-the-school-year activities and the USAF Academy graduation activities in the 2nd half of May). So when we sat down to watch it last Saturday evening, we were excited to see a scene that resembled World War I’s trench warfare, a train heist, and a The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly-style Wild West standoff. As my husband said after seeing it, “It’s a space western.”

I’m not going to say much more about the film itself; as always, my contributions to Disney Blu-ray and digital reviews will focus on the featured extras, of which there are quite a few. It was great to dive behind the curtain to see how the Lucasfilm talent struck a balance between a retro-period film and today’s amazing special effects. Here are my favorites:

Solo: The Director and Cast Roundtable

This is the longest extra on the Blu-ray and digital download, but worth every second. It’s not actually a round table: the cast is sitting around the octagonal Sabaac table where Han and Lando sat across from each other with the Millennium Falcon up for grabs.

Ron Howard sits with the main cast around the table as the moderator. He asks the cast questions and their answers are hilarious and touching. One of the questions I thoroughly enjoyed was when Howard asked those who were portraying “new” characters — ones previously unseen in the Star Wars canon — about who was an inspiration when the actors were practicing their characters. Thandie Newton’s (Val’s) answer was beautiful: she tells the story of a rebellious young woman in Zimbabwe who had her hair in an afro, who persisted despite many of her friends having been murdered. The documentary then shows a photo, clearly from the late 60s/early 70s, of a woman who looks quite a bit like the character Val. It turns out to be a photo of Newton’s mother, the inspiration for the badass character Val.

Another question that we enjoyed hearing about was “Who was the first person you told when you found out you were cast in Solo?” Those were some very funny answers, from Alden Ehrenreich’s “I couldn’t tell anyone, I was cast 3 months before the announcement was made, so I told my Nana” to Paul Bettany’s “of course I told my kids first.”

Team Chewie

While the roundtable documentary was over 20 minutes, the rest of the documentary shorts are between five and ten minutes each. Team Chewie is a fun look at the “new” Chewbacca.

In Solo, Chewbacca is introduced as a horrific beast, and the viewer’s first look at him is covered in mud in a cold, World War I-looking trench warfare scene. Team Chewie shows the work involved in turning Chewbacca’s fur into a grey, muddy, matted mess. Joonas Suotamo, the man under the fur, having taken over the role from Peter Mayhew in The Last Jedi, discusses how much heavier his costume became when weighed down with all that mud.

Also, this Chewbacca is more violent. WAY more violent. Suotamo (a former Penn State basketball star, whoo!) had to work pretty hard to build the physical strength for some of Chewie’s fight scene.

This short will definitely give you a new perspective on Chewbacca.

Escape from Corellia

This short explains how Han’s home world had to be imagined, designed, and brought to life for the thrilling speeder chase that will bring back memories of classic car chase scenes, from Bullitt to The Blues Brothers to your favorite James Bond movie. Producer Simon Emanuel sought to use that same camera action for Han and Qi’ra’s escape. This documentary short even has a bit of fun with some old-school classic car chase music.

First of all, Corellia needed to be mapped out. They envisioned “pods” connected by waterways and causeways; production designer Neil Lamont likened the world to “a Star Wars version of Venice, but an industrial Venice”.

Next, the crew sought out a location that would reflect this “industrial Venice” look.They couldn’t use a sound stage for the chase scenes. The Fawley Power Station in Southhampton, England, seemed to fit the bill.

Finally, the design of the speeder Han steals was an interesting discussion. Design supervisor James Clyne describes the inspiration behind the look to the speeder. Imagine the classic 70s muscle cars, such as a Dodge Challenger or a Ford Mustang. Now imagine what a classic 70s muscle car would look like in Corellia. The crew goes on to discuss what kinds of interesting parts were found to give the speeder a bit more character, from a baguette baking pan (yes, really!) to the refueling nose cone for a military yet.

You don’t want to miss this one!

The Train Heist

With my husband being ever the train fan — in any way, shape, or form — the scenes of the attempted theft of coaxium from a train certainly caught his attention. In “The Train Heist,” we get to go behind the scenes to learn about how the storyboards of Han, Chewie, and Beckett on the moving train, as well as Val on the bridge setting the explosives, are brought to life.

As can be guessed, much of the filming was done using green-screen technology and CGI. However, there still needed to be some on-location filming. This took the cast and crew to Trentino, Italy, in the heart of the Dolomite Mountains. The scenery is stunning, and there was plenty of snow and ice to create a scene that appeared almost (but not quite) as cold as Hoth.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is now available on both Blu-ray and digital download from your favorite video retailers.

GeekMom received a complimentary sample of Solo on Blu-ray and as a digital download code for purposes of this review.

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