It’s time for some big screen action, as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out two of the latest releases from the Disney empire; the charming Incredibles 2 and the much maligned Solo: A Star Wars Story.
The Incredibles 2 (2018)
Directed by Brad Bird
Released in 2004, The Incredibles was the first great super-team movie, setting the bar for multiple Avengers, X-Men and Justice League movies to come. Like the Fantastic Four, but not objectively awful, the Incredibles were a family first and superheroes second, and the drama in the film came as much from the interpersonal relationships as the obligatory supervillain.
The end of the first movie set up the sequel, but apart from a fairly average video game, the world of The Incredibles was silent for the next 14 years. So what took so long? Well, if you listen to director Brad Bird and stars Holly Hunter and Craig T Nelson, they were simply waiting for the right script. And that took 14 years, apparently.
Either way, the sequel picks up where the original left off, with the Incredibles fighting crime in the face of politicians who want to shut them down for the massive amount of damage they do. After taking down the Underminer (and causing yet more damage) the family are approached by a mysterious corporate benefactor (Bob Odenkirk) who has a plan to get the public loving superheroes again — a plan involving Elastigirl and not the rest of the team.
This results in Mr Incredible being reduced to stay-at-home dad, a role he assumes will be easy but turns out to be near-impossible, particularly when combined with baby Jack-Jack’s burgeoning powers. Much like the original, Incredibles 2 has layers of humour that appeal to both kids and adults — I challenge anyone with children not to laugh at Mr Incredible’s bafflement over how to do maths the way they teach it at school these days.
What separates The Incredibles from other animated movies is the combination of humour and heart — you genuinely care about these characters and what happens to them. Each member of the family is given a satisfying character arc, from Dash’s acceptance of responsibility to Violet’s growing confidence and Bob’s emerging humility; these cartoon superheroes feel like real people with real problems.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Directed by Ron Howard, following Lord & Miller
How did a movie about one of the most compelling characters from the most popular movie franchise ever turn out to lose millions of dollars for the previously unassailable House of Mouse? Despite what some critics may have you believe, it’s not because Solo is a bad movie…
Starring Alden Ehrenreich in the title role, Solo fills in some gaps in Han’s backstory: how he met Chewbacca, how he got his iconic blaster and what really went down when he won the Millennium Falcon in a game of chance. While somewhat light compared to the gloom of Last Jedi and Rogue One, Solo has some great action sequences and some excellent performances — notably Donald Glover as young Lando Calrissian.
With a permanently arched eyebrow and a sexual attraction to anything with a sassy personality (including his navigation droid L3-37, masterfully voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Glover is magnificence in a cape, revealing exactly how much of a backwoods hick Han is by comparison. Playing a far more optimistic version of Han, Ehrenreich is good in a tough role — some people are always going to see Harrison Ford in the vest. Other standout players include Woody Harrelson as Han’s smuggling mentor Beckett and Paul Bettany as bad guy Dryden Voss, another in a list of hissable characters for the versatile Brit.
Faring less well are the female characters, with Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra reduced to generic love interest and Thandie Newton’s Val receiving almost no screen time — it’s somewhat telling that the strongest female character in this movie is a robot. After the backlash that Kelly Marie Tran received following Last Jedi, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Solo is a “boy movie” — but writing for the fanbase isn’t necessarily a good idea, particularly when you’re talking about Star Wars fans.
You see, Star Wars fans are a difficult bunch to please. Many grew up with the original movies and have elevated them to impossible heights in their minds — no sequel or remake could ever be as good as they remember the originals being. Consider that the last half hour of Return of the Jedi was essentially The Muppet Movie with less charm, yet still most fans rank this movie well above Force Awakens or Rogue One — nostalgia is a powerful emotion. Some commentators have even suggested that the poor box office performance of Solo is due to a backlash against Last Jedi, which seems pretty ridiculous if you think about it. Did you skip Logan because The Wolverine sucked? Of course not.
At the end of the day, Solo is a fun sci-fi movie. It has a lot of action, some great character beats and scenes of genuine emotion. If you have fond memories of a man and his Wookiee flying through space trading quips then you’ll find a lot to like, but if you’re expecting a transcendent cinematic experience then you should probably take a long hard look in the mirror.
The Incredibles 2 and Solo have a lot in common. They both came out a long time after the movie that inspired them, they’re both action packed with a fair dollop of humour, and they both feature characters you know and love.
If you’re looking for a movie to engage the whole family, you really can’t go wrong with Incredibles 2 — it has great action, laugh out loud humour and themes that will resonate long after you leave the cinema. The only downside is that Samuel L Jackson’s Frozone doesn’t have much to do, but he still steals every scene he’s in.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for light sci-fi entertainment with some familiar characters, then Solo isn’t a bad option. Just be prepared for hordes of nerds on the internet to tell you how much it sucks.
The Incredibles 2 — 9/10
Solo: A Star Wars Story — 7/10
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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