I went to the movies twice in the past two days, both times to see movies that have been out for a while. So here are my thoughts, with SPOILERS for both:
Solo: A Star Wars Story – Beth didn’t want to see this one with me, so I went…well, you can figure that one out. I’m really not sure why this was a relative flop, but I have to suspect it isn’t because of the movie itself, because how would people know whether it’s good without seeing it? It could be a result of the backlash toward The Last Jedi, but I really hope the group that objected to women as main characters isn’t large enough to sway box office receipts. Beth did tell me about one review that said a lot of the stuff explained here was better left to the imagination, and I believe there were licensed novels that covered a lot of it in somewhat different ways. While I can see that as an objection, that doesn’t necessarily make the film bad. I guess my general thought on it was that, while it did take place on multiple planets, it felt a lot smaller than most films in the series. It was a heist movie focused on character development more than an epic space adventure. But then, isn’t that what you’d expect from the title? It covered a lot of what you’d probably think: Han getting into smuggling, meeting Chewbacca and Lando, winning the Millennium Falcon in a card game, doing the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs (along with the explanation that’s been around for a while as to how a measure of distance indicates that the ship is fast). I did think it was weird that they gave an origin for Han’s last name; did anyone really think it was at all unusual among names in the franchise? For that matter, while he was orphaned at a young age, he makes it clear that he did know his father, so why not just use his last name? Or did he not have one either? It’s kind of the opposite of Luke’s aunt and uncle willingly telling him he has the same last name as a famous Jedi Knight (which isn’t their last name) even though they’d rather he not find out about his background. As such, it’s weird that they never explain why Han would know how to speak Wookiee when he first meets Chewie, which is integral to the scene. The plot tells how Han escapes Corellia, flunks out of the Imperial Academy, befriends Chewie, and meets up with a band of thieves led by a guy named Tobias Beckett, which has to be one of the least fantastic names in the franchise. Their plot to steal a shipment of coaxium, which is used as spaceship fuel, goes awry, resulting in the deaths of Tobias’ wife Val and the four-armed Ardennian pilot Rio Durant.
To make up for it, Beckett, Han, and Chewie instead steal unrefined coaxium from Kessel, taking along Han’s old girlfriend Qi’ra (who is now working for crime boss Dryden Vos), Lando, and his droid co-pilot L3-37.
Her main thing is that she’s a crusader for equal rights for droids, which is played for laughs, yet she really does have a valid point. Robots in this galaxy are apparently fully capable of independent thought, but can still be bought and sold. Then again, at least on some planets, so can living beings. L3-37 is destroyed during the escape from Kessel, but her brain is uploaded into the Falcon. The film ends with Beckett and Vos dead, Han and Chewie planning to do a job for Jabba the Hutt, and Qi’ra taking over for Vos. It’s obvious her story isn’t over yet, but we don’t know if she ever runs into Han again. I guess that’s the kind of thing they would have covered in a sequel if the movie had been more successful, and now will be more likely to show up in a spin-off. The film does confirm that the Clone Wars series, which I haven’t yet had the chance to watch, is canon, because of a character who appeared to have died in the movies turning up alive as revealed in the show. I really don’t think another Solo movie would have been a good idea even if this one HAD been a success, because there are so many other characters with untold stories.
Hereditary – A bizarre horror film that Beth really wanted to see, Ari Aster’s directorial debut, heavily influenced by earlier movies like Rosemary’s Baby, concerns a family to which strange things start happening after the death of the mysterious, reclusive grandmother who was heavily into spiritualism. Her daughter Annie, an artist specializing in miniatures, starts to have strange visions, and Annie’s daughter Charlie, who already seemed a bit strange, behaves even more eratically, including beheading a bird with scissors. When Charlie gets sick by eating a piece of cake with nuts at a party her brother Peter is made to bring her to, he tries to drive her to the hospital, but she ends up beheaded as well. After these deaths, Annie befriends an old lady named Joan from a bereavement group, and Joan gets her interested in the occult.
It turns out that Joan was a friend of Annie’s mother, and the two of them were part of a demon-worshipping cult. I guess it goes along with Rosemary’s Baby in suggesting that a lot of kindly old ladies are actually working for the Devil. There are a lot of jump scares and weird images, including naked and headless people. Some of it is kind of corny, but the sense of grief is pretty realistic. The ending is also pretty confusing, although I’m not entirely sure it was supposed to be so; plot synopses I’ve read give an explanation that makes sense with the rest of the story, but obviously it’s still weird. The mythology involves Paimon, a King of Hell who’s actually mentioned in the Lesser Key of Solomon and the Dictionnaire Infernal, and within the context of the movie wants to inhabit a male host. I’ve seen some supposition that this derives from his being drawn with rather feminine features. He’s also often shown riding on a camel, but that doesn’t come into the film as far as I can recall.