Appearing to be a fun caper film, Solo, directed by Ron Howard, dives deep into a world of crime and cruelty just slightly too real for the Star Wars universe. The film’s villain, Dryden Voss (Paul Bettany) is a very human-like sadist whose presence hangs heavy over the movie and keeps it feeling threatening and unpredictable. In these respects, the movie succeeds utterly but it does not feel like the film heist in space we were sold. Nor does it really feel like a Star Wars film.

The creation of the new Star Wars Anthology series was to be able to tell new stories in this galaxy far, far away. Rogue One, the first in the series, established this could be done and done well, albeit, with a strong reliance on the established elements of the Skywalker saga with the supporting role afforded to Vader and the strong focus on the Death Star. Solo proves there is great danger in straying too far from this success.

Despite its successful fan service in dropping names like ‘Aurra Sing’ and ‘Bossk’ that mean little to the casual viewer but reward the more committed fans, the film feels very unlike Star Wars. This creeps in small things like the brutality of the war scenes, the allusions to the nature of Lando Calrissian’s relationship with his droid, the Lovecraftian space beast, the near-swearing, and the frequent off-colour jokes. Where the film feels least like a Star Wars film is in the presence of Dryden Voss, a character whose connection with and behaviour towards the main female character is often alluded to in a way that leaves an unsettling feeling.

The film’s handling of Emilia Clarke’s, Qi’ra feels a little off. Her story is only ever alluded to and the brief glimpses we get make it seem clear we could not see any more in a film using the Star Wars brand which makes one wonder why they chose to use such dark themes. This is territory well outside the expected for Star Wars and it seems unable to do it justice.

As the film continues, it becomes clear that it was an unnecessary endeavour. It fleshes out elements of the series that were better left as vague comments and world-building never elucidated upon. The character of Han Solo feels slightly diminished by being explored in such a thorough manner. He shot (literally) his way onto the screen in 1977 and was best left that way. Alden Ehrenreich does a thoroughly serviceable job as Han but it’s now obvious that Han Solo is not a role that can be so easily handed from one actor to another as works with James Bond. Whether he likes it or not, Harrison Ford was Han Solo.

Donald Glover’s, Lando Calrissian is perfect which is particularly remarkable for such an iconic character and proves the highlight of the film but his role is not enough to overcome the film’s issues.

Like Anakin Skywalker, Han Solo does not benefit from an origin story – the mystery was far better than anything a film could show.

It looks as though this Anthology film was supposed to launch another series but it is likely best it doesn’t. The unexpected arrival of a fan favourite character sent a ripple of excitement throughout the cinema but ultimately adds little.

It’s hard to see what this film was supposed to be – fun caper, brutal gangster film, or special effects extravaganza. Whichever one Howard  finally decided upon, he couldn’t quite get it right. This underworld is too real, too brutal, and populated by too vile a group of characters for the audience to escape without feeling faintly dirty for being immersed in that environment. This film could be a tremendous success as a separate entity but not so for the Star Wars franchise where the more unsettling elements are usually clothed in the alien as in Jabba the Hutt and his ilk. Here we have the very nearly human face of Dryden to associate with evil and corruption. A trip to the galaxy far, far away should feel like a more enjoyable experience than this. The suffering and cruelty is on an individual level here as the series jarringly tries to be both space opera and portrait of humanity existing in extremes.

Solo is not a bad film but it certainly is a disappointing and an unnecessary one. There’s a crueller edge to this film than any before and a more sordid world to see. Complete with off-colour jokes and hints of very real evils, it’s hard to see quite who this film was made to please. Whatever the plan, the result is a decent attempt but ultimately the most unsatisfying entry in the series.


Words by Liam McNally.

2.5 stars.


Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair 2018


Despite being a small city, Adelaide has a number of pop culture conventions, one being the Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair. Now in its fourth year, the Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair is held around the Adelaide CBD and this year’s April 28th event was held on the first level of The German Club on Flinders Street. I decided to make my first visit and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint.

I felt at home right as I entered the room, after paying the $2 entry fee. I found figurines from popular franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Action Man filling the tables inside. The variety of them was diverse, from boxed Farscape figurines selling at $15 to a $500 boxed Black Series Boba Fett with Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Alongside all of these were Lego (but not actual Lego) sized figurines of super-heroes selling for $10-15 each. Whether it be for starting a toy collection, or finding your favourite childhood toy, the Comic and Toy fair had it all.


Image Two Comic and Toy Fair

For retro game collectors, the Comic and Toy Fair did not disappoint. There were boxes full of games, mainly from retro consoles like the Sega Saturn and PlayStation 2. Many games were the usual shovelware titles, but there were some hidden gems. One gem was a copy of Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (case included) for the Nintendo DS selling for $40. Perhaps the most impressive find was a copy of Final Fantasy V (cartridge only) for the Super Famicom selling for $7[1]. Speaking of the Super Famicom, one was on sale for $130 with its box for any willing game fan.

For bookworms, the Comic and Toy Fair had enough books to quench your thirst for reading. There was a little a bit of everything, from the classic Doctor Who Target Books series to old encyclopedias of the Star Trek universe. Comic book fans were also spoiled for choice, having a wide selection of comics from both the past and present. Both Greenlight Comics and Gamma Rays had a presence, offering the usual $2-$4 range of old single-issue superhero comics to trade paperbacks of V for Vendetta. Alongside these were comics from Adelaide indie comic writers like Darren Koziol of Dark Oz, and Dr. Mike 2000 of the Universe Gun series. Fans of the DECAY series could pick up the final issue for $12 from Koziol himself.


Image One Comic and Toy Fair

The final interesting part of the Comic and Toy Fair was the presence of two Adelaide pop culture clubs. These clubs were Starship Mawson and TinTin Club Australia, with the former being the prime Adelaide sci-fi fan club. Some memorabilia from Lexicon, a recent pop culture exhibition at Unley Museum, was on sale too, including a framed 1960s Spiderman comic being sold at the Starship Mawson table for $90. For anyone who might be interested in joining these club, I recommend looking them up and getting in contact.

Overall, the 2018 Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair was a worthwhile experience. It was a fun day out where you could find a hidden gem and discover more of the Adelaide pop culture scene. I recommend anyone who is interested in pop culture expos like AVCon and Supanova to go check out the Comic and Toy Fair next time it is held.

If you are interested in pop culture and toy collecting, the Mega Toy Fair will be on at Adelaide Showgrounds (June 2nd-3rd). For more information, click the link here.

[1]WARNING: Super Famicom games will not work on your Australian Super Nintendo (SNES). This is due to region lock. To play a Japanese game, you will need either a Super Famicom, or a third-party region-free system. Another word of warning: Super Famicoms run on the Japanese 110V power setting, well below the Australian 230V standard. To prevent possible motherboard frying or a fire, you must buy a step-down convertor.

Words by Cameron Lowe