During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion in  Solo: A Star Wars Story .

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:
Extras:
Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

74
Details:

Studio and Year: Disney - 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 135 minutes
Genre: Sci-fi/Adventure

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos7.1.4/TrueHD 7.1, Spanish/French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Amelia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Directed by: Ron Howard
Music by: John Powell
Written by: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: September 25, 2018
"Never Tell Him the Odds"
My Take:

Young Han Solo finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission -- the Millennium Falcon.

Star Wars: A New Hope or Star Wars, as it was called back then, debuted in theaters on my 13th birthday in 1977. I remember sitting in the theater not knowing what to expect but being excited because I sensed that the film was somehow different from anything I had previously seen on the big screen. Little did I realize how right I was as my jaw dropped upon seeing that huge Star Destroyer come into view and fill the screen. I remained captivated as the story unfolded, introducing me to iconic characters and their compelling plight which would evolve into the most talked about and anticipated movie events over the next six years.

I, like many of you reading this am a Star Wars fan, with a particular love of Episodes IV, V, VI. When I saw the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story I was interested but, not intrigued as it just seemed like another installment, based upon one of the franchises most beloved characters, that had the earmarks of a cash grab. Anyway, I didn’t venture out to the theater to see it, especially given the mixed reviews that I heard from people that had seen it. After sitting down with it I found it rather enjoyable. It’s not a wholly gratifying film experience given the shallowness of its narrative but, it has enough depth to make for an entertaining guilty pleasure that presents us with visual background on the forming of relationships that would later define the early Star Wars films.

I thought that the cast handled their respective roles well enough. I did feel that Donald Glover was the standout, doing a very good job in portraying young Lando, despite trying just a tad too hard to sound like Billy Dee Williams. The action is fair and the production elements support the thematic tone just fine. Solo: A Star Wars probably isn’t a favorite among Star Wars fans but, it’s got a place in my opinion. There is much talk about future films featuring the backstories on iconic characters from the Star Wars mythos. We’ll see lies in store.

Replay Value:
Parental Guide:

The rating is for sequences of sci-fi/action violence.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 78
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 
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Dolby Atmos Rating: 70
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 
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Solo: A Star Wars Story comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Disney featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD, Solo: A Star Wars Story was derived from 6.5K and 3.4K sources and finished on a 4K DI.

Having not seen Solo: A Star Wars Story in the theater I have no frame of reference for its intended look from a cinematographic perspective. Aesthetically speaking this is on odd looking film. It’s adorned in sepia and colors often lean toward neutral. The result is a less than eye-catching appearance which fails to capitalize on Ultra HD ability to deliver striking levels of color.

This is the case with the 1080p transfer as well. This isn’t to suggest that the presentation is devoid of chromatic elements as the film’s varies shades of brown, orange, tan, intermittently rendered primary colors and flesh tones are reproduced quite well. Black levels are a mixed bag and are scene/lighting dependent. Dark sequences mixed with bright elements tend to look solid, with appreciable delineation in shadows. Low-level backgrounds lack deep interstitials and inky depth, sometimes leaving them appearing flat.

Where I did find that the presentation shone was in the application of high dynamic range. The film has a multitude of fiery explosions, streaming/cascading light and mixed light dark elements. They simply look great. The railway heist and the Kessel run are prime examples as the incorporate elements of brilliant light which are reproduced with discernible specular highlights that look terrific. The image isn’t razor sharp and, in some cases comes across as softer than you’d expect from an image rendered from a 4K digital intermediate but, once again this may be owed to creative choices that strove for a specific visual foundation. I didn’t find myself take out of the film by it however it’s worth noting.

It’s difficult to sum up the presentation as there were things about it I liked and disliked but, I will say that Disney’s choices of late when it comes to releasing big ticket films on Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray is worrisome. Solo: A Stars Story simply lacks the pedigree of the best Ultra HD releases we have seen from the format. I suspect that discerning fans hoping for knockout video quality will be disappointed.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the reserved variety in its use of sounds that emanate from above. Predominantly speaking its use of sounds in the height plane is limited to music score extension, and pointed supplemental object fills during active sequences. During the brief battlefield segment, I was surprised at how little the overhead speakers came into play. The scene sounded fine, but, perhaps not as involving as it may have been otherwise. During the extended railway heist, things pick up but, this is predominantly in the form of overhead bleed to broaden the scope of the music score plus the occasional panning sound object.

Clearly the design here was based on creative decisions that utilized the object-based platform in a way that, in my opinion, adhered closer to an augmented channel derived listening experience. The depth of the soundstage benefited from object-based placement but it never rose to truly involving levels. I have to believe that deeper utilization of the height channels would have sweetened the audio experience. I simply cannot understand the thought process used by the sound mixers at Disney. The potential here is quite obvious and what we wind up with is a lackluster listening experience.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 84
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 
  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
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Audio: 78
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
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  • Clarity/Detail: 
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Solo: A Star Wars Story comes to Blu-ray Disc from Disney featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound.

This film has a distinctive visual aesthetic that utilizes sepia, de-saturated colors and high contrast. There are lots of darkened interior sequences/lighting geared toward setting the mood and tone of the subject material. Flesh tones are slightly impacted appearing pallid and lacking tonal divergence. Blacks are respectable but occasionally on the muddy side which can leave them appearing flat. Detail in dark backgrounds and shadow filled areas is fair. Images aren’t razor sharp but do offer excellent subtle detail during close up camera shots. The wide-angle camera pans of the CGI worlds have good dimensional quality and definition that leaves backgrounds appearing resolute. If I had to guess, given what I saw with the Ultra HD rendering, this presentation appears to faithfully represent the original source, which in and of itself, doesn’t make for the most visually compelling viewing experience.

The lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack has detail rich clarity and makes ample use of the entire surround platform in support of the film’s elements. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is present however, I found that for the most part the four surrounds are simply mixed too low. This causes an unevenness in the soundstage which negatively impacts envelopment. I did find that during the railway heist and Kessler Run sequences that this wasn’t nearly as problematic. The low frequency effects channel is active as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the bass and impact associated with the film’s action-based sequences (see below). Dialog is firmly planted in the center channel and renders voices and effects well although, I did occasionally detect sibilance with both male and female voices.

** Here is another recent release from Disney that has instances of questionable dynamics as well as the overall mix requiring a 6db to 10db volume increase in order to acquire a modicum of dynamic range. Once turned up the track is listenable and on occasion decent (the aforementioned railway heist and Kessler Run sequences sound solid). Early in the film there are several instances where things sound rather flat and lacking in potency. This film has ample elements that would demand room shuddering dynamics/low frequency effects and the track just doesn’t deliver. Disney needs to reassess their thought processes when it comes to the sound design for home theater releases. Fans are literally begging them to see the light. I would love to see them return to form. Unfortunately, this will leave fans every bit as disgruntled as Disney’s recent offerings. **

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Solo: A Star Wars Story Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray
    Disc 3: Bonus Material
    • Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable
    Sit down with director Ron Howard and the stars for an intimate and entertaining discussion of the film’s making.
    • Team Chewie
    See what it takes to bring your favorite Wookiee to life in this lighthearted look behind the scenes.
    • Kasdan on Kasdan
    Iconic Star Wars screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and son Jonathan share what it was like to write the movie’s script together.
    • Remaking the Millennium Falcon
    Track the transformation of the most famous ship in the galaxy, from Lando’s swank and impeccable pride and joy to Han’s stripped-down hot-rod freighter with “special modifications.”
    • Escape from Corellia
    Get behind the wheel for the making of this high-octane chase through the streets of Corellia.
    • The Train Heist
    Explore the challenges and thrills of creating this action-packed sequence, including its remote location and spectacular effects.
    • Becoming a Droid: L3-37
    Meet the newest droid—and the talented actor who helps bring her to life.
    • Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso
    Take an in-depth tour of the rough-and-tumble bar where strangers mix and gamblers risk all in the legendary card game, Sabaac.
    • Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run
    Join Han and Chewie at the controls of the Millennium Falcon to see how this legendary moment in Star Wars history unfolds.• Deleted Scenes
    o Proxima’s Den
    o Corellian Foot Chase
    o Han Solo: Imperial Cadet
    o The Battle of Mimban: Extended
    o Han Versus Chewie: Extended
    o Snowball Fight!
    o Meet Dryden: Extended
    o Coaxium Double-Cross

    • The Millenium Falcon: From Page to Park – An exclusive look at the history of the most famous ship in the galaxy, its origin and development, and how it will translate in one of the most anticipated expansions in Disneyland’s history.
  • Digital Code
Final Thoughts:

Solo: A Star Wars Story exceeded my expectations, delivering an enjoyable, and entertaining Star Wars film experience. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultimate Collector’s Edition from Disney featuring a disappointing overall presentation that leaves me scratching my head experience and, a fan friendly supplemental package that looks behind the scenes. While I enjoyed the film there are some issues associated with the presentation of Solo: A Star Wars Story on Blu-ray that makes it tough to recommend to discerning home theater enthusiasts.
 
Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews


Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems