‘The Art of Solo’ Review: A Gorgeous, Incomplete Look at the ‘Star Wars’ Story

     June 19, 2018

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When it comes to blockbuster filmmaking, a lot of art goes into simply exploring the possibilities before cameras even start rolling. The series of “The Art Of” books published by Abrams thus far have offered jaw-droppingly beautiful, fascinating insight into the hard work that goes into making a Star Wars movie, and The Art of The Force Awakens and The Art of The Last Jedi both provided candid looks at the evolution of those films. While the latest release, The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story, certainly includes copious amounts of fascinating concept art and interviews that provide insight into some of the decisions that were made along the way, the book’s total omission of Ron Howard, Phil Lord, and Chris Miller makes the experience feel a bit incomplete.

Written by Phil Szostak, who wrote The Art of The Force Awakens and The Art of The Last Jedi, this Solo book features a bounty of concept art that was crafted for the Han Solo spinoff at various stages of the film. You’ll see drawings from early versions of the film’s opening, which at one point was an elaborate, Dickensian prologue featuring a teenage Han Solo. You’ll also see artwork and designs for very different versions of Q’ira (Emilia Clarke) and Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), both of whom were previously envisioned as at least partially alien characters.

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Glyn Dillon
“Glyn did the very early Qi’ra picture with a shaved head, red ombre face, and a chunky feather-cut haircut. I love that picture. It’s one of my favorites. There were similar makeup tests done on background people, but never in that way on Emilia Clarke. She was shooting Game of Thrones, so her availability was pretty much nil. It has to be the right person to make all of those things work; it probably wouldn’t work on Emilia. Sometimes, ideas are better in a drawing.” Crossman

The imagery is accentuated by insights from the design team and screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan, who explain how the film evolved, why some of the design decisions were made, and more. And indeed it offers an interesting timeline, as we learn that development on Solo was halted for more than a year when Lawrence Kasdan went to go help co-write The Force Awakens and remain on set with director J.J. Abrams.

But that’s where the problem with The Art of Solo comes in: The book is nearly 250 pages long, and you will not find a single mention of Ron Howard, Phil Lord, or Chris Miller. Lord and Miller were fired as the film’s directors in the midst of production, and Howard subsequently stepped in to replace them. And I understand this probably put Szostak and Lucasfilm in an awkward position, as the book was being written while the film was going through upheaval. Moreover, it’s possible they didn’t even know who would be credited as the director. But the complete lack of even a mention of anyone is a glaring omission that lessens the impact of the book. Directors are the ones ultimately calling the shots, and as they oversee the entire production, can provide invaluable insight into a film’s evolution.

Again, it’s at least somewhat understandable as to why the book just avoids mentioning the filmmakers altogether, but even as Kasdan and the various talented designers have some fascinating and insightful stuff to say, you can’t shake the feeling that you’re missing something big.

All this being said, if you’re mostly just interested in seeing a wealth of concept art for Solo: A Star Wars Story, then The Art of Solo delivers. Not only is there artwork for the various locations and characters, but also in-depth drawings and designs for the film’s weapons and vehicles, including how they decided to create Han’s iconic blaster. From a visual standpoint, this book delivers the goods. It’s just a bit frustrating to see the whole “making of” bit lacking any insight whatsoever from the directors who brought these designs to life.

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