In an effort to crank up the number of Star Wars stories arriving in theaters in recent years, the brass at Lucasfilm has green lit prequel features, sequel features and more. So while they might be rethinking that decision and slowing the standalone stories down a bit, fans can still enjoy the likes of Rogue One and Solo, both on home video now. We had a chance to check out the Blu-ray for Ron Howard‘s latest release and were pleasantly surprised to find a satisfying and thorough collection of bonus features and behind-the-scenes content that is, dare we say it, even more enjoyable than the film itself.
Bizarrely, there’s no director’s commentary or audio commentary track of any kind. The Bonus Features lead up with a canned roundtable chat that feels forced and tacked-on, and there’s nary a mention of Phil Lord or Christopher Miller, though they still carry executive producer credits for the movie after the directorial shake-up. However, the technical featurettes are spectacular. They provide a ton of lore for Star Wars super-fans and showcase the incredible talent and hard work put in by literally hundreds of people behind the scenes. They are definitely worth the cost of bringing Solo home today.
Directed by Howard, the fun-filled galactic heist movie stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Paul Bettany, with Joonas Suotamo returning to play Chewbacca.
Solo Bonus Features:
Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable (~20 minutes)
- Ron Howard moderates a roundtable chat with his cast
- Alden Ehrenreich told his family about getting cast in Solo and then rode the rides at the pier; Donald Glover found out while he was with his brother and he then called his dad; Joonas Suotamo shared a bottle of champagne with his fiancée/wife and played LEGO Star Wars; Emilia Clarke had to keep the secret quiet while on a plane ride; Phoebe Waller-Bride took the call from the restroom while she was having dinner with a friend; Thandie Newton held onto the news to savor it before telling her kids because she knew they’d finally think she was cool; Woody Harrelson was in London at the time and had to break the news to his family that he’d be there another nine months; Paul Bettany says he practically begged to be in it, but he thinks back on the inspiration of the original film that got him into the business to begin with.
- Ehrenreich auditioned six times for the role, once on the Millennium Falcon with Suotamo, and another time with a dog puppet that was rigged to bark; Suotamo jokes that that’s about all the casting director must have thought of his acting skills
- The first thing Ehrenreich and Suotamo shot was the mud pit battle; they spent a month doing general stunt training and working on fight choreography while getting to know each other
- Glover just wanted to get a pizza and watch Empire Strikes Back at home the day his casting was announced, but just about everyone on the street already knew he was Lando.
- There are some decent behind-the-scenes videos from the shoot, along with gorgeous still photography of everyone in costume.
- There’s behind-the-scenes video of George Lucas showing up on the set; it was on Howard’s first day on set after the hiatus. Howard comments on his first day but there’s no mention of Phil Lord or Christopher Miller at all.
- Clarke admits that Game of Thrones co-star Kit Harington is practically begging to be in a Star Wars movie.
- Newton talks about a woman who inspired her the most, someone who grew up in Zimbabwe in the country’s colonial era. She fled to England due to escalating violence only to deal with racism while trying to raise her family. The woman, of course, is her mother, who served as the inspiration for Val.
Kasdan on Kasdan (~8 minutes)
- A father-son featurette on screenwriters Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan.
- Kathleen Kennedy and Ron Howard comment on Lawrence’s history with the franchise while Jonathan looks back on his own memories of the VHS movies.
- The Kasdans don’t really shy away from their conflicts during the writing of Solo, but they used that father-son dynamic to their benefit since those threads run through the film.
- Lawrence confirms that, although he liked everyone else, it was always Han Solo who riveted him. It was the type of character that resonated with him and he had “the greatest introduction for anybody, maybe ever.” This is in parallel with some archival footage from the original Star Wars
- Lots of fun behind-the-scenes video in this featurette as well, both from production and from the marketing tour around the world.
Remaking the Millennium Falcon (~6 minutes)
- Glover, Ehrenreich, Suotamo, and Howard offer commentary about the iconic ship along with details from the team that actually had to design and build it, like Lee Sandales (art director), James Clyne (VFX art director, ILM), John Swartz (co-producer), Liam Georgensen (assistant art director), Neil Lamont (production designer), and Alastair Bullock (supervising art director).
- Cues from the homestead kitchen in the original film and the one in Rogue One were referenced to outfit the kitchen onboard the Falcon.
- Other references include the bed over the dejarik table and the medical bay from The Force Awakens to fill out more of the functional space.
- Lando’s silver headphones are a nod all the way back to the original film where silver headphones are briefly seen.
- This movie features the first time audiences will see the engine room.
- This is the original set the production team built for The Force Awakens, just with much more added to it and freshened up to remove decades of age, rust, and wear and tear.
Escape from Corellia (~10 minutes)
- Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan comment on what he thought a young Han Solo would be like.
- Producer Simon Emanuel talks about the “70s car chase” feel they wanted for the escape from Corellia.
- Rob Bredow (co-producer, VFX supervisor) walks viewers through the practically shot stunt sequence.
- Howard and the design team introduce the world of Corellia, a “machine shop” world
- Clyne, Lamont and Sandale are joined by Dominic Tuohy (special effects supervisor), Ben Collins (stunt performer), and Matthew Shumway (animation supervisor, ILM).
- Clyne was asked to give the team a map of Corellia so they had something to work with; Sandale compared Corellia to a “machine version of Venice.”
- Clyne also designed the stolen speeder with 70s muscle cars in mind. It includes a Morris Minor door hinge, a baguette warmer, and a nose cone from a jet fighter, among many other components.
- They also talked about the animatronic “dogs” kept in the cages of Moloch’s speeder, the “bar of soap” shaped massively intimidating machine.
- Han’s stolen speeder was designed to switch from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive with the touch of a button, allowing the stunt performer some incredible control while drifting around corners and giving it the appearance of floating the whole time.
- Matthew Wood (ADR mixer, sound editor for Skywalker Sound) and Tim Nielsen (re-recording mixer, sound designer, supervising sound editor) talk about designing the sound of the new vehicles. They used pulse jet engines to achieve an unusual and unique sound
- When Han tried to force the speeder through the narrow gap, the production team actually put the practical speeder on a rig that gave it the proper angle.
The Train Heist (~12 minutes)
- Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan talks about having a proper heist for Han to do, a practical, physical and difficult challenge for him. Co-producer John Swartz compares it to the classic Western train heist.
- There are some incredible behind-the-scenes shots from production.
- The team looked at great train heists from cinematic history for inspiration.
- Clyne walks viewers through the design of the Conveyex, from both a practical “physics”-oriented standpoint and the Star Wars references used, including AT-AT walkers and even mouse droids.
- Paul Marsh (senior model maker) shows the hands-on process of actually making the train itself. Bredow continues the journey with the previs sequences, followed by “stunt-vis” to see how the sections are working together and to get an idea of the pacing.
- The train heist was shot in the Dolomites, an Italian mountain range. Ehrenreich and Newton comment on the magnificence of that location. Nick Fulton (production manager, Italy) and Bradford Young (Director of Photography) comment on the setting, both how they approached shooting it and how difficult it was to get production sorted. (And yes, there’s a pretty great snowball fight, at least until Woody Harrelson—in character—shuts it down.)
- Back at Pinewood Studios, a massive blue-screen set is used to accommodate the enormous train cars, detailed by TJ Falls (visual effects producer) and producer Simon Emanuel.
- Wood and Nielsen talking about the effect that sound added to it. They recorded a lot of metal sounds and rhythmic gears, building up a metallic palette.
- It was DP Bradford Young’s idea to shoot the scene in pre-dawn light.
- Rio, part-practical and part-CG, was partially performed by a female circus performer. Shumway walks viewers through the creation of Rio in the computer, including Jon Favreau’s voice performance.
- Shumway talks about the combination of practical and digital effects used to bring Enfys Nest and her bandit attack to life.
- Gary Tomkins (senior art director) details Enfys Nest’s chopper skiff and Charles Jellis (action vehicles chargehand) shows some of the repurposed aircraft engine parts used to build the speeders.
- Jonathan Kasdan talks about the emotional resonance of the loss of Rio and Val. Howard stresses how dangerous the outlaw life is and that it’s not as valorous as Han Solo dreams it to be.
- To get an original explosion, they set up a shoot with a medium-sized aquarium with a 3D model of the mountain and blew it up, recording the whole thing but capturing the first 1/100th of a second. The high-speed photography caught the outward explosion as well as the inward implosion, providing a unique and spectacular end to the heist
Team Chewie (~7 minutes)
- Howard and Kasdan comment on the fact that Chewie was never a second fiddle but always his own character.
- Suotamo and Ehrenreich talk about the close relationship of Han and Chewie, also praising each other for their nuanced performances.
- The first draft of the script included translations of all of Chewie’s lines so that Ehrenreich knew exactly what Chew was saying every time.
- Tim Nielsen talks about the old and new vocabulary for Chewbacca, most of which is recordings of a hungry grizzly bear. Other animal noises include seals for deep guttural roars that they digitally manipulated.
- Neal Scanlan (creature/special make-up effects creative supervisor) and his team made four new Chewie suits, all with individual hairs woven into it. Maria Cork (animatronic supervisor) talks about the laborious process of finding the right way to make a muddy Chewbacca suit; some of their early solutions made the suit weigh 6 to 7 times as much. There was an actual “Wookiee Wash” used at the end of the mud takes to clean both the suit and Suotamo.
- Guillermo Grispo (fight supervisor) wanted to see what a Wookiee would be like in full-fighting mode. There are some cool behind-the-scenes shots of Suotamo in his full Chewbacca suit hitting the weights in the gym and running full tilt in stunt preparation.
Becoming a Droid: L3-37 (~7 minutes)
- Howard talks about how L3 has a mind of her own and likes taking people down a peg or two. Waller-Bridge added her own take on that idea.
- Originally, L3 was an R2 droid who modified herself, as producer Emanuel revealed. He and Jonathan Kasdan compare her to a no-nonsense
- Clyne once added Leia’s hair buns to L3’s concept art to sell the idea of just how the droid is self-modifiying.
- Glyn Dillon (costume designer) and (costume designer), and Falls and Bredow walk through the evolution of the costume team and the visual effects team to bring L3 to life.
- Patrick Tubach (VFX supervisor, ILM) and Karin Cooper (creature supervisor, ILM) talk about the animation process as trying to match what Waller-Bridge did with her performance.
- Wood wanted to use the original 70s navigation computer sound effects as part of L3’s effects, especially when she becomes part of the ship.
Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso (~10 minutes)
- The lodge is Ehrenreich’s favorite set.
- Neil Lamont (production designer) walks us through the “100% truly practical” set that is massively inspired by the original cantina, but it’s also part hunting lodge, part bar, part gambling casino. (It includes a “borrowed” radio communicator from Rogue One, trophy skulls of the local beasts of burden, and the highly developed methodologies for sabbac.)
- Harrelson comments on DP Bradford Young’s “beautiful, pleasing” aesthetics. Young himself says he likes to limit technology on set, using natural lighting to see characters move into and out of shadow. Glover said of the set, “Oh, this feels like life. This feels like I’m just living.”
- Sabbac is played by 8 people, so they made an eight-sided table. Steven Bridges (sabacc trainer) explains the rules: Each player is dealt two cards. The object of the game is to get as close to zero as possible. Red cards are worth negative values, while green cards are positive values. At the end of every round, you roll the dice; if the dice pictures match, you have to discard your hand and get a new one. It’s a card game you can actually play!
- Character inspiration comes from historical painters and their composition, as Neal Scanlan reveals. They maquetted aliens in place of humans from those classic paintings, matching the lighting and the order of where everyone appears around the table.
- Swartz and Ehrenreich compliment the puppeteers and how good they are at responding to actors’ performances in order to give something back to them immediately. Waller-Bridge chimes in on the believability of the animatronic creatures.
- A duck-billed alien eats its cards and scatters the pieces everywhere, Warwick Davis played a bunny character, a six-eyed creature used its physical ability to cheat at the game, etc.
Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run (~10 minutes)
- Jonathan Kasdan clarifies the Kessel Run comment … or tries to.
- Bredow confirms that the good way to get to Kessel takes 19 to 20 parsecs, so the “bad way” has to be pretty gnarly. The shot was done by using multiple projectors in front of the Millennium Falcon cockpit, which they shook around quite a bit during filming.
- The Kessel Run is not just an example of Han’s flying skills, but the chemistry between him and his co-pilot, Chewbacca.
- Wood talks about over-exaggerating sounds of switches flipped in the ship and the sharp turns the Falcon takes. Nielsen reveals that they recorded the switches of an old air-conditioner in a hotel.
- The massive space monster came about as a nod to classic sea-faring adventure tales.
- Shumway talked about bringing the maelstrom monster to life, using squid, jellyfish references for the tentacles and a snapping turtle for the mouth. Nielsen used walrus and possum recordings for the monster sounds, along with some howler monkey noises.
- Clyne talks about the process of tearing apart the Millennium Falcon and visualize the damage at every stage, tracking carbon urns, and tentacle slaps, and panel gouges.
- Nielsen reveals that a gummi bear dropped into potassium chlorate, which more or less spontaneously combusts while “screaming” and sizzling, is the sound used for the rupturing coaxium canisters.
- Proxima’s Den – An extended chat between Han and Qi’ra leads up to Han being apprehended and taken to see Proxima; puppeteers are seen in this shot animating the practical sea creatures swimming in the den.
- Corellian Foot Chase – Moloch and his forces chase Han and Qi’ra through the facility but lose them when they hide in a storage tank full of eels, one of which makes its way into Han’s pants.
- Han Solo: Imperial Cadet – Han, in Imperial gear as a TIE pilot, crash lands his TIE fighter and is next seen in front of a Commodore and an Imperial inquisition. Han tries to explain how following orders would have gotten him killed, but the tribunal finds him guilty of disobeying, so he’s reassigned to infantry duty on Mimban.
- The Battle of Mimban: Extended – Bevkett leads the charge on Mimban whiel Val and Rio neutralize a cannon. Han gets a rifle from Beckett to cover him while he drags Korso, one of their fallen men, to safety. But they’re too late and he passes away from his injuries, a bit of foreshadowing when it comes to the mercenary life.
- Han Versus Chewie: Extended – It’s worth watching this knock-down, drag-out fight sequence if only because the actors and their stunt performers, not to mention the costume, make-up, and effects departments, put so much work into it. It actually reveals Chewie feeling sympathetic for Han when he thinks he’s killed him. The choreography here is pretty remarkable, especially for the conditions they were fighting in. The fight scene in the final cut does have a better pace, however.
- Snowball Fight! – Han and Chewie have a snowball fight while Beckett looks on, disapprovingly. It’s cute, it just didn’t work for the movie itself.
- Meet Dryden: Extended – We get a better look at Dryden’s collection in his penthouse. Han tries to eat some particularly difficult insectoid legs while Dryden and Beckett have a tense chat. Again, there’s a tonal difference here that probably didn’t work in the final film.
- Coaxium Double-Cross – It’s a short scene, but it teases the eventual double-cross planned by Han when it came to delivering the canisters of coaxium.