I Was (Mostly) Wrong About Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

 Disney/Lucasfilm
Disney/Lucasfilm

Having had the chance to see Solo: A Star Wars Story a couple of times, and having had a few weeks to consider my thoughts on the movie, I can safely say I was wrong not to look forward to its release. Mostly, at least.

As disappointed as I am with the hateful rhetoric too many Star Wars “fans” have taken to spewing across the Internet since the release of The Last Jedi, I still hold Star Wars in a special place in my nerdy heart. I grew up with Star Wars and many of my favorite movie-going experiences have revolved around going to seeing Star Wars movies with loved ones. My earliest Star Wars memory is going to see the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back as a double feature with my father. The first movie I took my oldest kiddo to was The Attack of the Clones. We made two family expeditions over winter break to watch The Force Awakens at IMAX. My absolute favorite Star Wars adventures have come from taking a loved one to see their first Star Wars movie as I did with Return of the Jedi and Rogue One

Solo continued that tradition of sharing with my loved ones, and in that regard alone, Solo was worth every moment, but I also enjoyed being proven wrong. Solo: A Star Wars Story was a great entry in the franchise, and would probably find a spot on my top five list of Star Wars movies. I was not looking forward to Solo‘s release. Much has been made of the movie’s troubled production, and that was definitely a concern after The Last Jedi‘s troubled production was apparent at that movie’s seams, but I was one of those reassured, even buoyed, when Ron Howard was brought on to rehabilitate the movie. His work as a director may usually only range from average to good, but he is rarely terrible, and he has run in the Lucas-Kasdan-Kennedy circles as long as almost anyone in Hollywood. There are some tonal inconsistencies that still hint at the movie’s troubled production, and the movie’s pace can drag a bit in spots trying to lay its own groundwork that carry the whiff of last-minute rewrites, but none of this detracts from an all-around enjoyable adventure.

Much was also made during the movie’s production of concerns about Alden Ehrenreich’s acting. Given the history of laughably bad performances in Star Wars movies, this was a far more troublesome worry, but one that proved unnecessary. No one was going to deliver a better performance than Woody Harrelson, an actor who effortlessly lights up the screen no matter what he is doing, and it was widely, and rightly, understood that Donald Glover was perfectly cast as Lando Calrissian, but Mr. Ehrenreich does a fine job portraying everyone’s favorite scruffy nerfherding rogue. Especially after watching the movie a second time, I realized that Mr. Ehrenreich does a better job through his performance of showing the arc of the titular character’s early steps into stoic independence and cynicism than the story being told. 

The primary reason I was unenthusiastic about Solo, was that the last thing I wanted was a series of “young” Star Wars movies. Part of this concern was typical prequel worry. Prequels rarely work out well for any series or franchise in any medium, shoehorning in story beats that did not need elaboration and cameos from characters that were better left to their own story arcs. Rogue One had shown that the creative team at Disney and Lucasfilm had a template for telling compelling prequel stories without falling too deeply into these traps. Unfortunately, Solo looked like it was going to jettison that template, and the only thing worse than a overly self-referential prequel is a prequel centered around a young version of a character. Young Indiana Jones. Young Sherlock Holmes. Young MacGyver. Any example you can name is probably complete crap. I was not only unconvinced that Solo would be a decent movie on it’s own, I was terrified that it would be a huge success and launch a hundred more “young” Star Wars movies devoted to every two-bit character to tromp through the franchise’s 40 year history. Solo doesn’t completely avoid the prequel pitfalls I worried about, but ironically, Solo left me wanting sequels with more young Han Solo and more young Lando Calrissian, and hopefully even a storyline that ties in some young Boba Fett and some young-ish Obi Wan Kenobi on the way to bringing down the big bad revealed at the end of the movie, even as the movie’s disappointing box office makes all of this highly unlikely. Maybe I will get lucky, and be wrong about Solo: A Star Wars Story one more time.

 

Surveying the Summer Steam Shaming

 

It has been just about a week since the Steam Summer Sale ended. With some saved credit burning a hole in my Steam Wallet, I picked up a few things, including the Blackguards Franchise Bundle and The Infinity Collection, a particularly nice bundle of the enhanced Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games from Beamdog. I was especially excited to see the bundled soundtracks were available as FLAC files. Should make for appropriately rousing background music during the next Warhammer 40K battle adventure.

Since Steam did away with flash sales a couple years ago, the Steam seasonal sales haven’t offered the same kind of crazy penny-on-the-dollar deals they once did. Thank goodness for that. I have not bought anything during the last few seasonal sales because my pile of shame, my backlog of unplayed games, has grown to truly staggering proportions. A couple of years ago, one of my first blog posts on the original iteration of millgeek.com was about my personal vow to conquer my pile of shame. Needless to say, my list of played games remains minuscule while my pile of shame continues to spiral out of control. 

I know this issue is not unique to me. The idea of the pile of shame and the deleterious effect of Steam’s seasonal sales has been a joke among gamers for years, but it has now crossed over into the mainstream. During this year’s Steam Summer Sale, my daughter and I noted several interstitials on Adult Swim making light of how Steam’s ongoing sale was just an excuse for people to buy games they would never play. I don’t even spend a lot of money on games. I once tried to do some back of the napkin calculations and decided that between Humble Bundle deals and my personal thresholds for buying games on sale on Steam and GOG, the average cost of a PC game for me can’t be more than $3-4. Of course, this is also part of the problem, but still, my pile of shame has grown to the point that I probably couldn’t physically complete every game. I will almost certainly die at a ripe old age first, even if I stop buying games tomorrow.

So what to do?

Being the dork I am, and having just added hundred of hours worth of RPGs to my pile, I decided to lay down some personal ground rules for how I might actually take a stab at conquering my pile of shame:

  1. Play for the story.
    I can be a bit of a completionist. There is nothing wrong with completing a side quest or picking up a collectible, but I need to let go of the compulsion to 100% every game.
  2. Dial down the difficulty. 
    I am not a gaming masochist. I don’t dial games up to Nighmare! typically, but in my advancing years my reflexes are not what they once were, nor is my patience. If I am just playing for the story or the experience, then Easy or Normal is good enough.
  3. A campaign is good enough.
    I love strategy games. I could probably spend the rest of my life playing nothing but Civilization, my ultimate desert island game. Many of the games in my pile of shame don’t really have a narrative arc, and it would be silly to set some arbitrary time limit. Some game campaigns can be played in an hour, some take dozens of hours, and some never really end. I will play my fill and move on and not worry about how many hours I put into it, especially for the earlier iterations in a series where my interest is likely to be more academic, looking to see how a series has progressed over time.
  4. Write a review.
    I am going to hold my feet to the fire a bit. I have been playing around with Twitch streaming, but more importantly I am going to make retro game reviews a regular part of the site. I am currently playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Rome: Total War, so the first couple of reviews should be coming soon. I’m excited.

 

Conquering the Pile of Shame

I love games. Games have been one of my few consistent interests in life. I love playing them. I love reading about them. I love listening to podcasts about them. Unfortunately, I also love buying them. And it’s not just video games, it’s tabletop games as well. Now, given how vigorously I have professed my love for games, one might assume that I play a lot of games. Unfortunately, as constant as my love for games has been, it is one of the last things I typically make time for. As a result, my pile of shame, both virtual and in real life, has become massive. This is not necessarily a “problem” except that many of the games in that pile of shame are games I specifically wanted to share with my boys. There is a solution, though.

The solution: Play More Games!

It would be easy to lay most of the fault at the feet of Steam. Steam’s legendary sales have definitely been a major factor in the growth of my pile of shame. The explosion of bundle sites, especially Humble Bundle, certainly have not helped either. But really, the fault is my own. My pile of shame now stretches back 30 years and encompasses hundreds of games. I have taken to referring to it as the gamer equivalent of a ticking biological clock, and it is really a matter of setting priorities. Less work, and more play, especially when it is play with my family. It actually seems like a laudable goal to me.

I know it will be a tough task, but I think I am up to the challenge. The best part is that I will have the support and assistance of the entire Millgeek family. Logan is particularly eager to help me tackle the tabletop games. Riley has his eye set on challenging me in a bevy of PC games. I can’t really explain its appeal, but I love watching streams on Twitch. I have set up my own Twitch profile with the specific intent of streaming my deep dive into the oldest, most retro sections of my pile of shame. And the best part is that with our site finally up and running after years of procrastination, I have my own little spot on the Internet to declare how games in the good old days were better than the stuff the kids play these days.

Or not. I can’t seem to find my rose-tinted glasses.