The following is a guest post by Rashad Qasem about Solo: A Star Wars Story at the Cannes Film Festival.
For the last six years, I have been privileged to attend the Cannes Film Festival every May. While my primary reason for attending is work related (and let me tell you these 18 hour work days for 12 days straight are no joke), I have occasionally had the opportunity to walk the red carpet for a few premieres. No other premiere however, was able to prepare me for the Solo: A Star Wars Story premiere I attended on May the 15th. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Allow me to give you a bit of context for how the red carpet premieres at Cannes generally work. Tickets are distributed on a first come first serve basis. If you have a badge as an exhibitor at the festival (like myself) you have a greater opportunity to secure a ticket by requesting one via the online portal. If you’re a member of the general public, these are much harder to come by. As soon as it was announced that Solo: A Star Wars Story would be premiering in Cannes out of competition, I set the wheels in motion to make sure I secured a ticket.
Super dope display set up for SOLO in Cannes!! pic.twitter.com/YdHax24QEM
— RQD2 (@iqasem) May 8, 2018
The Hottest Girl at Prom
Another important note about premieres here compared to a conventional US premiere is that it’s a far stuffier affair. Guests are required to dress to the nines; for men this means black tie and suits/tuxes, and for women, evening gowns and heels. Attendees are required to line up no later than an hour prior to the screening time to pass through several security checks including metal detectors and pat-downs. In a recent development, guests walking the red carpet are no longer allowed to use their phones to take photos or risk being kicked out. This is clearly a far cry from the Solo: A Star Wars Story premiere in Hollywood a few days prior, which included a life size construction of the Millennium Falcon.
What Cannes premieres lack in fun, they make up for in glamour. Every attendee gets to walk the red carpet, and face the hordes of international journalists and photographers. Many celebrities attend premieres solely to walk the red carpet. It’s hard to deny the excitement you feel as you’re walking up those hallowed steps, where some of the world’s most talented filmmakers have left their mark.
Every year at Cannes there’s one film that’s the hottest and hardest ticket to get, and of course this year the honor belonged to Solo: A Star Wars Story. I began to feel nervous as several of my friends were issued their tickets while I was still waiting for news for mine. Finally, at 3:00pm, I got the call that I not only secured a ticket, but that I secured Orchestra seating, the most coveted spot in the theater. I raced home to get ready and put on my suit and tie, and gathered with my friends at the entrance of the theater early. I was taking no chances with this one.
“I’ve got a really good feeling about this.” pic.twitter.com/RSTDlcJD4Q
— RQD2 (@iqasem) May 15, 2018
I was maybe a little overeager to arrive early, as I was one of the first few people in the theater. To my absolute shock, my seats were fourth row center, the most perfect and beautiful seats in the house. While we waited in our seats, the festival filmed the stars’ arrivals and projected them on screen. John Travolta was the first to arrive with 50 Cent in tow, followed by Benicio Del Toro shortly after. As the festival played “Summer Lovin’” through the PA, a squad of Stormtroopers began to march onstage in formation, and made their way up the aisles to line the red carpet outside. It was a surreal scene as troopers marched to a Grease tune for sure, but that’s when things really began to kick off.
I wasn’t sure up until this point if the cast or filmmakers would be in attendance since Solo: A Star Wars Story was premiering out of competition for the festival, but sure enough everyone began to arrive. The entire cast sans John Favreau arrived, along with Ron Howard and Kathleen Kennedy. My vote for best dressed definitely goes to Donald Glover and Thandie Newton, no question. The Stormtroopers marched back into the theater as the cast and filmmakers posed for photos at the top of the stairs. That’s when I realized they were all sitting about 4 rows behind me. I was in utter disbelief as one by one they entered the theater to take their seats mere feet from me. I don’t normally get star struck, but this was an exception. Not to mention, Benicio Del Toro was sitting two seats behind me!
Currently sitting in the fourth row for a Cannes premiere of #SOLO. The entire cast is in attendance and sitting four rows behind me. What is my fucking life.
— RQD2 (@iqasem) May 15, 2018
Finally, it was time for the film to begin. Cannes is notorious for the occasional prickly audience. It’s not uncommon for people to boo, remain totally silent, or even walk out. Luckily, the crowd for the premiere was engaged, cheering, gasping, and clapping throughout the film. A rarity in Cannes to be sure!
Spoiler Free Review
As for my thoughts on the film, I’ll keep them brief and spoiler free. Nearly all my thoughts line up with Jason’s spoiler free review of the film he posted recently. It’s a really fun popcorn-y Star Wars summer film. It won’t challenge the conventions of Star Wars or the way you think about the universe the way Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi did, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad film or worse film at all. I’d say it sits squarely in the middle of my rankings, which is not to take anything away from it.
Solo is a fun romp through the galaxy with everyone’s favorite scoundrels. The supporting cast is excellent, particularly Donald Glover, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed familiar charcters in different facets. Alden Ehrenreich does a good job as Han. My biggest concern was that he would be attempting some sort of impersonation the entire time but I’m happy to report that isn’t the case. The spirit of Solo: A Star Wars Story lives within Alden’s performance and he does a great job capturing the essence of Han for the most part. The same is even truer for Donald Glover’s Lando.
Surprise standouts in the Solo cast to me were L3-37 played by Phoebe Waller Bridge and Val played by Thandie Newton. I’m really looking forward to seeing Solo again, without all the glamour and trappings of the festival premiere to see how it holds up upon repeat viewing. My advice to all is to do your best to avoid spoilers as much as possible between now and the 25th.
A Warm Reception for Solo: A Star Wars Story
Once the film was over, it received a loud and lengthy standing ovation. The crowd seemed to really enjoy the film, whooping and whistling as the cast stood and exited the theater. There was definitely a buzz in the air.
The whole experience of seeing Solo: A Star Wars Story as Cannes so overwhelming for me; it makes me emotional to think about it even now. To think, some kid from a small town was lucky enough to attend a Star Wars premiere in Cannes, the most prestigious film festival in the world. It’s a dream come true and I’m still counting my blessings. This will be a memory that I will cherish dearly and most certainly one I will not soon forget. I can’t wait for you all to see this film so we can dive in and discuss!
Co-Host of Whill Communication @WhillCommPod
Find me on Twitter @iQasem