I was skeptical going into Solo: A Star Wars Story. I wasn't worried about Alden Ehrenreich's portrayal of Han or whether they would "ruin" a character I enjoyed. I was just pretty sure the movie didn't need to exist. But somehow, Lucasfilm managed to turn something that I thought would be pretty stale into a fun summer adventure.
Half-directed by Ron Howard (after the firing of Phil Lord and Chris Miller just under a year ago), Solo takes viewers through a fun origin story that could have far-reaching consequences in the Star Wars universe (More on that later.). How did Han Solo meet Chewie and get the Millenium Falcon? When I walked in, I didn't care too much, but I was pleasantly surprised at the answer.
Alden Ehrenreich plays Han as a naive boy. He is much more Luke Skywalker than Han Solo at first, but that's exactly what we needed to see. He is a Young Han Solo. We meet him before the years of smuggling, Jabba the Hut and the Kessel run. This is what gives Ehrenreich so much freedom. We see hints of Han, but that is all. He is a different character and Ehrenreich does a great job.
In fact, most of the time the acting is pretty good. Woody Harrelson (Beckett), Donald Glover (Lando), Joonas Suotamo (Chewie) and Love-interest Emilia Clarke (Qi'ra) turn in some memorable performances. The problem is that the acting is disjointed. You can tell there were points in the movie when they were acting for Howard and some less impactful parts when they were acting for Lord and Miller. The only one who doesn't suffer from this continuity of character issue is the villainous Paul Bettany (Dryden Vos), who is one of the scariest Star Wars villains I've ever encountered.
The only "character" that let me down was the music. This score is co-composed by John Powell and John Williams. Williams, of course, is the genius behind most of the Star Wars franchise. By comparison, some of the Powell scores seem elementary. Then again, it's hard to think of a person who would not sound elementary next to John Williams (excluding Michael Giacchino).
**** SPOILERS EXIST BELOW THIS POINT. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED. ****
Solo doesn't have the deepest plot or Oscar-worthy acting, but it more than makes up for it through significance. When Qi'ra fires up the hologram to reveal Darth Maul -- or "Maul" as he is now known -- Lucasfilm was giving a call-back to more than just The Phantom Menace. Solo is set after the Clone Wars, which means we are seeing Maul after Obi-Wan cut him in half in Episode 1. So what gives?
Hardcore Star Wars fans will know that Darth Maul has been alive and well in the two television shows Rebels, and The Clone Wars. They will also know a lot more about how Maul survived, which I won't go into here. The important thing is that Maul now exists in the movie canon. Which means if you spent hours watching Rebels, reading comics, and discussing scenarios with your friends, Lucasfilm just threw a pretty big easter egg your way as a "Thank you."
If The Last Jedi attempted to burn the Star Wars world down so it could be rebuilt, Solo expanded on an already rich universe with a new story. Each method will have its supporters and detractors. However, the most important thing a studio can do for its fan base is acknowledge and appreciate their dedication. That doesn't mean the studio must or even should bend to the will of the fans. However, it doesn't hurt to thank fans before you blow up their universe. By inserting Darth Maul into the fray, Lucasfilm gave a strong message to Star Wars fans who felt their entire world collapse in The Last Jedi. Lucasfilm is taking the trilogies in a new direction, but they aren't done with the past just yet.