There is a lot of fun to be had with the new Star Wars movie, as we follow a young Han Solo on this intergalactic rollercoaster. Several scenes actually succeed in making me fall in love with Star Wars all over again. We see him trying to survive on Corellia, desperate to escape his home world by means of petty crime. And with both a gang and Imperial authorities on his tail, he relies on his fast thinking, overconfidence and luck to make it through.
The first act of the movie races through the formalities. The speed helps in accepting Ehrenreich as the new Han, because it doesn't leave a lot of breathing room to dwell on the cringy moments. And while these moments are absolutely present, he does compensate by delivering some great scenes as well.
Almost every plot-point that his backstory in A New Hope touched upon is explored. His meeting with Chewbacca is really cool and rhymes nicely with Luke's encounter with the Rancor. The chemistry between Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo, and his embodyment of Chewbacca, is one of the best qualities of this origin story. I had serious doubts in Alden's ability to portray the young Solo, but was more disappointed with Donald Glover's Lando than anything else.
His meeting with Lando and the way he gets the Falcon is fine. I really liked that they spread this out over two games of Sabacc. In the first one Lando cheats to victory, and when Han catches up to that before the second game he returns that favor. But his pansexuality is unmistakably forced on his character, and it's incredibly cringy a couple of times - most notably the stereotypically gay "Yoohoo."
The love interest Qi'ra was well-written, but Emilia Clarke's performance fell short and her British accent felt out of place. Accents are already tricky in Star Wars because of their connection to places on Earth, but they especially fail if two characters from the same place have different ones.
Woody Harrelson does a great job as Beckett, embodying the role-model that unmistakenly left its mark on the Han we see in A New Hope. His reluctant acceptance of Han felt genuine, and the way their stories played out was excellent.
Dryden Vos was a great villain, but he lacked weight in the story. Emphys Nest also didn't help in that regard, dividing our attention between the two. And revealing her face completely, and her being 15 years old on top of that, removed all the suspense they built with her. But they do provide one of the better surprises in the movie, and that was very much needed in the story that had little room for those.
And then L3-37. What an incredibly annoying piece of crap! The SJW-droid keeps promoting her political ideals on everyone around her, and I actually cheered at her demise. And then she ends up becoming the navi-computer of the Falcon, which is a huge insult to the core of her being. At first I couldn't possibly imagine they weren't completely taking the piss with her, but then it dawned on me: She's a mirror for SJWs. She's meant to open their eyes to the ways they portray themselves, and make them realize why everyone else hates them. But while I commend them for taking this stance, it's yet another political message that should stay out of Star Wars.
When the movies touches so prominently on real-life issues, the escape to the galaxy far, far away fails. Yes, there can be political allegories in there. They can show us a mirror. But it has to blend in, serving the story in a way that's not annoying or preachy. Subtlety is key.
I was already spoiled with Maul's return, but I really liked his appearance. His story in the Clone Wars is very deep but too short, and this really shows how much power he actually acquired. It´s possibly also a great set-up for his part in Obi-Wan's or Boba Fett's movies. The latter is a much better choice that would avoid a whole lot of issues with the timeline in Rebels.
The train-heist is really cool, well shot and has a good deal of suspense when it doesn't put characters we know will survive at risk. And Kessel is even better. It's incredibly close to my imagination, which was predominantly shaped by one of the Expanded Universe books from Kevin J. Anderson. All the pieces in this part fit seamlessly, so this is without a doubt the absolute highlight of the movie.
Standing on its own the movie is pretty good. It has some issues but the better parts far outweigh the bad ones. However it stands next to A New Hope, and in that regard there's a huge issue with Han's character. In A New Hope he's very much like Beckett, so him coming back to save Luke and the Rebels made impact. But in Solo he's already the guy he becomes at the end of the next movie. He's the good guy, in spite of any danger that comes with making the right choice. He saw Beckett's betrayal coming, but it still disappoints him, and he even speaks out against Beckett's selfish trait. On top of that he's got Chewbacca with a heart of gold at his side, who would steer him back on the right direction would he stray too far. That is a huge part of the dynamic between these two characters. That change in his character is unconvincing, but more importantly it diminishes the impact of his redemption in the original trilogy.
Review by: Joel "Mith" Storms