Jgrandmaster’s review published on Letterboxd:
I wrote about SOLO a bit last night, but my review really wasn't that well done or well composed, so I've decided to start again.
Damn this movie is fun.
No, really. I had a lot of the same reservations as many others going into this: The director shake-up worried me, I wasn't sold on Alden Ehrenreich, and I really just wasn't that interested in a young Han movie. After seeing the film, however, I'm pleasantly surprised to say that most of my worries were unfounded. I'll always wonder what Lord and Miller's original vision for SOLO would've been like, but Ron Howard did an exceptional job. His direction makes SOLO flow so well, giving the whole film this exciting and exhilarating feel. There's a particular shot where we see fuel in the Falcon move throughout the ship and it's just so full of energy.
Speaking of things I shouldn't have been worried about: Alden Ehrenreich is so good in this. He wins you over fast as Han, capturing the essence of everyone's favorite charismatic and egotistical rogue, while also making the role thoroughly his own. Basically all fears about him were immediately squashed in the opening few minutes after we see Han try and use a rock to talk his way out of something. And if that doesn't win you over, there's a later scene where Han tries to quick-talk Enfys Nest that is peak Han Solo. The rest of the cast does very good in their respective roles as well, with Harrelson and Glover being stand outs.
That being said, I can see why a lot of people aren't sold on SOLO. The film lacks any clear character arcs, and there is a lot of blatant and obnoxious fan service stuffed in throughout (did we really need to see why Han got his last name?) For me though, the film makes up for it's shortcomings in character with its worldbuilding. SOLO expands the galaxy far far away, but does so through the lens of a small, self-contained story. We see crime groups and slave planets, droid rights activists, the Empire trying to install an oppressive regime, and the beginnings of the Rebellion. There's so many new, small things I've learned about the Star Wars universe that I never had before, and it makes the world SOLO operates in feel more rich and exciting. And that's not to say there isn't some character growth in the movie, Qi'ra and Chewie get solid mini-arcs sprinkled throughout the film, and there are elements of one for Han.
All in all, I thought SOLO was a blast. If you go in expecting the thematic depth and character exploration of some of the previous Star Wars films you'll be pretty disappointed. But as a fun heist adventure in Space, SOLO basically succeeds on all accounts.