Solo: A Star Wars Story ★★★★½

"Let me give you some advice. Assume everyone will betray you. And you will never be disappointed."

It's still absolutely amazing how coherent this managed to turn out given that it's a product of two differing creative visions behind the camera: one best known for their unique style and reliance on improvisation, the other best known for getting their job done on time and on budget. Solo: A Star Wars Story is basically the complete polar opposite of a product like Justice League in the sense that it's a film made by people who knew what they were doing and it's a film where everything manages to mesh together and flow in a fashion that's organic and never comes off as jarring. Also unlike the black sheep of the DC Extended Universe, this is a film that manages to get even better on another viewing, with the things that I've already really liked I love and enjoy moreso.

I adore the look of this film. Bradford Young's moody, western-inspired cinematography is breathtaking. I know many have complained that certain theater projections made the film look muddy and the lighting look terrible, but when I saw this in theaters, I personally never had that problem. This is arguably the most gritty and grimy a Star Wars film has ever looked in terms of camerawork and production design, which is very fitting seeing as this film has a much heavier focus on the criminal underworld of the galaxy than any other film in the entire saga. Young's dark lighting captures that grime impeccably, and even with all of that grit and dirt, Young -- along with credited director Ron Howard and initial directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller -- crafts some truly gorgeous shots and awesome-looking imagery throughout.

Alden Ehrenreich is excellent as Han Solo. As a younger, more naive version of the cynical, rule-breaking smuggler we all know and love, Ehrenreich's portrayal is just perfect. He gets the cocky yet charming nature of the character down to a tee and manages to embody the spirit of Harrison Ford beautifully while still adding his own flavor to the role to make it his own. The characters in this film are just so delightful to be around. Emilia Clarke is fantastic as Qi'ra, one of the more interesting female characters in the Star Wars mythos as she exists in a clearly grey area, with her not being all-good but at the same time not being all-bad. Woody Harrelson is great as always as Han's mentor Tobias Beckett, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian is so good he can practically play the character in his sleep, Paul Bettany is deliciously sinister as the villainous Crimson Dawn crime lord Dryden Vos, Thandie Newton is charismatic as usual as Tobias' wife Val, Jon Favreau as the voice of Rio Durant is really fun, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37 is hilarious. I don't care what you have to say about her character, I think she's awesome.

Like the previous three Star Wars films, Solo: A Star Wars Story has a fantastic blend of traditional practical special effects and computer-generated imagery. I would even go as far to say this has some of the best effects work of any of the Disney-distributed Star Wars films. The action sequences are terrifically shot and edited. The coaxium train heist sequence and Han making the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs are both spectacular to witness on-screen. Pietro Scalia's editing keeps the film moving fast as a bullet but in a very smooth manner. Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan's screenplay, while not offering that much truly new or unique to the Star Wars universe, offers some really well-constructed, fast-paced storytelling as well as a really entertaining variety of characters. I also loved how this film managed to hearken back to the series' roots in classic adventure B-serials while still managing to work on its own as an enjoyable space western. John Powell's musical score is outstanding, paying wonderful homage to John Williams while still adding his own fresh, personal touch to the proceedings to create what is without a doubt one of the best film soundtracks of the year so far.

Even if this film wasn't going to be a game-changer or on par with some of the other installments, I was at the very least hoping for something that was fun, and that was exactly what I got with this. Although I'd still consider Rogue One to be the superior one of these new anthology films as I find it to be more interesting from a thematic perspective, Solo: A Star Wars Story is simply a fun Star Wars film and a really fun time at the cinema, and that's more than enough to make this fan happy. Simply take it for what it is and you just might have one hell of a blast.

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