Austin’s review published on Letterboxd:
Solo was the first Star Wars film that didn't immediately burrow into the heart-compartment reserved for the franchise; even though I found Howard's direction occasionally dynamic and the performances emotive, the movie crawled toward de-mystification. This time though, the inter-character emotion was more potent, the visual energy grander, and the series-connectivity less obtrusive.
Han brokenly communicating with Chewie and emphasizing his need for a nickname are still awful, but this isn't as "check-boxy" as I originally felt. The Kessel Run is a journey through space's Hell and Young's stylizations are most pronounced here—celestial smog-clouds wrapping around stars and hyperspace-blue streaming along the Falcon's insides; it's a gorgeous sequence and actually indicative of Howard's intentions.
I think I was initially bitter over Lord and Miller's firing and angry that their (likely) more subversive version was destroyed. It felt like another Disney blow against (more) complicated artistry. And maybe that's still the case, but I was unfairly comparing their vision to Howard's and his, while not subversive, is compelling. So much so that the Maul inclusion no longer feels fanservicey, but rewarding to those deeply invested in the totality of this series' mythos; I love Star Wars, including the animated shows and written texts, so my negative reaction to Maul's appearance is a bit baffling to me.
Perhaps I simply wasn't expecting one of the films to so blatantly reconstruct what general audience members believe to be true about the story. Whatever shaped my first reaction, the dark side's inclusion is mysterious and I think truly bold. Guess I love this movie now.