Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Some people may be annoyed at the recent abundance of Star Wars films, but if they are going to be this entertaining ... then keep them coming.
Big props to Ron Howard for delivering this fun action film set in the Star Wars universe. The nice thing about these (A Star Wars Story) films is that while the do have a designated framework of what they need to accomplish, they are able to cheery pick a variety of elements from Star Wars lore to get fans both old and young hooked into this new experience.
I will admit I was in the same boat as many Star Wars fans coming into this not expecting much, especially with the mixed reviews that were down playing it by saying it dragged and was just serviceable. But I am happy to say that IMO that was not the case at all.
It took me some time to get into the movie, especially with how dark and grimy the first part of the film was. I was thinking, could they just step outside so I can see what is going on. But by the time the train heist scene comes around I was fully onboard and loved the progression of the story, and had no idea where they would be wrapping it up at.
I think everyone can agree there are so pretty dumb/silly moments like with how they explain where the name Solo came from and how he speaks wookie. Thankfully I was invested enough in what was going on, that I was able to quickly shrug off these slight missteps.
I thought having a mixed style in the production design was a great way to give this Star Wars film a diverse feel. You have some locations
that look really nice like the casino planet in 'The Last Jedi', with well dressed characters and more modern looking droids. But then you also have rural planets were people are using older looking droids that would fit perfectly into 'A New Hope'. I thought much of the new parts of the score sounded pretty bland, until they reached the fuel refinement planet that had this great accompanying theme music featuring lots of tribal drums.
Alden Ehrenreich was a decent as Han Solo, and I think comparing him to Harrison Ford is the wrong approach. Ford's performances in the original trilogy are iconic, so IMO I was just looking for their best effort to recreate a young Han and stay true to the character ... and I think for the most part they did a good job. I wish he would have come off being a little more aggressive, but I guess he meant to be still figuring out his style in this galaxy far far away. Emilia Clarke is ok in the movie, speaking as a guy I was a little disappointed how her stunning beauty was down played. I mostly compare this to how great Felicity Jones looked in 'Rogue One'.
It was a lot of fun to see Chewbacca get some kick ass hand to hand combat scenes. But unfortunately there was something about the wide shots of him were it was really obvious to me that it was just a guy in a costume, and that thought has never crossed my mind before in a Star Wars movie. Everything you may have heard about Donald Glover's performance is true, he has so much charisma. Unlike Billy Dee Williams in Empire and Jedi, Lando has a chance here to be in his own element, which Glover takes full advantage of. His droid L3-37 had to be my favorite side character with all her unexpected punchy humor.
I still don't know what exactly the Kessel Run is all about after watching this movie. But that part where you see the Millennium Falcon during its main flight blow off the escape pod as it is being chased by the monster, and hearing that Empire Strikes Back score, gave me some serious good movie chills.
I can see how some Star Wars purists may jump on the bashing bandwagon and think it is fun to pick on ever little silly element of this film. But overall I had a blast watching it and will always remember the moment when me and my 6 year old son shared this feeling of being blown away by the awesome cameo appearance toward the end.
Since all the main characters in the story must survive, that unfortunately means most of the side characters are mostly disposable. At least this does not go for the whole cast like what we saw in 'Rouge One'. I heard one online reviewer complain that there is no tension in the action scenes because we know Han is going to make it. Personally in most movies I am just thinking about the amazing ride that is taking place, and I never really worry if they are going to make it or not.
All the double crossing at the end is pretty crazy, but fits well with this being a heist movie featuring a bunch of outlaws. I was kind of bummed that Enfys Nest who looks super cool in her mask ended up just being a freedom fighter instead of a bad guy. At least Paul Bettany makes up for that by being a decent gangster boss with these neat laser knife weapons for the final battle.
So the big holy shit cameo appearance is from Darth Maul!!!! He has to be most awesome yet under used villain in Star Wars lore. Seeing him and hearing the Phantom Menace theme play, made me do a double take on when this movie takes place. I thought to myself, it has to be after Episode 1 because of the empire's status in the story. Apparently in the Clone Wars cartoon series he comes back and was all machine below the waist. So you have to go along with that part of Star Wars lore for his cameo to work, which I am glad to do because it was awesome. I hope they are planning to include him more in the other (Star Wars Story) films they have planned like 'Bobba Fett' and 'Obi Wan Kenobi'.
- Daniel Plainview
Happy movie watching ... SKOL!