First Hit: I liked it and thought it did a great job of bringing Han Solo into the overall Star Wars story.
Sometimes prequels to an established story fail. Other times they add and bring to life characters that we’ve already been introduced to. This film is one of the latter. Just like the 2009 film Star Trek did for the Star Trek movie and TV series.
Here, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) has a big job to do. He must give us cocky irreverence alongside being a strong capable person and carry a believability of his intention to be a strong dependable character of the resistance in the future.
The first part I really loved was his flying his low-level cruiser into a very tight area and getting stuck. It is the attitude that he can make it yet accepting he didn’t and then moves on. You also sense that he learns from each mistake.
He gets separated from the love of his young life Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and vows to her he will come back for her.
I loved that his last name “Solo” is given to him by an Empire recruiting officer. He has no last name and no family, so when the officer says, "your name" he says "Han" and the officer says "Han what?" and Hans says he doesn't have a last name, so the officer says “Han (waits a moment or two) Solo” because he's alone and a renegade – perfect.
After joining the Empire, he gets expelled from flight school, and finds himself fighting for the Empire by slogging it out in the mud which he detests because he sees himself as a fighter pilot. He becomes slightly enamored with Captain Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who he soon finds out is only parading as a Captain to get over on the Empire and make some money because he owes Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
Failing this Beckett, his wife Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio Durant (voice by Jon Favreau) decide to steal some hyper-fuel Coaxium as a way to repay Vos. Their problem is that Solo, hoping to join them by blackmailing Beckett, tries to turn them in but the tables are turned, and Solo gets thrown into jail to battle the beast.
The beast happens to be a Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and because Solo speaks a little Shyriiwook (Chewbacca’s language) they plot to get out of jail together. They do, join Beckett and make an attempt to steal the Coaxium.
Failing this, Solo runs into Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) who owns the Millennium Falcon, and together they try to find and steal more Coaxium because Solo thinks Qi’ri is being enslaved by Vos, he wants to buy her back.
This is the set up and what the viewer gets is the introduction of Solo, Chewy, and Lando for the future films. It also sets the tone for the resistance whom Solo helps.
The downside of the film is that it is a little long. However, it is engaging. The film does not depend on computer generated graphics and stuff to make it work, it depends on characters that you learn about and begin to care about or dislike. They bring in just enough of the upcoming story, the Star Wars series of films, by building a strong base for these characters. Did Solo really win the Millennium Falcon in a card game?
Ehrenreich was excellent. Although I didn’t think anyone could bring the swagger of a young Harrison Ford Solo, Ehrenreich did a credible job. Clarke was very strong as Qi’ra. She hid her changed alliances very well and kept the audience and Solo guessing. Newton was great in a smaller role as Beckett’s wife. Harrelson was outstanding as Beckett who was a swindler extraordinaire always looking out for himself and his wife. Suotamo was excellent as Chewbacca. I thoroughly enjoyed how he and Solo because partners. Glover as Lando was very strong. He carried the basis of the future and older Lando perfectly. Bettany was outstanding as Vos. His growing evilness as he got angrier was perfect for the role. Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan wrote and excellent script. It carried the deep Star Wars theme through the entire picture. Ron Howard, as director, showed why he’s one of the best and an excellent choice to make this prequel.
Overall: Extremely entertaining and worthy of the Star Wars franchise name.