I just got back from Solo. The theatre was small and mostly empty. But, considering I spent $25 for a ticket, popcorn and a soda, I can get why. It was nothing like the Rogue One premiere where the theatre was packed and there was a full line to get in. I suppose one divisive movie between them will do that. But, I left the movie very happy. It felt like a big, warm hug to Star Wars fans. It was comforting, familiar and didn't take any risks. I've seen a lot of concern about Alden Ehrenreich and whether he could pull off Han Solo. I think he did and he did it well. I had no issues believing he was Han at all. So, with the general out of the way, we'll go to specifics. If you don't want spoilers, don't read any further.
The Solo movie was full of "fan service". But, I didn't feel it was done in a bad way. From Tobias Beckett being the man who killed Aura Sing to Bossk being mentioned as a possible partner to a Clint Howard cameo to a Two Tubes being part of Enfys' gang, you got the familiar feeling of Star Wars. I do, sometimes, feel that so vast a galaxy is too small with all the names being bandied about. But, that's part of what works for a fandom.
Things I liked:
Han. Alden Ehrenreich did a great job taking over the character. He and Chewie worked great together and that's really what sells the film. Since the main story is about their bond, their interactions had to work for the movie to work. And, it did. Seeing Chewie join Han at the controls of the Millenium Falcon was great and, fans got that moment that kind of lets you forget some of the controversial things the sequel trilogy has brought.
Enfys Nest. Enfys coming back and being sympathetic to the Rebellion is an interesting take. The character worked for me and she and her gang become someone who can tie to the Rebellion in later films. They didn't leave the movie where it was if there were no plans for Enfys to return at some point. You can make the case that she joins up with Saw Gererra's gang later through the Two Tubes appearance. Plus, the coaxium makes for an interesting bargaining chip Enfys has with the Rebellion.
Chewbacca. Chewie is fleshed out as a character and actually does stuff. He fights, he shoots, he flies and he's able to interact with Han in a way that's believable and relate-able. My only issue was with the fact that a member of Enfys' gang appeared to be holding a bowcaster. Checkov's gun basically requires Chewie to get that bowcaster at some point. But, it didn't happen. I don't why that bothers me, but it's little things like that I will hold on to.
The Empire. The Empire plays a small, almost insignificant role in the movie. I like that. It shows there are things happening in the galaxy outside of the Empire's control, even if their spectre is ever-present.
Things I didn't like:
Lando. I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but I thought Lando's character was poorly done. Donald Glover did a great job. I swear his first line in the movie was Billy Dee Williams' voice. My problem with Lando, though, is that he seems like a poser through the entire movie. Sure, he's cool and has swagger. But, in the end, he comes off somewhat douchey and lame. He doesn't actually do much in the movie. The Lando of the original trilogy was cool and full of charm. But, he was also a capable leader, fighter and pilot. He did things that backed up the swagger. Donald Glover captured the essence of the character. But, the writers did Lando no favors and he's largely a non-factor in the film. They could have left him at the first card game and the movie would not have been materially different.
Wookies. I thought the Wookies on Kessel were too much of a homage to the apes from Planet of the Apes. I'm sure there's a touching homage somewhere in there. But, they looked like a nearly different species from Chewbacca. They had drastically different faces and moved like the Apes. It was great to see the Wookies in action for a bit. But, I thought the tribute was a bit overdone. (I've since heard that one of the Wookies is Anthony Daniels of C3PO fame. So, there's multiple homages going on there.)
And, the big reveal.
You all know by now that Ray Park reprises his role from nearly 20 years ago as Maul. According to the credits, there is no Darth title. He is just Maul. I suppose getting cut in two by a Jedi warrants a Darth Demotion. He's come back in the cartoons. And, everyone knew he didn't die even though Lucasfilm did everything they could other than toss him into lava to let fans know he bit the dust in 1999. But, seeing him back works for me.
It works in the sense that we know the Kenobi movie is likely to happen. Kenobi doesn't really work with any established villains. Thrawn really needs to survive to the post Death Star II world since that's where he was introduced. You can't have a major stand alone movie about a hero who has to live without the big bad biting the dust. Thrawn would notify the Empire of Kenobi's existence, thus wiping out Vader's discovery of him in A New Hope. Kenobi vs. Jabba could work...except Jabba has to live, too. But, putting Maul out there is huge for Kenobi. You have a villain with a huge vendetta against Obi Wan. And, they've now established that Maul's not part of the Empire...eliminating that little plot problem. In short, they established the perfect protagonist for the next stand alone movie that will likely occur in the same timeframe.
The Crimson Dawn concept is interesting. You have these massive criminal syndicates operating within the Empire. But, Moloch's control over the Stormtroopers on Corellia shows that the Empire has issues with corruption and that the Emperor's control over the far reaches of his empire may not be as tight as he would like. Red Dawn allows for some interesting stories to come out and can use people like Boba Fett as possible players. Qi'ra was a decent character, too. Having her go evil at the end is nice since she's still out there. She's not, necessarily, after Han. But, I could see her popping up in other movies: especially if she's in control of the organization now.
In short, I enjoyed Solo. Not nearly as much as Rogue One. I'll watch Rogue One whenever it's on. With Solo, I might watch it if it pops up on Netflix. But, I'm not likely to buy it On Demand or on DVD. It's a perfectly good movie. It's fun and breezy. But, the stakes are low and there's nothing overly emotional about it. Sure, a couple of characters die. But, you have no real attachment to them. The ending of Rogue One gets me every time due to it's powerful narrative. Solo has none of that emotional grip that sets a film permanently into your conscience. In that regard, it's very Marvel-esque. It's a spectacle that's a joy to watch before you move on to something else. That's not a bad thing. And, it's probably what Star Wars needs right now.
I get the impression that a lot people want this movie to fail for various reasons. I'm not sure why other than the fandom is now so divided that there's no way it will ever come back together. It's funny to think that all the Episode I references are two decades old and the kids who saw that film in the theatre are in their thirties, now. (And, the Prequels were very divisive upon their release. Nostalgia and time have healed most of those wounds, though.) Those massive age gaps are the reason why the new Star Wars adventures can be divisive. But, Solo was clearly for the old time fans and it's worth the price of admission if you happen to be one.