A. Verdict: It's a rental. A very solid rental though. (Spice Level: Medium)
B. Good Enough for Repeat Viewing?: Only after its home release.
C. Details, Please:
I was expecting the worst for this movie after its very troubled production history.
On top of that, I have a lot of contempt for how the Star Wars brand has been recently managed since I still loathe The Last Jedi with every last blood cell in my feeble brown body. Despite being a long-time fan of the franchise, I felt betrayed so much that I have absolutely NO excitement whatsoever for Episode 9 and my current interest in anything remotely related to the Force is close to zero.
Unlike others, I was actually open to the concept of a Han Solo prequel though. I remember owning a copy of a spinoff novel that covered Han's pre-Rebellion backstory as a kid in the early 90's. So, there was definitely source material to pull from. My only real worry was the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as the lead. From what I saw, he severely lacked the charisma to follow in mega-star Harrison Ford's footsteps like 99.73 % of Earth's healthy male population. After all, Ford took what was a generic swashbuckling anti-hero character on paper and elevated him into a cinematic icon effortlessly.
The good news is that Ehrenreich surprised me in the best way possible. He completely convinced me that he was the younger version of Solo early on. He thankfully chose not to copy Harrison Ford's speech patterns but did impressively emulate many of the latter's mannerisms and overall swagger. I feel wrong now to have doubted his potential. I am now ready to stand on my rooftop and shout out the following so loud that most of my fellow residents in North Jersey can hear: I BELIEVE IN ALDEN EHRENREICH.
Ehrenreich's charming performance carries the movie. Chewbacca, of course, needs no introduction and once Han meets him to form one of the most legendary partnerships in pop culture history, all bets are off. The entertaining chemistry between these two is the heart of the movie and ultimately what makes it watchable.
Unfortunately, my praise for the movie really stops there. I was expecting to be blown away by Donald Glover's younger version of Lando Calrissian. Sure, he made an impact but his screentime is greatly limited. He really only channels Billy Dee Williams's intoxicating energy during a few select moments but otherwise, he comes across as more angry and uptight than the Lando that we remember from the Original Trilogy. The door is left open though for him to do more with the character in possible future movies that could be set during this period of the galaxy's history.
Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett is maybe the only real standout character here among the ones that are introduced to the franchise in this movie. As an experienced thief who rescues and mentors Han, he consistently steals his scenes. That is no knock against Emilia Clarke who really does her best with what she is given. As Han's long lost flame, her arc as femme fatale Qi'Ra is pleasantly unique. I wish that we could have seen more of Thandie Newton who plays Beckett's wife and criminal associate, Val. Any fans of hers from HBO's Westworld might be disappointed with the little attention that she receives despite being hyped by the media. Paul Bettany's Dryden Vos could have become a new iconic villain in Star Wars lore. With his very limited screentime, he barely registers as a footnote despite showing a few promising signs as a brutal (but fashionably refined) crime lord with a taste for visually fascinating melee weapons.
The real weakness of the movie is the plot feeling incomplete. It seems like that the entire 3rd act is missing. The movie just ends and the narrative impact is minimal. It is like the pilot (pun totally intended!) for a serialized Han Solo TV series with a massive blockbuster-sized budget but in this case, there is no episode to look forward to next week. That being said, the last few minutes of the film are rewarding for long-time fans and provide some satisfaction on their own. Director Ron Howard's successful track record in the film industry speaks for itself. Apollo 13 alone justifies his resume. He was brought in to save a troubled production towards the end of filming and so, I will cut him a lot of slack. The script just needed to be reworked until the narrative structure had a precise beginning, middle and end. The visuals are spectacular though. The Millennium Falcon looks beautiful in all of its featured shots. So, cinematographer Bradford Young deserves all of the praise that he can get. The score is also terrific. Composer John Powell handles most of the workload in this area but John Williams's contributions are powerfully noticeable as they should be.
I liked the movie but there is no pressing need to see it right away at your local theater. Compared to how I was gravely angered by The Last Jedi, I have some excitement restored for the Star Wars brand again and that is a small personal celebration for me. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.