It's one of the great mysteries of 2018: why Solo, a brisk and likable prequel in the Star Wars canon, bombed, comparatively speaking, at the box office.
Why, for the first time in over forty years, did audiences shrug off a Star Wars movie? Were they influenced by the negative ink spilled over the 11th-hour firing of original directors Chris Lord and Phil Miller, with Ron Howard reshooting enough to snag a solo (ha ha) director credit? (Disney/Lucasfilm won't reveal how much was reshot, but I'm guessing the first 20-30 minutes of the film are mostly Lord/Miller material, with Howard overseeing the rest.) Was the venom that hardcore Star Wars geeks spat upon Rian Johnson's nutty, risk-taking The Last Jedi enough to turn mainstream viewers off of the franchise? Were folks indifferent to the little-known Alden Ehrenreich stepping into Harrison Ford's boots as Han Solo? Or do we all just need a break from Star Wars?
While the rest of the world mulls this over, I can say that I saw Solo and enjoyed it.
It's more or less a heist movie, with the young Han joining an assortment of shifty characters to rob some priceless spaceship fuel in order to... well, motives change, but the goal stays the same. The plot literally stems from one throwaway line in the original Star Wars, regarding the Millennium Falcon: "It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs." Which is fine.
Ehrenreich is less of a stranger to me than to others because I already knew him from Hail, Caesar! and Rules Don't Apply, and his work in Solo confirms that he's a good actor with a wide range. The supporting cast is appealing, especially Donald Glover, giving a funny Billy Dee Williams impression as Lando Calrissian, and Phoebe Waller-Bridges as Lando's activist droid L3-37. (The name might come from hackers' much-lampooned "leetspeak".) The special effects are unimpeachable, John Powell's score swoops and soars and borrows what it can from John Williams, and the script by veteran Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan is tight.
It's not as stirring as Rogue One. It's not as audacious as The Last Jedi. And it includes a cameo from a well-known Star Wars character that totally baffled me. (Apparently the various books, TV series, and video games justify his inclusion in this storyline, which I guess was designed to tease a potential Solo sequel that will now probably never come.) Regardless, it's a damn sight better than The Force Awakens, which crumbled under the weight of its obsequious fan service.
In short, nothing should stop you from seeing Solo. It's no classic, but it is a rollicking Star Wars movie with some fun moments.
One final note: I do like how the newer films have been exploring the vast and sticky business dealings between the Empire (or the First Order) and organized crime, arms dealers, and so on. These gray areas make the franchise more relevant to our times; it's no longer enough to say, "The Empire's bad because the Emperor's bad." This film, like Rogue One and The Last Jedi, also paints a vivid picture of the origins of resistance. If George Lucas's dreadful prequels were obsessed with the Force, these post-Lucas films offer a persuasive argument that the galaxy's passionate, brave, heterogeneous Rebels are far more compelling than those whiny Skywalkers.