On the planet Corellia, orphans Han and Qi’ra (Alden Ehrenreich and Amelia Clarke) escape a local gang. They bribe an Imperial officer with stolen coaxium fuel in exchange for tickets on a transport. But Qi’ra is captured. Han vows to return for her and joins the Imperial Navy, where he is called Flight Cadet Solo. Three years later, he is in the infantry on the planet Mimban because he was expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy for insubordination.

He meets a criminal gang posing as Imperial soldiers, led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Han tries to blackmail Beckett into letting him join the gang, but Beckett has him arrested and he is thrown into a pit to be fed to a Wookiee prisoner named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). Solo understands his language and talks him into escaping with him. Beckett realizes Chewbacca could be useful and rescues them both to help steal a shipment of coaxium fuel on the planet Vandor-1. The Cloud Riders gang led by Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman) show up to hijack the shipment themselves. Beckett’s wife Val (Thandie Newton) is killed, along with another member of his gang, and the coaxium is destroyed.

Beckett reveals he was hired to steal the coaxium for the powerful head of the Crimson Dawn gang Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Han and Chewbacca offer to help him steal another shipment to replace it. On board Vos’ yacht, Han finds Qi’ra, who is now a top lieutenant in the syndicate. Han comes up with a risky plan to steal unrefined coaxium from the mines of Kessel. Vos approves but insists Qi’ra go along. She introduces them to Landonis Calrissian (Donald Glover), the smuggler pilot of the Millennium Falcon. This is a Corellian Engineering Corporation YT Series YT-1300. Han challenges Lando to a game of sabacc for the ship. Lando cheats to win but agrees to join the mission for a share of the profits.

They journey to Kessel in the Falcon and infiltrate the mine. Lando’s droid co-pilot L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) instigates a slave revolt on Kessel. They succeed in stealing the coaxium, but L3 is fatally damaged. She is hot-wired into the ship’s navigation system and lives on as part of the Falcon. Han pilots the ship through the uncharted and highly dangerous Kessel Run as they flee the Imperial blockade. The Falcon is severely damaged but lands on the planet Savareen, where they can process the coaxium.

Enfys arrives and Lando departs, deserting everyone else. Enfys reveals that she and the Enfys Nest crew are rebels against the Empire. Han is sympathetic and tries to trick Vos, who already knows about the double-cross. He sends his guards to kill Enfys, but the Cloud Riders overpower them, and Vos is helpless. Han tries to take the coaxium, but Beckett betrays Vos and takes the coaxium himself, along with Chewbacca as a hostage. Qi’ra kills Vos and sends Han after Beckett. She contacts Vos’ boss, the powerful Sith Lord Maul (Ray Park) and blames Beckett for the mission’s failure. Maul orders Qi’ra to meet with him on the planet Dathomir.

Han confronts Beckett and shoots him. Qi’ra leaves in Vos’ yacht. Han and Chewbacca give the coaxium to Enfys for the Rebellion. Han declines to join the Rebellion himself, but she gives him enough caoxium to buy a ship. Han and Chewie find Lando and challenge him to another game of sabacc. Lando won last time with a cheating-card, and Han steals it to win the Millennium Falcon. With Chewbacca, he leaves for Tatooine, where there is a Hutt gangster planning a lucrative job.

After all the sturm und drang of Revenge of the Jedi, I guess we could do with something light and nostalgic and fun. The script was written by Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan and directed by Ron Howard after two other directors were fired because of creative differences. This was Ron’s fourth time with Lucasfilm, following American Graffiti, More American Graffiti, and Willow. More than 3000 actors, including Rami Malek, Scott Eastwood, and Chris Pratt, were seen for the role of Han Solo before Ehrenreich got it. Harrison Ford gave him advice, and he studied his own copy of The Millennium Falcon Owner’s Workshop Manual. Woody Harrelson beat out Christian Bale for the role of Han’s mentor Tobias Beckett. The character was based on Long John Silver from Treasure Island. Qi’ra, played by Amelia Clarke, was modelled after James Bond’s Vesper Lynd.

Donald Glover was wonderful as Lando Calrissian. He was highly praised by critics for his unruly, charismatic elegance and his gender fluidity, and was compared to Cary Grant. He received help from Billy Dee Williams. Also appearing in the film were Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt, Clint Howard of course, Anthony Daniels as a Wookiee named Tak, and Warwick Davis. Paul Bettany, Donald Glover, and Jon Favreau also appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. L3-37 was a combination of a droid’s head, chest, legs and arms on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s body and a green skin-tight suit underneath. The suit was then removed digitally, giving her an amazingly realistic walk that is somehow mechanical and sexy at the same time. Clint Howard, Ron’s brother, who is in every film he does, is one of the small group of actors to appear in both Star Wars and Star Trek. He was in The Corbomite Maneuver at the age of seven.

The golden fertility idol from the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark is on a table in Dryden Vos’ meeting room. He also has the Sankara Stones from The Temple of Doom and the Holy Grail. Qi’ra’s gun is inspired by a Mannlicher M-1905. In the recruitment centre, the music playing is a heroic version of John Williams’s Imperial March, and during Darth Maul’s cameo, a bit of Duel of the Fates can be heard. The Millennium Falcon set weighed 31 tons. This movie shows why the ship was a famous piece of junk in A New Hope. The Kessel Run is 20 parsecs distance, but Han took a dangerous shortcut that was 12 parsecs long, okay? In the final confrontation with Tobias Beckett, Han shoots first. The film was supposed to be part of a trilogy about young Han Solo, but that never happened. Harrison Ford thought it was phenomenal, but he stayed away from the premiere so as not to distract attention from Ehrenreich.

The film was produced by Kathleen Kennedy. You know her: ET, Temple of Doom, The Goonies, all the Back to the Future movies, Empire of the Sun, Arachnophobia, all the Jurassic Park movies, The Sixth Sense, AI, War of the Worlds, The Force Awakens, The Rise of Skywalker, and a whole lot more. But Solo was the only Star Wars box office failure. Online trolls were blamed, but Ron Howard is not George Lucas, and the movie started out with a problem: everybody already knew what was going to happen. The prequel trilogy had the same handicap going in, but Lucas gave us a hell of a lot more than how Obi-Wan’s apprentice became Darth Vader. He gave us an entire history. Solo just gave us a charming little adventure.