I enjoyed Solo more than I expected, that it is to say, more than Rogue One. Both films show the seams of their Frankenstein construction, but Solo hangs together better. Perhaps that’s because Rogue One’s central flaw was a script rushed into production two drafts ahead of schedule, meaning the third act feels built on set. Whereas Solo feels like a solid outline of a script weighed down by pedestrian direction, cheaper production values (likely mainly due to reshoots), and some really eye-rolling attempts to work in “classic” Star Wars lines of dialogue.
There’s two better films in here. One is the Han and Lando hang-out film Lord and Miller were probably aiming for. But it's really hard to see why they were hired when Kasdan wrote the bones of a film noir (the femme fatale, the cynicism, the double crosses, the postwar crime mileu, the surprisingly high body count). Which you know, actually makes perfect sense as the origin story of a jaded loner with an idealist streak. It also helps explain Bradford Young’s monochrome palettes. Some of these noir ambitions survive the lighter tone, but they're all undone by the ending.
There must have been some version of this where Han’s plan failed. Getting double-crossed out of the cargo by Qi’ra would have been a standard noir ending, justified Han’s later cynicism, and Qi’ra’s final actions would make a lot more sense if she was leaving with something (rather than just acting out of… fear of the syndicate?). But as it plays, there’s a reluctance to let Han fuck up, and the ending we have feels like the film trying to have its cake (Han learns not to trust anyone) and eat it too (Han trusts the rebels! But he doesn’t join them now because… everything’s gone great for him?) The resolution with Becket is surprising, but Becket and Han’s relationship never established the emotional father figure bond it aimed for, perhaps because they so rarely share the screen (again reshoots). Becket’s only really interesting in relation to his original crew, who I really wished had been around for the whole show.
All this really hurts Clarke, who isn’t bad, but has the impossible job of playing girl next door, femme fatale, crime lord’s sexpot, and supreme strategist all at once. In other words, she’s a female cipher who’s whatever the plot needs at any moment, and that requires a far more powerful presence than Clarke to pull off cohesively.
As mentioned above, this is easily the cheapest looking Star Wars, as the usual top-notch production design is missing, particularly in the sets and locations. There are a few early flashes of Corellia as steampunk hell that look interesting, but most everything else is anonymous. And compared to the other new films, it relies far more on CGI than practical effects. The costume department and creature design still do okay though.