One of the nice surprises: Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo. Photo courtesy of "Solo: A Star Wars Story"
The funny thing about the newest installment in the ever-expanding Star Wars universe is that we already know the ending.
Lead character Han Solo survives. He and loyal sidekick Chewbacca stick together. Lando Calrissian remains cooler than all of us.
If you've seen even one "Star Wars" movie from Episode IV on, you know all this already. What you don't know are the particulars.
Revealing those details is what the movie "Solo," out May 24, turns on. How did Han meet Chewie? Where did the grudging alliance with Lando begin? And how did Han ever get his hands on the beloved Millennium Falcon?
Viewed this way, "Solo" is, to some extent, an extremely well-funded form of fan fiction. Give devoted Star Wars fan a budget of an estimated $250 million and see what they can create.
The resulting series of movies known as "Star Wars Stories" began with "Rogue One" in December 2016. That movie chronicled how the schematics for the Death Star got into the hands of Princess Leia, the opening scene of Episode IV (the one that premiered in 1977).
"Solo," the second in the "Stories" set, follows a young Han Solo, lightyears before he meets Leia and her twin brother Luke. Indeed, "Solo" is notable for just how far removed it feels from the world of Leia and Luke.
Only one lightsaber appears in all two hours and 15 minutes and The Force doesn't come up once (there is a nod to the brewing conflict between the evil Empire and the Resistance but it's a brief one).
The lack of Jedi is but one surprise. Alden Ehrenreich impresses as a young Solo (word is even Harrison Ford liked Ehrenreich's portrayal of the character they now share). The graphics are, of course, superb. The Wookie remains as delightful as ever.
Not as impressive: The dialogue (one line involving the word "smile" was particularly cringeworthy). The droids (I'm in the minority here, I know). And, finally, the doomed love affair between Solo and childhood friend Qi'ra (played by Emilia Clarke, a.k.a. Daenerys Targaryen of "Game of Thrones").
Here's the thing: "Solo" is good. It's just not as good as we've grown to expect from Star Wars.
Episodes VII and VIII have spoiled us. They're forging new ground and so can't help but be more exciting; we don't already know those endings.
So, my advice if you go see "Solo": Don't expect the startling revelations of the newest installments. Instead, think of it as "Indiana Jones: A Space Opera."
It's fun. It's fast. It's fine.
Age recommendation for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is rated PG-13; Common Sense Media recommends it for ages 10 and above. It’s very light on sex and violence though there are some intense chase and fight scenes.