I don’t see the reason why this film isn’t performing. I know, it’s still made upwards of $170M (by close-of-day May 28th), but that’s on an estimated $300M budget. Not exactly Force Awakens numbers, but I think other—political—factors are at play.

Google J.J. Abrams or Kathleen Kennedy for the complete dish…

All that aside, Ron Howard—I know, right?—has made a fine film. From the man that brought us Apollo 13 and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), Solo: A Star Wars Story exceeded my very low expectations. Here’s six reasons why, in no particular way:

Young Solo. Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!, Beautiful Creatures) is excellent; his portrayal is exactly how I pictured a young Han being—arrogant, cock-sure, a tad naïve, but with stars (almost literally) in his eyes. He even has some of older Solo—Ford, that is—in every mannerism and movement; wouldn’t be surprised if Ehrenreich’s homework in preparation for this role was just re-watching the original trilogy and picking up all the little quirks and nuances of Ford’s performances. Yea-hoooo!

Loose ends no longer. I love how everything comes together—“retconning”, say some, visionary imagination, says I. Howard is clearly a huge fan, and wanted to do one of cinema’s—and sci-fi’s—most famous bad boys justice. Ha—pun… Meeting Chewy, the love-hate pseudo-brotherhood between Han and Lando, the legendary Kessel Run—everything is just so…cohesive. It jibes well with the story established in the orig trig, but liberties are taken by the filmmakers in how that story came to be. There’s a very heavy Firefly scent in the air, as we get going; Woody Harrelson (White Men Can’t Jump, Zombieland) is very much Mal Reynolds, but more on him and the rest of the cast later. This film is great fan-service, which covers so much.

Like the secret Sith at the end…among other things. I would like one—just one—Star Wars movie, sans lightsabers and any mention of the Force, but it was such an “oh my glob” moment…I’ll allow it. Being a coming-of-age story of Solo, though, it was very focused on him; growing him up from a skin-of-his-teeth street-rat to competent pilot and hero in the making is cool to see, and it’s all contained. When the credits start to roll, we can fill in the little gaps. The Millennium Falcon is just as cool as ever; in the hands of her rightful captain, even moreso. When Han first gets behind the yolk, I smiled ear-to-ear. Not the only time that happened to me over the course of this film, but I’m currently writing characters very close to these.

Speaking of which…

A cast befitting war of the stellar variety. Though we don’t see much of Paul Bettany (Marvel’s Avengers movies, The DaVinci Code), throughout, he’s a commanding presence, on-screen, when he is present. Woody Harrelson is great, too, as Han’s mentor and surrogate father-figure, and lends a lot to the man Han turns into, in “later” films. Emilia Clarke (Terminator: Genisys, HBO’s Game of Thrones) as Qi’ra is…not what I had in mind. Yea, we see her in the get-up in the trailers, but she’s actually pretty adept. All those years on the streets hardened her, made her deadly. I like it. A lot. We need more female protags like her—like Wonder Woman, pulling the guys out of the fire, every now and then. Lando’s droid, L3-37—voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Amazon’s Fleabag—is about all the political satire (yet, to effect) I could ask for in a Star Wars film, these days. She’s the comic relief, but she’s got a good brain between her gaskets. A servo of gold, as it were. Of course, I can’t speak about the cast without mentioning Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian! He was one of the few reasons I wanted to see this film, in the first place; he nails replicating Billy Dee Williams’s portrayal from Empire—every little tick and mannerism—and is as suave and dapper as he is sly and deceitful. Glover’s got talent—can’t wait to see what else he does with his budding career.

Honoring the source material. Lots of call-backs to the original trilogy—if I can call that “source material”. From the score—which remixes a lot of fan-favorite suites, such as “The Imperial March”—to one-liners, jokes, background material, and that ending gasp moment I mentioned earlier, I was having a ball, picking every little thing out. This film was made for folks like me—who grew up with the Star Wars prequels, but went back and loved the orig trig even more for its canon legacy. The Falcon’s iconic look, Chewy’s loneliness as seemingly the only Wookie in the orig trig, Han’s famous blaster—all touched upon. Some of it is blink-and-you-miss-it, but that’s why I’m advising going into this with a keen eye ready; I enjoyed the story just as well, even though I was busy hunting for Easter eggs, simultaneously.

Practical effects! One thing I’ve been liking less and less about the new saga films is the slow incursion of CGI into everything. It’s…it’s not Star Wars; the orig trig is known for its camp, for stretching a buck. Here, we get that—despite the engorged budget, a lot of the on-set effects are practical! Costumes, puppets, animatronics—only on a few instances did I detect CG in non-ship chase scenes. As a connoisseur of the oldies, I loved that about Solo; Howard put his team to work, for sure, building everything and making sure it would jibe with present-day audiences, while still retaining that classic Star Wars aesthetic.

There you have it. Though it tripped and lost its footing a bit, towards the end—where pacing is concerned—Solo is great fun. Brimming with nods to the fans, good old-fashioned filmmaking techniques, and a memorable cast of über-likable characters, I felt like I was a little kid again. I felt inspired to write my own sci-fi again. I know I said the same thing with The Last Jedi, but I mean it ten-fold, this time.

If you’re on the fence, pony up and see the film. I promise, as a slightly-obsessive—sometimes snobbish—fan, myself, you won’t be disappointed.

Score: 10 out 10