Solo: A Star Wars Story: director Ron Howard (with the assistance of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, or maybe the other way around) has to balance fan service (which comes with the territory when dealing with such a large franchise) with a film that stands on its own. It mostly succeeds, telling a story that just aims to be an entertaining ride (it does not pretend or intend to being more than that), and succeeds at that. The film dutifully goes through a check-list of facts that “needed” to be visited (most of those are unobtrusive and work, but some do not), but they fail to enrich the characters, which are simple but interesting to watch. The performances match the material: Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, and Paul Bettany are in good shape, playing it small; Donald Glover is a winning presence; Phoebe Waller-Bridge gives a very entertaining voice performance. Alden Ehrenreich has big shoes to fill, and he does not try to copy the swagger of Harrison Ford, instead creating some of his own. There’s at least one very thrilling action set-piece, and the film has great production values: the locations (enhanced by the production design team) are very distinctive and gritty, and nicely captured by cinematographer Bradford Young.