WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story, in theaters now.
Production of Solo: A Star Wars Story was troubled, to say the least, marked by the firing of original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and the hiring of Ron Howard, who re-shot 70 percent of the film, as well as speculation that its star wasn't equipped for the massive role he'd been given. Rumors persisted for months there was such concern about Alden Ehrenreich's performance that Lucasfilm hired an acting coach. However, those turned out to be overblown.
Instead, he turned to Harrison Ford for insight into the character, although it's unknown what wisdom the franchise icon imparted. But that should be heartening for anyone who might have doubted the actor's ability to emulate the scoundrel's charm and charisma.
Still, charm and charisma are just two of the qualities that endeared Ford's Han Solo to viewers of the original trilogy. There was always a sense of danger when he appeared on screen, starting with his introduction in 1977's A New Hope, when viewers were unsure of his trustworthiness. We knew he was dangerous by the way he dealt with Greedo, by definitely shooting first; we knew he was witty as he parried with Leia's barbs; and we knew he was loyal when he returned to help destroy the Death Star. Many of those traits were in the script, but it was Ford's performance that made them believable.
So how does Ehrenreich compare as Han Solo?
To analyze his performance, we'll have to explore the events of the film in order to determine the demands it makes of the character. Solo deals with several heavy themes, and features the deaths and treachery of multiple different characters. Han loses his first love Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) at the beginning of the film, and does everything he can to try and get her back. When he does, he's sent on what seems to be a suicide mission, but he accomplishes the task with his signature bravado, skill and wit.
There's a lot of emotion involved with the character, but it's always subtle. The perfect example of that is the scene in which Han reunites with Qi'ra. Han Solo has always feigned disinterest and confidence rather than reveal vulnerability. Ehrenreich plays the young rogue as a relatively inexperienced criminal who hasn't yet developed the cynicism that became the character's signature, so it's understandable that he would brighten up when he discovers Qi'ra, alive and well on Dryden Vos' yacht.