One of cinema’s most notorious heroes gets a riveting origins story in the new-to-home-video, Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The key to anything, according to a thousand director’s I’ve interviewed, is casting. Putting Alden Ehrenreich behind that famous blaster and behind the wheel of the Millennium Falcon was a brilliant move all told. It’s strange, heading into witnessing Ron Howard’s latest flick in the theaters, it seemed impossible to watch this story and not constantly think of the man who made the role iconic, Harrison Ford. But, within the first few minutes of Solo, the most extraordinary thing occurs. Ehrenreich is Solo, end of story. At that point, the audience can become vested in the tale and race off to the corners of the galaxy with our favorite intergalactic scoundrel.

Solo commences with the character we know as Han Solo toiling on his home planet, with dreams of doing so much more. Specifically, he wants to be the best pilot in the galaxy. He is in love with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), and the pair is crazy about each other. The goings-on of the universe at the time have other ideas and they are separated—a moment that begins the cementing of the inner motivation of our anti-hero that will play out for decades to come.

He may have lost the girl, but he has gained a friend for life, Chewbacca. The soon-to-be-BFF/co-pilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Solo have instant chemistry and that is high praise for the actors, sure, but especially director Howard and screenwriters Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan (the latter co-wrote my favorite Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back).

Soon after, Solo is recruited by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) to be part of a crew that pulls off heists across the galaxy of their choosing, or as they are assigned—which is the case with the one that plays out over the course of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) has tapped them for a highly dangerous gig that has Beckett, Solo and their crew beyond thrilled to take on the challenge. One thing may be an issue: It seems Qi’ra is with Vos now and she’s tasked with going with this crew on the mission at the gangster’s request to ensure everything is peachy. How’s that going to sit with Solo? Do you know the character? Exactly!

They need a ship, and fast. Where do they turn? How about a flashy and cocky flyboy by the name of Lando Calrissian (another impeccable stroke of casting with Donald Glover nailing the role). Once Han and Lando meet, it is something at first sight, but we will let you discover it on your own. These two clearly have respect for one another and we can see the seeds of a complicated friendship that will span decades. The chemistry between Ehrenreich and Glover is sizzling, and we certainly hope we get to see these two revive these characters again (although given the headlines surrounding how this film was “received,” it is doubtful).

Howard and the Kasdans have crafted an intergalactic tale that keeps you guessing around every curve and is truly one-part thrill ride, one-part strong character study and a minute part origins story. Wait, you say I thought it was an origins story? It is, yes, but by the time the credits close on Solo: A Star Wars Story, one realizes that it is so much more than that. Seeds are laid for the future that we all know so well. But, this is a film that can easily stand on its own, much like Rogue One—the other Star Wars standalone story. The characters are rich, varied and Howard and the Kasdans introduce us to a bevy of brilliant and uniquely “Star Wars” characters that are compelling and every bit worthy of being in the iconic series’ canon as any other.

Ehrenreich, Glover and Clarke are outstanding. But the one who steals the movie must be the nuanced turn turned in by Harrelson. I tell you, the man is doing the best work of his career… fresh off that Oscar nomination for Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. Also strong is Bettany—after all, no film worth its salt is any good without a riveting villain and he plays it to the nine.

Howard’s direction is what you would expect from him—nothing more, nothing less. But, by taking on the challenge that is making a Star Wars movie, the helmer had to have his creative talent stretched to the max. He must have delighted with heading into a galaxy, far, far away and joining a lexicon of filmmakers that is quite rare. Howard was a worthy choice and what he did stepping in when the film’s previous directors were fired is impressive. He made the movie his own and in a Star Wars world, that is no easy task.

A bevy of bonus features abound, as is the case with most Star Wars home video releases. There are the great and super great!

As a huge fan of everything Kasdan, we have to start by saluting “Kasdan on Kasdan.” The iconic father and his son share incredible insight into what it was like to pen a screenplay together and how their love of Star Wars permeated every page. It is truly a fascinating look at a family, brought together by a pop culture stalwart.

“Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable” finds Howard and the cast sharing astounding insight into the making of this flick that gives entertaining and enlightening background one will not get anywhere else.

If you think about it, when we truly first met the Millennium Falcon, it was a banged-up ship that had seen an adventure or two. Yet, it still performed better than 99-percent of the ships out there. There was a complicated issue when it came to making Solo and that was our favorite space pilot was going to meet his beloved spaceship for the first time. This puppy had to look brand new and be immaculate on the inside and out. “Remaking the Millennium Falcon” is a must-see for fans of the entire Star Wars universe as it takes us to the beginning and shows how this thing was built from the ground up. You might even notice that new spaceship smell.

Han’s favorite sidekick gets his own featurette, “Team Chewie.” Get a first-hand view on what it takes to bring this giant of a pop culture figure to life for his latest appearance in a Star Wars movie. The towering Suotamo is fascinating to watch and hear from as he transforms into the character we all know and adore. He is like a kid in a candy store stepping into that furry costumes.

One of the great action set pieces in Solo comes on railroad tracks. “Train Heist” is a home-vid extra that explores how on earth Howard managed to capture this high stake and thrill a minute heist sequence on a moving train that feels as it if was dangerously impossible to capture with a practical set setting. Yet the movie magician that is Howard shows again why he is one of our great moviemaking talents, especially on this featurette.

Throughout Star Wars history, the droids have often stolen the show, from R2D2 to BB8. “Becoming a Droid: L3-37” introduces the world to the newest droid to join the parade of pitch-perfect android characters. She delivers some of the best, insightful and most hilarious lines of the entire movie. This featurette introduces us to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the woman who makes L3-37 come to life in three fully emotionally powered dimensions.

Like that chase through the streets of Corellia? Yeah, me too and as such, don’t miss “Escape from Corellia”. It’s another great how did they do that bonus feature that has Howard orchestrating a chase scene that as a fan of his film Rush, one can see where a whole lot of the inspiration for this scene’s action choreography came from… it’s brilliant.

A good Star Wars movie always has a bar or cantina if you well. “Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures” and “Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso” takes us inside the rough-and-tumble joint where the galaxy’s underbelly comes to party. Inside this establishment, there is a game being played that has become iconic in the Star Wars universe. Sabaac is the game, and it will play a huge part in Han Solo and Lando’s friendship and how each owned, lost, won and lost the Millennium Falcon.

Until now, we have only heard about the famed Kessel Run that Han and Chewie undertook. It was an exposition means of building Solo’s character in Lucas’ original trilogy. On face value, it seemed pretty damn impressive. But, in Solo: A Star Wars Story, he takes that fateful trip and “Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run” puts us in the driver’s seat of the legendary spaceship as we learn how this extraordinary and important trip in the Star Wars canon came to be. It goes by quickly, too quickly for me—like just slightly over 12 parsecs.

There are eight interesting deleted scenes that fans of the series will want to inhale. Then, there is one last bonus feature that will do nothing but shoot your anticipation for Star Wars at Disneyland to go through the roof. “The Millennium Falcon: From Page to Park” is an in-depth look at the most famous ship in science fiction, including its origin, development and how the brilliant souls at Disneyland will be bringing it to life for fans to get on board themselves in the very near future!

Film Grade: A-
Bonus Features: A-