Critics can’t quite agree on “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which debuts Friday. But most came to the conclusion that it is satisfyingly, entertainingly average.
A perfect example: The new "Star Wars" prequel’s Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes is at 70 percent, which sounds positive, but the consensus among critics is that it’s “flawed yet fun.”
“Solo” gives us the background of Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), starting with his bleak childhood on Corellia, a planet Solo is determined to leave behind to pursue his dream of being a pilot. Without giving too much away, the movie includes Han’s introduction to two of the main fixtures in his life: the Millennium Falcon and Chewbacca. It also introduces Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian, a smooth smuggler and frenemy of Han Solo.
True to its name, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a bit of a loner. Rather than being released near the holiday season like most recent "Star Wars" films, it’s being released in the spring.
And instead of focusing on lightsabers and the Force and Jedis, it’s all about blasters, smuggling and heists, which are different characteristics than the quintessential "Star Wars" film. It doesn’t even include a John Williams soundtrack or a Death Star to blow up.
But for some, the differences make "Solo" a refreshing film.
“Ron Howard’s ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ isn’t the best ‘Star Wars’ movie; it probably isn’t even the best of the ‘new’ ‘Star Wars’ movies," writes Deseret News critic Josh Terry. But, he counters, “an average 'Star Wars' movie is nothing to complain about.”
The biggest problems critics find with the new addition to the "Star Wars" world are with the cramped and overplayed nature of Disney-run "Star Wars" and with Ehrenreich’s performance as the main character.
Most reviews agree the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t always make sense canonically. In fact, the movie led to an intense debate about the timeline and canon in the offices of The New York Times, according to critic A.O. Scott.
Other critics hold a consensus that this was an unasked-for, money-sucking move by Disney to answer questions that no one was really asking about Han Solo’s life.
A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club wrote the movie “struck me as intellectual property in the form unconvincingly arranged into the shape of a movie.”
Meanwhile, ReelViews’ James Berardinelli described it as “a movie no one was clamoring for that has been made without any distinguishing qualities.”
And then there's debate over Ehrenreich. Several critics agreed that Harrison Ford’s imperturbable swagger as Solo in the original "Star Wars" trilogy is a masterpiece that is impossible to duplicate. Ehrenreich, taking on the role of the beloved unruffled ruffian, faces an Olympic-sized task for a beginner.
K. Austin Collins of Vanity Fair gives Ehrenreich’s portrayal the benefit of the doubt because Solo's character is still young, not quite the self-assured cynic Solo fans adore.
"After all, this isn’t a movie about the fully formed, breezy, macho-lite hero we all already love — it’s a movie about a guy who hasn’t totally come into himself," he wrote.
And Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal says Ehrenreich did a great job with an impossible task, and expressed gratitude he didn’t try to impersonate the old Solo exactly.
“Mr. Ehrenreich pulls it off, to the extent that anyone can consummate an impossible act of anticipatory mimicry,” Morgenstern wrote.
Others said Ehrenreich’s poor performance spoiled the entire movie. In particular, The Seattle Times review calls out the young actor for being too arrogant, sporting a smirk rather than a grin, whereas Vulture’s review critiques him for being too likable.
What critics liked
Despite the disagreement about Ehrenreich, fans and critics alike are falling in love with Glover’s Lando Calrissian and his extensive cape collection, saying he’s definitely channeling Billy Dee Williams, who played the original Calrissian in "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back."
"The idea of Mr. Glover aging into Billy Dee Williams creates a magical loop in the pop-cultural space-time continuum," Scott wrote.
Most reviews attribute the rule-bound but enjoyable fun in the movie to Howard, who came on after the first two directors were let go because of creative differences.
Screen Rant reviewer Molly Freeman said the director didn’t take too many risks, but the ones he did pay off.
Beyond Lando, most agree the movie succeeds in creating breathtaking sets, cool new creatures, a funny new droid, an awesome train heist as well as an overall enjoyable experience.
So, is “Solo” worth seeing?
“It’s more Star Tours than 'Star Wars,'” wrote Brian Raftery for Wired. “But hey, Star Tours is pretty fun.”