Solo: A Star Wars Story - first reviews (no spoilers)
What did the critics make of troubled Han Solo spin-off?
Star Wars spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story, which follows the adventures of a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) before the events of A New Hope, has been dogged since day one by media rumours of chaos and confusion on set.
Reports that an acting coach had been brought in to improve Ehrenreich’s take on Han caused consternation among fans, and the mid-shoot departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, replaced by Ron Howard, did little to assuage concerns that the film was in trouble.
On 23 May, cinemagoers will get the chance to see the end result for themselves when Solo hits screens. But a handful of film critics have already been able to watch the film in special screenings.
It’s a “crackingly enjoyable adventure”, says The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. Solo’s first encounter with Chewbacca is an especial treat, “a glorious origin myth meet-cute to set up one of cinema’s greatest bromances”, he writes.
While mid-shoot changes of director are usually a bad omen, fans can put their trust in Ron Howard, says Vulture. Despite the behind-the-scenes chaos, Solo is “smoothly directed by the reliable Hollywood hand”, with the presence of old-hand Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan providing further ballast.
Concerns over Ehrenreich’s performance also appear to be unfounded. He is “immensely likeable” in the guise of a young Harrison Ford, says The Independent’s Geoffrey Macnab, delivering an “engaging performance that strikes just the right balance of humour and heroism”.
Donald Glover’s turn as slick smuggler Lando Calrissian (played by Billy Dee Williams in the original saga) justifies the hype which turned him into a firm fan favourite from the moment the first trailer dropped.
The Atlanta and Community star is “easily the best thing in this good-not-great movie”, says Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty.
Where Solo falls down for less-impressed critics is not in production values or performances, but the film’s lack of narrative bite.
Several noted that, despite acting as an origin story for the franchise’s most beloved outlaw, Solo is neither daring nor controversial - “more mild than wild”, says Rolling Stone.
“Mere competence is, of course, not a crime against cinema,” the magazine’s Peter Travers writes, but when you’re dealing with the youthful exploits of an untamed space cowboy, “a little artistic rebellion wouldn't hurt”.
Indeed, for all its rollicking set pieces, Solo is also a reminder that box office revenue demands that “every corner of the ‘galaxy far, far away’ has to be strip-mined for content, demystified, and spun off into its own standalone sequel, prequel, or sidequel”, says Nashawaty.
Solo never quite dares to make the case for its own existence, says Slate’s Sam Adams. The end result “isn’t a stand-alone film so much as a corporate directive made flesh, a quarterly earnings report in a vest and black leather boots”.