Solo: A Star Wars Story: What the critics are saying

Solo: A Star Wars Story is fast approaching, gearing up to fly into cinemas on May 25. Prior to the film scoring that official release date, and before so much as a behind-the-scenes snap or set video was released, some fans worried whether the movie would live up to its Star Wars saga predecessors. Though first reactions to the standalone were largely stellar, with critics applauding Alden Ehrenreich's take on young Han Solo and calling him "the real deal," many still wondered if Solo would soar or stumble upon launch. 

Now that Disney and Lucasfilm have lifted the embargo on reviews for Solo: A Star Wars Story, we've got a better answer to that uncertainty: Solo is pretty good, but has some issues. Critics are now split more than before: some people like it, others are pretty indifferent, and a few have completely turned their nose up at it.

The film, directed by Ron Howard after original helmers Phil Lord and Chris Miller were kicked to the curb, currently sits at a 73 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 64 "fresh" reviews and 24 "rotten" from 88 critics and a consensus that calls it "a flawed yet fun and fast-paced space adventure" that "should satisfy newcomers to the saga as well as longtime fans who check their expectations at the theater door."

Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Solo probably won't "find itself occupying an upper berth in the Star Wars movie pantheon," but it features enough goodness to "satisfy the fan base and give Disney a very strong turnout." He also noted that director Howard "gets plenty of entertaining mileage out of Han Solo and company's formative years, even though he never quite manages to launch the Millennium Falcon into hyperdrive," and that Ehrenreich "captures enough of Ford's genial swagger to earn Solo bragging rights — even if the performance could have withstood a few smirks and winks."

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers had a ho-hum reaction to Solo, stating that the standalone plays it far too safe to ever be the adventurous thrill ride it fancies itself. "Solo: A Star Wars Story keeps throwing curveballs to distract us from the fact that we know all too well where this is heading," he wrote. "Howard and [screenwriters Lawrence and Jon Kasdan] play the series game without ever raising the stakes, defaulting to dull and dutiful when they might have blasted off into creative anarchy. Even the new score by John Powell (Jason Bourne) only soars when it samples the original John Williams theme. And somehow Han Solo — the roguish Star Wars hellion famous for breaking all the rules — finds himself in a feel-good movie that doesn't break any."

A.O. Scott of The New York Times shared the same belief that Solo doesn't ever tip into rebellious fun one would expect to see in a movie all about the famous smuggler Han Solo. "[Solo] ambles from one set piece to the next in a spirit of genial in-betweenness," Scott argued in his review. "It doesn't take itself too seriously, but it also holds whatever irreverent, anarchic impulses it might possess in careful check."

However, some critics had a wonderful time watching Solo, finding a solid movie at the center of everything. 

IndieWire's Kate Erbland described the pic as "an origin story that fits into the wider galaxy with ease, and sets a course for many more adventures to come." She wrote in part, "As an origin story, Howard's film has to line up a series of expected beats — how Han got his name, where he learned to fly, how he met Chewbacca and Lando, when he acquired the Millennium Falcon — but Solo crams all that stuff into an entertaining package that can also stand alone … It's not as dark as the franchise's other standalone film, the satisfying and sad Rogue One, and even without lightsaber battles or Jedi or anyone aligned with the formal Rebellion, it still captures a humor and pace Star Wars audiences expect."

USA Today's Brian Truitt also pointed out that Solo is "more successful than Rogue One" in exploring the darker parts of the storied film series. "It leans into marauders, mob syndicates, and the seedier aspects of the franchise. Rather than taking another run at another Death Star, this is instead like spending two hours in the crime-infested cantina from George Lucas' original flick that introduced Han to the universe," Truitt stated. "Solo is much more akin at its core to an Indiana Jones movie in the way its often-hapless rogue bounces between sticky and/or speedy situations but somehow doesn't end up eaten by a space monster or blasted to smithereens." He wrapped his review by calling Solo a "winning chapter" in the larger franchise.

Unfortunately, not everyone had such fuzzy feelings. World of Reel critic Jordan Ruimy held nothing back when he slammed Solo as "the worst Star Wars movie ever released," "worse than those George Lucas prequels," and a film that leaves viewers feeling "bored and irritated" by its "relentless cutting … predictability and lots of forced nostalgia." The only redeeming factors of Solo for Ruimy were Donald Glover's Lando Calrissian, the Millennium Falcon, and "the last 20 or so minutes, which might save it from Razzie nominations." Ouch.

From that Solo roasting, there's Bryan Bishop of The Verge, who dished up a wholeheartedly positive review of the film. "Like its title character pulling off a crazy scheme just in the nick of time, Solo is a swashbuckling success, a space adventure that pays homage to the DNA of the original films while carving out its own unique space in the canon. It's a sheer delight, but it also has the courage to explore the darker aspects of a character who could have all too easily been polished to an inoffensive, family-friendly Disney sheen," Bishop wrote. "Solo represents the most refined iteration yet of the new Disney/Lucasfilm formula — and cements longtime series screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan's place as the defining voice of the Star Wars universe."

Across the board, no matter their stance on the film, critics seem to have agreed that Alden Ehrenreich does an excellent job portraying Han Solo, even if he doesn't quite capture the cynicism and sharp wit of Harrison Ford's legendary performance; Donald Glover crushes it as young Lando Calrissian; and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a total scene-stealer as Lando's droid companion L3-37. 

The film also stars Woody Harrelson as Beckett, Thandie Newton as Val, Emilia Clarke as Qi'ra, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos, and Jon Favreau as the voice of Rio Durant. 

Fans can come up with their own reviews for Solo: A Star Wars Story when it launches in theaters on May 25.