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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

With ‘Solo,’ critics agree about little

Critics don’t agree on much when it comes to “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” But most have loved Donald Glover’s take on Lando Calrissian. (Jonathan Olley / Lucasfilm)

Mixed the reviews are with this one.

As “Solo: A Star Wars Story” opens this weekend, movie critics’ opinions span the galaxy. The movie, which has a mostly “fresh” 71 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, had a bumpy ride to cineplexes after its original directors (Chris Lord and Phil Miller) were replaced midstream by Ron Howard. The script was written by father-son team Lawrence (who worked on three previous “Star Wars” scripts) and Jonathan Kasdan.

Rick Bentley, of Tribune News Service, calls “Solo” the second worst “Star Wars” film in his two-star review. (“The latest offering has plenty of problems, but as long as “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” has Jar Jar Binks, it would take a disaster the size of an exploding Death Star to bump “Menace” from the place as the worst “Star Wars” movie.”)

Even a more flattering review (three-and-a-half stars) from the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Colin Covert kept its praise muted: “While this prequel/origin story/caper is not a must-see chapter of the never-ending saga, like ‘Rogue One’ it overlaps the numbered episodes in agreeable ways. … The take away feeling is that while the film may not break remarkable new ground, it keeps things different, interesting and action-packed throughout.”

Katie Walsh, of Tribune News Service, faulted the cinematography for not matching the rest of the film, writing “the dim, dusty look just doesn’t fit” against the tone and performances.

“Whether it’s the performances, the style or the narrative, which is light as air and frantically paced, there’s just something that doesn’t gel with “Solo.” It doesn’t feel like a cohesive piece, so while it’s at times charming, and does get off the ground in the last act, the getting there is extremely bumpy. Seems like that’s a theme for everyone involved.”

Entertainment editors at the Washington Post may want to watch out for a battle among their critics. David Betancourt says “The Force is strong with this one,” while Ann Hornaday says “it never works up an authentic sense of risk or excitement or novelty.”

And the Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg writes that “Solo” and the other new movies have “limited themselves to a narrow set of character types, story beats and settings that combine to make the ‘Star Wars’ universe feel strangely small.”

Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as everyone’s favorite scoundrel is deemed “charasmatic” by Bentley, while Walsh says it’s “a bit too earnest and smiley and broad” and Covert writes “he’s good at echoing the wise-guy venality that Ford used to make Han a character to be loved and disliked at one point or another.”

Hornaday calls Ehrenreich “a gifted actor” who “possesses a rakishly appealing persona, but the character’s inner darkness is only hinted at, as the story line of ‘Solo’ progresses, and the betrayals and heartbreaks he endures come into focus.”

The reviewers do like the cast of characters surrounding Han Solo, especially Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian and droid L3-37.

“The good news is Donald Glover, as the impeccably suave smuggler, gambler, lover and cape enthusiast Lando Calrissian, downright channels Billy Dee Williams, though he grabs ahold of the role and wrestles it into submission, making it his own. A Lando spinoff will be greenlit by the end of the weekend, undoubtedly,” Walsh writes.

And of the droid: “L3 is voiced with irrepressible wit and gusto by the brilliant British screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge,” writes the Post’s Hornaday. “At one point, L3 leads a robot rebellion, and ‘Solo’ finally promises to levitate with righteous, anarchic glee. But soon enough, drabness and dull plot mechanics set in, as the film’s – what else? – ragtag team of rule-breakers rushes to hit yet another preordained mark.”