Solo: A Star Wars Story has been reviewed with mild positivity, with many critics claiming its entire existence is unnecessary, but it deserves better.
The current critical consensus for Solo: A Star Wars Story seems to be that it’s fine. As of the writing of this piece, its Metacritic score sits at 63, indicating mostly positive, if not enthusiastically so, responses. Over on Rotten Tomatoes, its score is 71%, which is once again pretty positive but not in rave territory. Compared to last year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which was certified fresh with critics at 91%, or even Rogue One, which has another certified fresh score at 85%, Solo cannot help but seem a tad disappointing by comparison. That, combined with all of the drama surrounding the film and its notoriously difficult production, creates the illusion that the film is worse than it is. Itâ€™s not even good, so the consensus says, itâ€™s just fine. In reality, Solo is a kinetic heist movie that provides sturdy origins for one of the franchiseâ€™s most beloved characters, as well as some of its most charismatic performances. For whatever reason, it does not have the review score it deserves.
So much of the critical conversation surrounding Solo has little to do with the quality of the film itself. Itâ€™s near impossible to talk about the film without getting into the torrid topic of its chaotic behind-the-scenes fallout and the various rumors surrounding it. Few reviews omit mentions of the firing of original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller several months into principal photography. Many are also quick to mention anonymous on-set gossip of the filmâ€™s troubles, including allegations that actor Alden Ehrenreich was struggling with the role. Itâ€™s not unusual for a review to delve into such topics. Often, itâ€™s unavoidable, and with a film this hyped and on this scale, such things were to be expected. Itâ€™s still an oddity to see that kind of industry reporting dominate critical coverage of the finished product.
Itâ€™s the kind of conversations that didnâ€™t follow the last spin-off prequel film in the franchise, Rogue One. While news of that filmâ€™s extensive re-shoots was covered by most publications, the drama was softened. Re-shoots are common on films of this scale so people did not assume the worst. It helped that news of director Gareth Edwards being replaced by Tony Gilroy â€“ who later confessed that he had to essentially rewrite and redo major chunks of the film â€“ was also downplayed. It was nothing on the scale of firing your director a few weeks before filming finished, but the narrative of a movie in trouble has plagued Solo far more than Rogue One, and itâ€™s impacted the critical discussion around each film differently.
Itâ€™s easy to talk about what Solo: A Star Wars StoryÂ isnâ€™t, and the drama that overshadows it, but the things that Solo succeeds at are what make it deserving of a far greater critical reception than it has received. Out of the four Star Wars films audiences have seen in the post-Disney acquisition age, it is Solo that is the most pure and unabashedly fun of the lot. Sharing more of its cinematic DNA with Golden Age gangster and Western movies than anything classically sci-fi, Solo is a kinetic heist movie that disguises its more conventional origin story roots. At the heart of this film is an old school â€śget the gang togetherâ€ť crime adventure, not unlike the pulp stories that inspired Star Wars in the first place.
Structurally, itâ€™s far more focused and tightly constructed than Rogue One, a film with major pacing and foundation issues that are widely overlooked because of the gutsy bleakness of its ending. This is a Star Wars film where the force plays no part in the action: This is a story of the people on the lowest rungs of the ladder trying to scrape together a living under dire circumstances and a corrupt system of gangsters and crime syndicates. For such a tale, Han is the perfect hero, and the story serves his character well.
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