Solo: A Star Wars Story best and worst -- our global review

The CNET crew reacts to Han Solo's origin story. Galactic hit or Wookiee error? Warning: spoilers ahead.

CNET staff
8 min read
Jonathan Olley

Punch it, Chewie! Solo: A Star Wars Story has completed the Kessel Run, earning a mixed reaction from fans and critics.

After an opening weekend that saw underwhelming box office results, the movie has earned a Metacritic score of 62. Here's our official CNET review, and here's what the hard-core Star Wars fans among the CNET crowd thought. Did they have a good feeling about Solo?


'Rollicking romp'

Sometimes I think the worst thing to ever happen to Star Wars was when someone decided to call it a "saga." With so much weight attached to each new movie in the series, it's easy to forget these things are supposed to be fun. Even if Solo is lightweight, I'm thrilled to see a Star Wars movie that isn't laden with ponderous lore and instead just takes us on a rollicking romp through a colorful sci-fi universe.

The heist set pieces are a blast and the supporting cast more than makes up for a sense of blandness hovering around Han himself. The film is frequently shaggier than a Wookiee's underarms -- probably due to the notoriously troubled production process -- and I particularly didn't love the contrivance that Han just randomly bumps into the person he's supposed to be searching for.

Alden Ehrenreich's junior Solo might have been more clearly defined if we'd seen our favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder rubbing up against the strictures of the Imperial academy rather than jumping straight into the outlaw life, but at least he's surrounded by the lissome and hilarious Phoebe Waller-Bridge as droid L3, twinkly Donald Glover as Lando and deliciously snarling Paul Bettany as the pantomime baddie.

Despite the rough edges, Solo is a lot of fun to spend time with, much like the man himself.

-- Richard Trenholm, London


Donald Glover is the young Lando Calrissian.

Jonathan Olley

'Totally fine'

Solo is fine. Like, totally fine. It's not a film I needed or wanted, but I enjoyed what was there, probably more than I expected. The performances are great all around, but I had a hard time seeing Donald Glover and Alden Ehrenreich as Lando and Han. Once I convinced my brain they were just new characters the ride got smoother.

The supporting characters impressed me most. Woody Harrelson's Beckett and Thandie Newton's Val are great, but the standouts for me were Emilia Clarke's Q'ira and Joonas Suotamo's Chewbacca. This was the Chewie I've been waiting to see since Han remarked in A New Hope that Wookies are known for tearing the arms off their enemies. This Chewbacca mixes it up in the action scenes in such a visceral satisfying way.

However, it's not until the end that the movie really came together for me and that's due to everything dealing with Q'ira in the last 20 minutes. Most of that's a spoiler, so I won't get into details, but it really makes me excited about what happens in Solo 2.

-- Eric Franklin, San Francisco


Phoebe Waller-Bridge is L3-37 in Solo: A Star Wars Story. 


'Lack of depth'

Where to start with Solo? It's not great, but it's far from a bad movie, either. The biggest problem Solo suffers from is its lack of depth. Han Solo seems like such a rich character who could be the focus in a large number of stories. A full-on origin story or a story that features Han taking on his first real adventure could have been really interesting.

Instead, we get a thin story about Han Solo as he goes from one heist to the next. The movie packs in a lot of action with great-looking visual and practical effects. Solo seems to be on a mission to check off a number of boxes: Origin of the Solo name? Check. Han meeting Chewie? Check. Han getting his trademark weapon? Check. Han getting his ship? Check. Leave enough hints for a sequel? Check. Making you want to watch another Solo movie? Maybe.  

-- Iyaz Akhtar, New York

'Kind of beige'

I think I had fun watching this movie. I just don't remember much about it. It was kind of ... beige. It wasn't particularly funny, exciting or groundbreaking. The standout moment was Han meeting Chewie, but once they were together, instead of cool moments between the two, they jump into someone else's adventure.

Emilia Clarke's character was a gray area -- which normally would be interesting, except there's this sort of arc of her going to the dark side, and because she never tells us all the "bad things" she's done, it's out of the blue.

There were so many conveniences. Both pilots before Han die. Han just runs into Q'ira. Wookiee slaves happen to be around for Chewbacca to save.

The Kessel Run scene was the best part of the movie for me. I liked that they used Han's pilot skills creatively, like with the Millennium Falcon skidding on the rocky ground and sending shrapnel into the pursuing TIE fighters.

But you always knew Han was going to be OK. Why not explore why he became so cynical? Skip this movie and go straight to that one, please.

-- Jennifer Bisset, Sydney


Alden Ehrenreich in action.

Jonathan Olley

'Rewards dedicated fans'

Solo isn't on the same level as Rogue One in terms of drama, but it still manages to be a lot of fun. The opening 15 minutes left me a bit worried about the movie's tone and pacing, but it soon settles as familiar elements come into play.

Donald Glover's Lando and Phoebe Waller-Bridge's L3-37 are the clear standouts in the humor department, but Alden Ehrenreich's young Han has some nice back and forth with Joonas Suotamo's Chewie and Woody Harrelson's Beckett (the kind of character we've seen Harrelson playing many times, but effective nonetheless).

Most fascinating is Emilia Clarke's Q'ira, whose arc is gray and unpredictable as we wonder about her relationship with Paul Bettany's twitchy Dryden Vos.

In terms of set pieces, the train heist and the Kessel Run are thrilling, with the latter living up to 41 years of hype. Despite these high points, the movie feels just a little long and gets convoluted toward the end.

There are also countless nods to the old Legends continuity and current non-movie elements that will reward dedicated fans and repeat viewings.

-- Sean Keane, Dublin

'I want Chewie on my side'

Before Solo: A Star Wars Story came out, I interviewed some old-school Star Wars fans about whether the Millennium Falcon would be the real star of the show. I may have picked the wrong old-school character to highlight. The star of Solo wasn't Solo, it wasn't even the Falcon, it was Han's legendary co-pilot, Chewbacca.

We learn how Chewie and Han met, and how Wookiees were enslaved. And we see that despite all that, Chewie doesn't instantly hate all other species. He's OK with befriending a fellow hapless prisoner he's supposed to devour, but in a nice throwback to the first Star Wars, he's got no problem ripping the arms off somebody who comes to kill him. And when Q'ira slides into the co-pilot seat he knows he's more qualified for, he just sits back and waits until his expertise is needed. More than any of the humans of Star Wars, I want Chewie on my side. And if I learned some Shyriiwook, I might actually root for a solo Chewie movie (anything to help me forget the Star Wars Holiday Special).

Alden Ehrenreich was a more charming Han than I expected, but it's impossible to not keep picturing how Harrison Ford would've played those scenes. Yes, that's unfair, but it's also inescapable. It's like watching those royal wedding movies on Lifetime and counting the ways Random British Actor doesn't look or act like Prince Charles.

Solo's plot was instantly forgettable, but I acknowledge it had to go down a checklist of "things we want to see about Han's past." How he became a smuggler, check. How he won the Falcon from Lando (a supremely suave Donald Glover), check. The Kessel Run and that confusing definition of "parsecs," check.  Reportedly Ehrenreich is signed for three films, so now that all that Han history is handled, maybe future films will feel less choppy. If Disney delivers on that, I'd see a Solo sequel. But don't stint on the Chewie!

-- Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, Seattle

'Better luck next film'

Solo was sadly underwhelming. Setting a heist movie in the Star Wars universe may sound like a great idea, but that wasn't really the case here. Missing from the movie is a lack of fun that comes with the improbable steals and the excitement over the payoff.

If you're a fan of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, though, as well as the now discarded Legends, you'll love the callbacks to the Han Solo trilogy, where you get to see the legendary sabacc gambling duels come to life. Alden Ehrenreich plays a great young Han, while Donald Glover as Lando makes the film watchable every time he's on screen.

I would have loved a different Solo movie, one that explored Han's Imperial pilot training, but I guess Disney wanted to jump right into how Han became the smuggler we all knew and loved. We don't get to explore how Han got his cockiness as a pilot or how he got kicked out, which would have been a great setup for the next movie.

Better luck next film, I guess.

-- Aloysius Low, Singapore

'Didn't expect to like it, but...'

I liked it. If The Last Jedi was an attempt to get away from the nostalgia of the original movies, Solo was a sort of love letter to those who still respect Star Wars as an epic saga. I really enjoyed finding out how Han and Chewbacca first met and how Lando lost the Millennium Falcon to Han, and loved that first moment when Han and Chewbacca sat next to each other and piloted the ship together.

Solo wasn't a deep dive into Star Wars lore by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fun romp as we find out what shaped Han Solo's character early on. I thought Donald Glover and Alden Ehrenreich did excellent jobs portraying Lando and Han, even to the point where I caught glimpses of Billy Dee Williams and Harrison Ford in the new characters.

To be honest, I didn't expect to like it, but I've already thought about seeing it again in the theaters because I had so much fun the first time. 

-- Jason Parker, San Francisco


Paul Bettany is bad guy Dryden Vos.

Jonathan Olley

'Living comic book'

I enjoyed Solo more than any other Star Wars film I've seen in the past three years -- which, let's admit it, is a disappointingly low bar. To me, it was true to the original premise of the first movies: a living comic book with plenty of action, some humor and appealing sets.

Was it a great movie? Of course not. But it was *fun.* In the summer, that's really all I ask for.

-- Rochelle Garner, San Francisco 

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