LOS ANGELES (WASHINGTON POST) - Perhaps Lucasfilm can now exhale deeply with relief.
The keepers of the Star Wars cinematic franchise have had a couple of white-knuckle landings into theatres since Disney bought Lucasfilm and rebooted George Lucas' creation. But arguably none has been as harrowing as Solo: A Star Wars Story, which opens May 25.
Ever since Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy fired original Solo directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord last year over "creative differences" that reflected fissures at the film's very core, hand-wringing and doomsaying on social media have tracked the new movie as closely as an Empire ship. And reports that new director Ron Howard was methodically reshooting much of the movie, scene by scene, did little to allay concerns.
At last, however, Solo had its world premiere on Thursday, and though reviews are embargoed till next Tuesday (May 15), nothing can stop the first buzz from critics and lucky fans (the latter, it always bears remembering, tend to hyperventilate a bit more given their good early-viewing fortune).
Solo tells the spinoff story of young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) as he befriends Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and gains a Millennium Falcon, and part of the skepticism surrounding the film centered on whether Ehrenreich could muster enough of Harrison Ford's original roguish charm.
Some early viewers, including IndieWire's Kate Erbland and Uproxx's Mike Ryan, tweeted to reassure that Ehrenreich eventually finds his footing.
Other first-lookers - including Mashable's Angie J. Han and Yahoo Entertainment's Kevin Polowy - had praise, too, for Ehrenreich's co-stars Thandie Newton (who plays Val) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (as the droid L3), as well as Donald Glover, who inherits Billy Dee Williams's Lando Calrissian role.
Film journalist Simon Thompson said he went into the film with concerns, but that they were "totally laid to rest" thanks in part to the high-octane film's laughs and emotional levels.
Some other viewers - including Collider's Perri Nemiroff - still questioned whether a young Han Solo spinoff was even needed, especially given how relatively young the Ford character was in the original trilogy.
Mostly, though, Howard seems to have delivered the high-blast thrill ride with enough swagger and heartfelt story to assuage the first wave of worriers.
Enough so that the Bantha milk and champagne can safely sit on ice at Lucasfilm, ahead of the May 25 box-office confirmation.