After Solo: Does Star Wars Recover After Its First Stumble?

solo and chewie at bar

We Star Wars fans have a right to have a bad feeling about what is going on with Star Wars.

It was not supposed to be like this. A Star Wars film comes out in theaters and dominates the box office regardless of how good it is (see the prequels). Then we’d all pour over it as anticipation builds for the next film. Instead, Solo: A Star Wars Story has turned out to be a box office disappointment and now the talk right now is how Star Wars recovers, which is unusual.

Take into account that Solo: A Star Wars Story debuted at number one and still holds that position in its second week. Also, it earned over $100 million during the Memorial Day weekend, consider that Ready Player One earned far less than that in its opening weekend, yet it is considered to be a success.  But  Solo cost much more money to make, had the coveted Memorial Day weekend slot and it’s a Star Wars film. They’re supposed to equal instant cash for Disney and Lucasfilm.

But here we are, the film is underperforming and everyone is wondering what went wrong and where does Lucasfilm go from here. It’s a shame since Solo: A Star Wars Story is actually a great film, much better than its predecessor, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The Unfortunate Perfect Storm

Actually, the previous Star Wars film and its reception are a major reason for Solo’s woes. While Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a huge hit in theaters and with critics (who gave Solo mixed reviews) it was a flawed and controversial film that deeply divided Star Wars fans. Putting aside those that loved it for its bold departure, many griped about the film’s narrative faults, uneven pacing, and poorly written characters. Unfortunately there is also a sizable amount of close-minded idiots who complain about new Star Wars films because they are more socially diverse. You know the kind, they probably voted for Trump and wish things would go back to the good ol’ days. These vocal fans have called for a boycott of  new Star Wars films and sadly took out their anger on Solo. Right now they are crowing in videos and blogs about how they alone caused Solo to fail. Talk about delusions of grandeur! They are not the only reason for Solo’s struggle, but they are a factor.

Other fans who rightfully disliked The Last Jedi for legitimate reasons felt burned by Lucasfilm and knew about all the production headaches of Solo: A Star Wars Story. These fans felt that the new film would disappoint them and opted to not rush out on opening weekend to see it.

Then there is the formidable competition out there. Avengers: Infinity War is a huge juggernaut that is still having an impact in ticket sales. Meanwhile, Deadpool 2 came out a week before Solo and mined viewers away. Originally the film was to come out in June, but given Solo’s troubled production, 20th Century Fox probably smelled blood in the water and decided to compete with Solo: A Star Wars Story and it worked.

Also, keep in mind that movie tickets are not cheap and many made hard choices over what to see. The two superhero films have strong word of mouth and this had a negative influence on the Star Wars film.

On a related note, others have stated that the film was released too soon after the last Star Wars film. However, if this is true then why is Marvel Studios releasing three films a year?

Marketing also has to share the blame. It was quite sparse for Solo with the running joke for months being the lack of trailers until a handful of months before its release. Simply put, Solo: A Star Wars Story faced a perfect storm that was worse than Han Solo’s Kessel Run.

The Aftermath

Anyway, what happens to Star Wars now? In the short term, nothing. Episode IX is slated to be released next year, a Star Wars TV series is being prepped for Disney’s upcoming streaming service, a new animated TV show is also in the works and new films have been announced. What could change will be the fate of those new films. One of them is a Boba Fett standalone film to be written and directed by James Mangold (the Logan director). The others are two trilogies, one by David Benioff and J.B. Weiss, who created Game of Thrones, and one by Rian Johnson, the writer and director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Additionally an Obi-Wan Kenobi film is being considered.

Given the divisive nature of The Last Jedi, do not be surprised if Johnson’s films never see the light of day. Sure, Star Wars: The Last Jedi made over $1 billion but at what cost? Star Wars fandom has splintered badly; not even the prequels divided the fans this much.

As for the spinoffs, Lucasfilm may re-consider greenlighting them. Aside from the Kenobi film, there is little interest in spinoffs about existing characters. Is there a need for a Boba Fett film? Why not the more interesting bounty hunter Cad Bane? Many fans are instead clamoring for the films to take advantage of the fact that Star Wars is composed of an entire universe. Star Wars should emulate Star Trek by featuring films with all-new characters and situations taking place far in the past or future.

Lucasfilm may not do anything for now, except pause if Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy is smart. Much of how Star Wars proceeds now depends on Episode IX. If it is divisive or underperforms then Disney will force changes and be more careful about what films to produce. Does that mean Kathleen Kennedy steps down? Too early to say. Asking for her to do so is premature. Despite Solo’s performance, the three previous films each made over $1 billion each in a row, that is something that Disney’s Marvel films have not done.

Solo cast fired directors

Still, the Lucasfilm president has undergone scrutiny. Not just from misogynistic boneheads complaining about her so-called feminist agenda, but from what others are seeing with Lucasfilm. The Disney-era Star Wars films have gone through turbulent behind-the-scenes drama with directors being unexpectedly fired during filming such as what happened with Solo: A Star Wars Story. Other directors were announced with fanfare only to be let go such as Josh Trank and Colin Treverrow. This gives the impression that Kathleen Kennedy is running a chaotic, directionless studio.

More evidence of this can be seen with the sequel trilogy films.  The other trilogies, which includes George Lucas’ vilified prequels, had clear directions with storylines that flowed through each film. That is not the case with this trilogy. Rian Johnson tossed out most of what J.J. Abrams crafted in The Force Awakens without setting up the final film in the new trilogy. Now that Abrams is directing Episode IX maybe he can bring some kind of cohesion to the trilogy. Certainly, a lot is riding now on how Episode IX is received and he must deliver a win, but we’re not sure he can do this.

So, if Episode IX falters will Kathleen Kennedy step down? If Kennedy leaves, who will take her place? Kevin Feige is busy with Marvel Studios. Maybe David Filoni can lead Lucasfilm. His animated shows are well received, but he has not produced any live-action films before. What if George Lucas can be enticed to come back? All of this is just speculation.

The fact remains that Solo: A Star Wars Story didn’t perform as expected. It proves that the Star Wars franchise is not invulnerable and is just like every other big film franchise. We have to remember that they all had their stumbles, but the better ones were able to come back strong. Star Wars will be fine in the end. It’s just regrettable that this happened to Solo, since it’s a solid entry in the franchise. But the summer film landscape is always littered with worthwhile casualties like Blade Runner, The Thing, and Edge of Tomorrow. They failed at the box office but were later recognized as great films. This may happen with Solo: A Star Wars Story. We’ll see.

José Soto

 

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5 comments on “After Solo: Does Star Wars Recover After Its First Stumble?

  1. I think Solo A Star Wars Story didn’t perform as well because of the aftermath of the divisive nature of The Last Jedi and competition from other big summer blockbusters. I Enjoyed Solo, sure it wasn’t the best Star Wars movie, but it was still a fun adventure. A lot now rests on Episode IX and how that does, which I guess will ultimately decide how things pan out for any future trilogies or spin-off films.

    • I think that even if Episode IX is a dud it won’t mean the end of Star Wars. Disney has too much at stake to let it falter.

      Sure there will be changes and more scrutiny over what films are made and whom gets hired ti direct.

      As a franchise, Star Wars has shown it can withstand stumbles. It just sucks that Solo is bearing the brunt of the pushback.

      • I agree. They need to take more time and care with the Star Wars film, ensuring scripts and directors are well chosen ect. It does seem that Solo has suffered as a result of Last Jedis reception, but like you say, the franchise overall is still secure.

  2. I really enjoyed Solo and it’s sad that the reception has been so underwhelming – in no small part down to the childish actions of a small section of ‘fans’. There are of course other factors, as you rightly highlight and a common one is studios so often cramming so many tentpole releases into such a narrow window.

    I’m confident that the Star Wars franchise will bounce back from this and I honestly cannot see Episode IX not hitting $1 billion because even those who didn’t like the Last Jedi will surely be back to see how it all ends and may even be reassured by J.J. Abrams returning.

    Inevitably though I feel that Star Wars fatigue will hit far quicker than Disney may expect, especially if they continue releasing a SW film every year. A Boba Fett film with James Mangold at the helm is actually an enticing prospect but how will they shoehorn an Obi Wan Kenobi story? That’d be interesting.

    • Thanks for the comment. Solo unfortunately faced a perfect storm of circumstances that led to its poor performance. Take one or two of those away and the film would have fared better.

      It’s terrible that it had to happen to Solo because while it’s not the best Star Wars film, it was refreshingly fun and introduced great new characters and situations that are worth revisiting.

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