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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Just Like Its Title Hero, Solo: A Star Wars Story Scrapes By With Spunk, Heart & Luck

solo poster

The second Star Wars spinoff film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, has long been a troubled production, notably with the firing of the original directors. When Ron Howard took over the film, he wound up re-filming a majority of it to bring it more in line with what Lucasfilm expects for a Star Wars film. Some fans who are leery with Lucasfilm and its president Kathleen Kennedy eagerly hoped that this film would fail. if not in the box office, at least creatively. These haters will have to wait longer because Solo: A Star Wars Story manages to be an entertaining, fun romp of an adventure.

solo and qira

To start, let’s get this out of the way: Alden Ehrenreich does a fine job portraying a younger version of Han Solo, everyone’ favorite space pirate. Sure, he’s not Harrison Ford, who will always be the definitive Han Solo, but Ehrenreich does not try to imitate him. It’s a good thing because that would have been a mistake. Instead he captures the essence of Han Solo; he emulates the swagger, the cockiness and the spunk that we fans have loved about the smuggler.

The mannerisms are demonstrated in the opening moments of Solo: A Star Wars Story, which details how Han lived a desperate life in his homeworld Corellia. Han (and some will get annoyed by the origin of his last name, but so be it) always dreamed of a bigger life, which involved leaving the hellish Corellia. Circumstances and quick thinking on his part allow Han to escape the world and bounce around throughout many misadventures. These mishaps bring him to meeting his BFF Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and fellow rogue and friend Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Plus, we see how he came to own his famous ship, the Millennium Falcon, which is newer and cleaner looking.

Kessel Run

Solo: A Star Wars Story introduces many interesting characters that come and go at a rapid pace along with some head-turning cameos. The best of these are Qi’Ra (Emily Clarke), Han’s first love, and Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who introduces Han Solo to life as a space pirate. It also dwells on the seedier, more criminal side of the Star Wars universe. The Galactic Empire, Jedi, Sith and all the traditional Star Wars trappings are shoved to the background or unmentioned. This is great since it shows that there is more to the Star Wars universe and is similar to those episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars that were devoted to the criminal underworld. This Star Wars spinoff earns extra credit just for not delivering more of the same when it comes to a Star Wars film.

At its core, Solo: A Star Wars Story is an exciting caper/heist story with adventurous dashes of the Indiana Jones films. There isn’t anything particularly deep or heavy here, but the film gives time to explore the heart and emotions of its characters. We may never know how the original version of the film would have been like, but Ron Howard does a credible, workman-like job in directing the film. It always moves along at a crisp pace and hits all the right beats. There are many thrilling set pieces such as a futuristic train robbery, an intense gambling sequence and of course, the famed Kessel Run. That last sequence, which takes place onboard the Millennium Falcon, is arguably the most nail-biting part. Also, Alden Ehrenreich deserves a lot of credit for the film since he is the main actor and is able to exude the spirit of a younger, more unpolished Han Solo. In addition to Clarke and Harrelson, Donald Glover does a great job of portraying Lando Calrissian. He does the smooth, savvy routine that Billy Dee Williams originated decades ago.

solo and lando at falcon

Some narrow-minded fans who are stuck in the past are ready to proclaim this film to be the death of Star Wars and a call to arms to replace Kathleen Kennedy. They point to some reviews and its box office performance since it underperformed in its opening weekend. However, if you watch this film with an open mind, you will find that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a genuinely fun adventure worthy of the Star Wars name.

Lewis T. Grove

 

Han Solo Film Directors Fired = I Got A Bad Feeling About This

Solo cast fired directors

The movie world, not to mention Star Wars fans, are still in absolute shock over yesterday’s stunning news that the directors of next year’s Han Solo film, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired from the film. What made the announcement so jaw dropping is that most of the film has been completed with only three weeks of principle photography remaining. That is just unheard of and feels unprofessional on the part of Disney and Lucasfilm to just let two talented filmmakers go when their film is nearly complete. On top of this, Lucasfilm is still standing by the film’s planned release date of May 2018. That is probably not going to happen.

So what happened? The truth is we may never really know. All we do know, based on trade reports, is that Phil Lord and Chris Miller clashed repeatedly with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and the film’s executive producer and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan. Much of that had to do with the improvisational directing style of the two directors that made the old guard executives uncomfortable with their take on a Star Wars film and the iconic character. Kasdan, who wrote the book on Han Solo in the original Star Wars film and Episode VII, has a distinct viewpoint of the space pirate. He saw Han as selfish and cynical, and wanted him portrayed in that manner. Meanwhile, the two young directors wanted to present Solo in a lighter, more comedic light. This would have complemented their humorous directing style as seen in the 21 Jump Street films, The Lego Movie and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Face it, Lord and Miller are more known for their comedic films so it was a surprise that they were chosen to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story (if that is indeed the final title).

The problem here is that they had been hired to direct the Star Wars spinoff film for quite some time. They were involved with Solo: A Star Wars Story from the beginning and started shooting it earlier this year in January. Shouldn’t the executives have known that these two would not fit into the world of Star Wars? Why let them go on for so long? Why didn’t someone at Lucasfilm had the foresight to nip the problem in the bud and replace them much earlier? Kennedy, Kasdan and other executives had to have worked closely with the two directors and had meetings with them. They must have stressed that the film was to be a certain way. They had to have picked up the notion that Lord and Miller may have wanted to try a different approach and be defiant. Whether Lucasfilm wants to admit this or not, Phil Lord and Chris Miller have genuine film creds. They have delivered well done films that pleased critics and audiences. Why not just have some faith in them and let them finish the film? The film studio could have then just taken over post-production like they did with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and edit it into the kind of Star Wars film they wanted.

We get that Disney and Lucasfilm are protective of their IP, after all, they spent billions to acquire it. With that mentality they are entitled to keep it safe and the best way to do that is to play it safe. So why go to the trouble of hiring these two to direct the film headlining the franchise’s most beloved hero? The reason to recruit new blood into the Star Wars franchise is to bring in fresh ideas and different outlooks into the Star Wars films. Firing Phil Lord and Chris Miller this far into production just shows a lack of confidence in this approach. Consider that director Garth Edwards was pushed aside in post-production of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story because Lucasfilm felt the film wasn’t quite a Star Wars film. Now this happens. Lucasfilm might as well just hire workhorses and yes-people to direct future films and give up this idea of bringing in new talent because clearly they are not welcome.

Now, Lucasfilm has to shut down production and find someone willing to come in at this late hour to complete Solo: A Star Wars Story. Will Lucasfilm pull a Salkind and have most of the film re-shot as what happened with Superman II? If so, kiss May 2018 goodbye. Can Ron Howard (the currently rumored frontrunner to take over UPDATE: Howard has officially been hired to finish the film) or Joe Johnston or someone safe come in and finish the film, while imparting their own vision? Finishing it is doable, but trying to leave their own mark is impossible with so much already filmed and with so little time. Who would want this burden?

In any event, the message is clear to other would-be Star Wars directors, especially those foolish enough to think they will have some measure of control: You can play with the Star Wars toys but at the end of the day, you have to give them back in the shape you found them.

José Soto

Post Script: After Ron Howard was picked to complete the film, Lucasfilm has been in full-scale PR damage control. Stories are circulating that the film’s star, young Han Solo himself, Alden Ehrenreich, was the first one to voice concerns about the direction of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Reportedly, the film was too comedic and slapsticky for the execs’ taste. On the one hand, Star Wars needs to branch out creatively, but on the other hand, a Han Solo film may not be the best venue to go full-scale comedy. If all this is true, the question still stands as to why Kennedy, Kasdan and the other higher ups let this go on for so long? The few bright spots coming out of this debacle are that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are now free to jump onboard the stalled Flash movie, which fits their style anyway, plus Howard has already shown that he has a lot of class with his recent praise of Lord and Miller’s work on the film. Given his close ties to Lucas and his solid directing background, he is the best choice to come in and salvage the film.

A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Celebrating The 40th Anniversary Of Star Wars

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” those simple words, projected on movie screens, would herald a phenomenon in theaters on May 25, 1977. Forty years later, Star Wars is celebrating its 40th anniversary and just like the time when it was released, it’s as popular and beloved as ever. So what makes this franchise so iconic and successful? For starters, when the original film, which was later given the subtitle A New Hope, was released in 1977, the state of cinema was very different than today. With the exception of the Planet of the Apes films, there were no major blockbuster franchises. Sci-fi as a genre was stagnant and the only major film in this area was Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey from 1968 almost a decade earlier and the Apes films, which had wound down by the mid 1970s. Movies those days were dominated by dark and violent anti-heroes which reflected the cynical mood of society. Genuine movie heroes and feel-good films were a rarity before Star Wars.

The release of this swashbuckling outer space adventure transformed the landscape of films and singlehandedly reinvented genre films in the ensuing decades. It was a simple story of good vs. evil with now legendary characters like Luke Skywalker, the simple farm boy whose destiny would change the galaxy; Han Solo, the roguish space pirate turned into a rebel with a cause; Princess Leia, the indomitable leader of her people; Chewbacca, Han’s yeti-like buddy and partner in crime; Ben Kenobi, Luke’s wise mentor and warrior of the Old Republic; and everyone’s favorite robotic duo R2-D2 and C-3PO. All of them are instantly recognizable to literally everyone in the world. Their struggle against the most famous villain in movie history Darth Vader was set against a backdrop of a fully realized universe meticulously crafted by creator George Lucas.

a long time ago

The film director was inspired by classic myths and stories and successfully merged them into something new that was magical to audiences back then, and still feels that way even now. Basically, he took the timeless elements and themes from these tales and put it into an appealing and original backdrop. The settings were literally out of this world, yet had a gritty and realistic touch that made everything seem relatable. All that caught everyone’s attention, but what enchanted people the most were the interesting characters who we could identify with as they struck a chord within us. That is quite an achievement considering that many characters were not even human. To an outsider, Star Wars and its extraordinary trappings may seem bizarre but at its core it has easily relatable themes and subtexts.

Lucas directs C3P0

Seeing how influential the film was and continues to be, it is baffling to ponder that many film studios passed on George Lucas’ pet project. Back then he was a young up-and-coming filmmaker and had a hit film, American Graffiti, under his belt. Yet, he had a hard time convincing skeptical film executives to greenlight his film. It seemed so strange to them, a space fantasy without any references to our civilization, one almost cannot fault them for not wanting to take the risk. But thankfully, 20th Century Fox saw the Lucas’ visionary potential and took a chance. Even then, few imagined Star Wars would explode like it did. That includes Lucas himself who hoped that his film would make just enough money to bankroll a sequel. Hardcore fans know that the original Star Wars novel that was released shortly after the film, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, was supposed to be a low-budget Star Wars sequel. Of course, the monster success of Star Wars meant that Lucas could fully realize his vision of a sprawling galactic epic without any limits in terms of budget and special effects.

Another aspect that made Star Wars so hugely influential is that it had revolutionary special effects. The many scenes of outer space combat enthralled audiences with X-Wings and TIE fighters clashing in dogfights, along with the iconic shots of enormous Star Destroyers and let’s not forget Han’s Millennium Falcon, the faster piece of junk this side of the galaxy. They were such a spectacle to watch and entirely different from earlier sci-fi films that had cheap models hanging on strings. The editing and camera work was also incredibly done. Take for instance, the POV shot of Luke piloting his ship into the Death Star trench, it seems like you are flying right into the trench. The model and puppet work of the many aliens on the desert planet Tatooine in the famous cantina scene were also a real spectacle and added to the feeling that these were real places you were looking visiting. Many of these effects are rarely seen these days since Lucas took it upon himself in the 1990s to update the original Star Wars films with updated CG effects because the original effects work had become dated. Ironically, many of the CG effects now look dated themselves and proved how fruitless it was to tinker with classic films just to embellish them with the latest in special effects.

What Star Wars also accomplished was the film ushered in a whole new era of sci-fi and related genre films. This industry is still going on to this day. The huge success of Star Wars proved that genre films could be massive hits and led to other filmmakers and companies to try to do the same thing. As a result, sci-fi and fantasy films are now the major genre in Hollywood that studios all try to have in their portfolio to keep things going. We all know that the big tentpole films for studios these days are big-budget genre spectacles. The whole concept of having huge summer films with the accompanying merchandise, as well as the idea of ongoing sagas that span multiple movies and other media can all trace their paths back to that movie that came out on May 25th 1977.

Star Wars 40

It’s not an exaggeration to state that Star Wars basically caused a figurative earthquake not only movies but in the culture at large. Look around, you’ll see Star Wars everywhere. Certainly that is due to Disney, who after buying the rights from George Lucas earlier this decade for billions, wanted to get their money’s worth and went into merchandising overdrive. But this means that Star Wars will have a long-felt presence in our global society. As cynical as that sounds, keep in mind that in order for film to resonate long after it has left cinemas, it has to be great and unique. Star Wars is that and much more and is why it is so pervasive. For the few that have never seen Star Wars, even they know exactly who Darth Vader is and can pick out R2-D2 in a picture. That kind of recognition means that this movie has transcended its medium and, like other epic tales of old, has now passed on to the realm of legend.

C.S. Link

Top 40 Greatest Star Wars Moments, Part II

We’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of Star Wars! The “little” sci-fi film that came out in 1977 has spawned an intergalactic media franchise that is just as popular today as it was 40 years ago. Being that it’s the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re continuing the countdown of the 40 greatest moments in Star Wars films and TV.

Palpatine forms Empire

20. Emperor Palpatine Forms The Galactic Empire (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith): We, and many of the film’s characters, watched with horror as the disfigured Chancellor Palpatine used a failed attack upon him by Jedi as an excuse to dissolve the crumbling Galactic Republic before cheering throngs. What made this moment so unsettling to watch was that it can be compared to real-life events in our history.

19. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn vs Darth Maul (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace): Say what you want about the flawed Star Wars prequel, but it had one kickass lightsaber duel. Buttressed by green screens and John Williams’ rousing, operatic soundtrack the deadly duel between the Jedi Knights and Darth Maul was wild, exciting and undoubtedly the best moment in the film.

ahsoka-quits

18. Ahsoka Leaves The Jedi Order (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “The Wrong Jedi”): In the final episodes of the fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi apprentice, had been framed for murder. After much ordeal, Ahsoka was cleared, but she was so disillusioned with the Jedi Order that she chose to leave it at the end of the last episode. This turn of events was frankly surprising and deftly sets up Anakin’s own disillusionment with the Jedi later on.

Arent you a little short for a stormtrooper

17. “Aren’t You A Little Short For A Stormtrooper?” (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): When Luke Skywalker disguised as a stormtrooper bursts into Princess Leia’s prison cell on the Death Star, her first words to him were unexpected. Instead of being fearful or excited, she comes off as nonchalant and unimpressed with her liberator. Throughout the film Leia displayed spunky bravado and put up a steel front even as a prisoner. This savvy attitude perfectly summed up Princess Leia, who dispelled the cliché of being the damsel in distress. We knew that no matter what she could take care of herself.

16. The Battle of Hoth (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back): The very first Star Wars sequel set a darker, more ominous tone which was foreshadowed in the first acts’ climatic battle. Rebel forces were forced to evacuate their base on the frozen world Hoth and brave fighter pilots and troops, including Luke Skywalker, desperately tried to hold off imperial metal, behemoth walkers. It was soon clear that the Rebels were outmatched by the superior forces and the one-sided battle was disheartening, yet exciting, to watch.

yoda-in-last-star-wars-clone-wars

15. Yoda’s Vision Quest (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Vision”, “Destiny” “Sacrifice”): In the series finale, Jedi Master Yoda goes on a spiritual retreat because he is troubled by the Clone Wars and the rise of the dark side of the Force. His insightful visions during a visit to a Sith planet let him (and the viewers) know there was more to the Force than he knew. He realized that waging war was not the answer to bringing balance to the Force and that the Force was much more multi-layered than just good and evil. This, and Yoda’s vision of a true Chosen One, was a poignant way to end the series.

han shot first

14. Han Shoots First (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): In the original and true version of the first Star Wars film Han is cornered at the cantina bar by the bounty hunter Greedo, who has come to collect Han’s debt owed to Jabba the Hut. From the testy conversation, Han knew Greedo was going to shoot him so he beat the bounty hunter to the punch and underhandedly shot him dead. Pure badassery and it sets up perfectly Han’s eventual redemption later in the film.

13. Darth Vader Saves Luke Skywalker (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi): Following the climatic lightsaber duel in Return of the Jedi a victorious Luke refused to kill his father Darth Vader and to submit to the dark side of the Force. In response, Emperor Palpatine attacks Luke with vicious lightning attacks. Luke was helpless under the savage assault while Vader stood by passively. At this point, Vader made a life-changing choice and turned against the Emperor. This cost Vader his life, but his final act saved Luke and put him on a path of redemption as he rejected the dark side of the Force. This moment made Vader much more layered and somewhat of a tragic figure instead of a one-dimensional villain.

12. Darth Vader Goes Medieval (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story): This moment came in the closing scenes of Rogue One and neatly segued the way into Star Wars Episode IV. After the Rebel flagship received the plans for the Death Star, it was prevented from escaping and boarded by Darth Vader. As the frantic Rebel troops tried escaping onto another ship with the plans, Darth Vader silently cut through the hapless soldiers with his red lightsaber being the only source of light. The way he so viciously and quickly killed the troops was both frightening and awe inspiring. The scene demonstrated how deadly Darth Vader was as he displayed his mastery of the Force.

11. Order 66 (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith): Perhaps the darkest moment ever seen in a Star Wars film was when Emperor Palpatine ordered the Republic’s clone troopers to turn against the Jedi. One by one, we witness heroic Jedi taken by surprise and slaughtered by their own forces. Underlining the gravity of these acts were John Williams’ haunting score, Yoda’s pained reaction at feeling all those sudden deaths and Anakin Skywalker coldly murdering young children, who were training to be Jedi (thankfully this happened offscreen).

Continue reading