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.

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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

 

Ready Or Not, Here Comes Avengers: Infinity War, Earlier Than Expected

It’s a month early for April Fool’s, so this is real. Marvel Studios announced earlier today in a humorous tweet with Robert Downey, Jr. that Avengers: Infinity War will be released on April 27 instead of May 4. This certainly is a shock and a pleasant one for fans of the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) who can now enjoy seeing the epic confrontation between the Avengers and Thanos. But the big question is why did Marvel Studios move up Avengers: Infinity War a week early?

Naturally, they won’t come out and tell us what the real reason is, but we can speculate. The theories are numerous as other sites and video channels are adding their two cents, but here are the best and most likely reasons:

  • Marvel Studios wants to release the film simultaneously on that day worldwide. Ordinarily the studio releases their MCU films a week early overseas before North America. By doing a simultaneous release, spoilers are cut down, as well as pirate copies for impatient viewers.
  • Black Panther is a monster hit and Marvel Studios wants to capitalize on the unexpected success of the film by releasing a film earlier that features Black Panther and Wakanda. Think of it like this, “Hey people, you liked Black Panther? Well here’s some more of him right away.” The reasoning is that momentum from Black Panther will spill over into the next MCU followup.
  • Avengers: Infinity War is expected to be the biggest film of the year and Marvel Studios wants to to do everything in its power to ensure this. They may have been mulling this ever since the release date of Deadpool 2 was moved from June to May 18, just two weeks after Avengers: Infinity War. There is a good chance that if the MCU film has legs and excellent word-of-mouth that it could continue to dominate the box office on May 18, but why take the chance?
  • The changed release date might give Solo: A Star Wars Story some breathing room so that it will not directly compete with a fellow franchise from the same company. Then again, Solo still has to compete against Deadpool 2.
  • The worse-case scenario is that Avengers: Infinity War may not live up to the hype (see: Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Marvel Studios wants to get the most bang for the buck before indifferent or bad word-of-mouth dulls its impact on the box office. Hopefully, that is not the reason.

Whatever the case may be, let’s just be happy that we’re going to get the most anticipated film of the year a bit early.  The summer movie season officially begins in late April this year thanks to Avengers: Infinity War. Maybe this will set a trend.

The Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2018

Lately, it seems as if there are more and more sci-fi, fantasy and horror films. This year is not any different since we have so many upcoming films to choose from. As usual, superhero fare rules, especially the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, but along with them are other films that make up the top ten most anticipated films of 2018. Some of these films will turn out to be huge disappointments while others, maybe not even mentioned here, will exceed expectations. As always, keep in mind that the release dates for these films might change.

10. Captive State (Aug. 17):  

Very little is known about this film, but the premise and the talent behind it are topnotch. Rupert Wyatt (director of Rise of the Planet of the Apes) directs this look at life in Chicago under alien occupation. The film stars Vera Framiga and John Goodman as part of a human group that includes collaborators and dissidents.

9. Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25):

Ordinarily a Star Wars film would be on the top of highly anticipated film list, but behind-the-scenes mishaps (which included the original directors being fired) and a divisive reception of Star Wars: The Last Jedi have cast a suspicious eye on this production. Still, Lucasfilm veteran Ron Howard is directing it. Maybe he can salvage Solo.

8. A Quiet Place (April 8):

What makes this horror film stand out is the disquieting and nearly silent trailer that features a lone family hiding in a cabin in silence. Why do they have to be quiet? What terror lies outside their home? Let the imagination run wild.

7. Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6):

The sequel to Ant-Man returns the same players that made the first film an unexpected and fun hit. This time out, Hope Pym suits up as the Wasp and takes her place among the pantheons of Marvel Comics’ legendary heroes as she and Ant-Man undertake another perilous mission.

6. Deadpool 2 (June 1):

Pay attention, this could be last, unfiltered version of Deadpool in the big screen before Disney cleans up his foul mouth and tones down the over-the-top violence. Even without that, this film looks like it will continue the same outrageous violence, fourth-wall breaking laughs and adult humor that the first Deadpool reveled in two years ago.

5. Pacific Rim: Uprising (March 23):

After the first Pacific Rim didn’t perform well in theaters, fans of the kaiju film feared there would not be a sequel. Fortunately, those concerns have been alleviated with this followup that stars John Boyega as the pilot of the gigantic robot Gipsy Avenger against even more dangerous kaijus from another dimension.

4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (June 22):

Chris Pratt returns to his other big-tent genre franchise in this followup to 2015’s Jurassic World, which brought back the Jurassic Park franchise from extinction. Now, the dinosaur island of Isla Nublar is endangered by an active volcano and a new, dangerous hybrid dinosaur. Doesn’t man ever learn? Besides that, the popular character Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) returns to the franchise, and that alone is reason to watch Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Jurassic-World-Fallen-Kingdom-Volcano-and-T-Rex

3. Incredibles 2 (June 15):

The best animated version of the Fantastic Four ever done finally gets a sequel in Pixar’s latest effort. All that is known is that Incredibles 2 takes place right after the first film and features the same superhero family lineup. With original director Brad Bird behind the helm it’s a guarantee that Incredibles 2 will be better received unlike those unwanted sequels to Cars.

2. Ready Player One (March 30):

Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg directs this adaptation of Ernest Cline’s book of the same name where a poor teen in the future competes in a virtual reality world for the ultimate prize…control of the VR world. The trailers were astounding with all the imagery and Easter eggs of popular genre characters and vehicles like the Iron Giant and the DeLorean from Back to the Future. This mashup of Tron and Willy Wonka will hopefully blow our eyes and minds.

1. Avengers: Infinity War (May 4):

Marvel Studios celebrates ten years of superhero films with the culmination of its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Epic does not begin to describe the long-awaited teaming up of the MCU heroes against the cosmic threat of Thanos. We’ve been waiting for this moment for ten years when the the MCU came into being and we were teased with the Thanos threat since the end of the first Avengers film. The recently released trailer gave us a hint of the mammoth scale of what our many heroes will face. The idea alone of most, if not all, the MCU heroes to date appearing together in one film is enough to crown Avengers: Infinity War as the most anticipated film of 2018. Just don’t expect any mutants or anyone from the Marvel TV shows to show up in Avengers: Infinity War.

Other Films: Annihilation (Feb. 23), Ex Machina director, Alex Garland, helms this adaption of the Jeff VanderMeer novel about a science team exploring a mysterious land with unknown life;

Black Panther (Feb. 16), the latest Marvel Comics superhero gets his own action-packed solo film after his explosive debut in Captain America: Civil War;

The New Mutants (April 13), Marvel Comics’ young mutants make their big-screen debut in a horror film;

God Particle (April. 20), the mysterious third film in the loose Cloverfield trilogy has had its scheduled release date changed a couple of times already and there are rumors of title change. Sounds alarming, but its premise of stranded astronauts surviving Earth’s destruction sounds promising, so hopefully the film will turn out fine;

Rampage (April 20), The Rock stars in the adaptation of the arcade game about a giant ape (and two other giant animals) causing havoc in a city. Where else would he do this? Anyway, judging from the trailer it looks like mindless fun;

Alita: Battle Angel (July 22), James Cameron produces and Robert Rodriguez directs the long-awaited live-action adaptation of the manga classic. They better hope this one does not become this year’s Ghost in the Shell.

The Predator (Aug. 3), former Predator actor turned director Shane Black brings us the latest entry in the Predator films. Maybe Dutch can finally appear in a cameo;

The Meg (Aug. 10), move over Sharknado! This Jason Statham thriller brings the action star face to face with a prehistoric giant shark;

Alpha (Sept. 14), so how did dog become man’s best friend? This film tells the story of how man and dog first bonded in the prehistoric past;

Venom (Oct. 12), Tom Hardy stars as the title anti-hero in Sony’s attempt to create its own Spider-Man-themed cinematic universe;

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Nov. 2), possibly the final X-Men team film from Fox before Disney folds the mutant superheros into their MCU;

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Nov. 16), the further fantastic adventures of Newt Scamander in the Harry Potter universe;

fantastic beasts 2

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Nov. 21), Disney’s beloved video game villain returns in this sequel to Wreck-It Ralph;

Mortal Engines (Dec. 14), Peter Jackson produces this futuristic tale of giant, mobile cities in a post-apocalyptic landscape;

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Dec. 14), the first Spider-Man animated film features the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man;

Aquaman (Dec. 21), the sole DCEU entry for the year is a solo venture starring Jason Mamoa as the troubled king of Atlantis.

There you have it, a lot of films to look forward to, including some that were left out that could still turn out to be great. Have a wonderful 2018 and enjoy these and other films.

For Oliver

José Soto

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.