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.
“One day, I will become the greatest Jedi ever. Ipromise you. Iwill even learn how to stop people fromdying.” – Anakin Skywalker
Anticipation for the second film in the prequel trilogy and the fifth Star Wars film to be produced was much lower than for the first prequel film. However, many found Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones to be a better made prequel, although it’s not without its own faults.
According to the opening scrawl of the film, a distant galaxy is on the brink of a civil war. Under the leadership of the mysterious Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), several thousand worlds have begun to secede from the Galactic Republic. The Jedi Knights, the guardian force of the Republic, are overwhelmed with handling so many insurrections and so the government wants to pass a law to create a standing army to help the Jedi. Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), the former queen of planet Naboo travels to Coruscant, the capital of the Republic, to vote on the matter of creating an army.
Unlike other Star Wars films, Episode II begins on a quiet, furtive note as a Naboo starship escorted by fighter ships enters the murky atmosphere of Coruscant. The starship lands on a cloud-covered platform in the planet’s global city. But there is an ominous air on the landing platform since the senator has a price on her head. Just as the senator and her entourage walks down the plank of her starship, it explodes and she is killed. Fortunately, the woman that died was a decoy and the actual Padmé was one of the fighter pilots. The incident underlines the danger that she is in from the Separatist forces who want to keep her from voting.
She and other government officials, including Representative Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan (Jimmy Smits), meet with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to discuss the coming vote. Palpatine is concerned for her safety and assigns two Jedi to protect Padmé.
The Jedi tasked are Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice or Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). They last met Padmé ten years ago in the previous film when Anakin was a boy and Obi-Wan was himself a Padawan. Anakin is instantly infatuated when he sees the beautiful young senator, while she merely looks upon him as a younger brother.
Later that night as she sleeps in her room a drone outside her window dispatches poisonous worms into her room. The Jedi, who are outside her room standing guard, sense something is amiss and Anakin rushes in and kills the worms. As he does this, Obi-Wan spots the drone and throws himself out the window to grab it. He latches on as the drone takes him on a whirlwind tour through the crowded skies of the city. The drone is shot and destroyed, but Obi-Wan is saved from falling when Anakin shows up with a flying vehicle and catches him. They then pursue the female assassin (Leeanna Walsman) who shot out the drone and is fleeing in her own vehicle. Eventually the chase leads them to a bustling, street-level night club.
Inside, Obi-Wan dismembers the assassin before she can shoot him from behind as he has a drink at a crowded bar. Outside, he tries interrogating her, but she is killed with a poison dart shot by a distant figure who escapes in a rocket pack.
The next day at the Jedi Temple, the Jedi High Council gives Obi-Wan a new assignment, which is to track the assassin’s killer. Meanwhile, Anakin is to escort Padmé back to Naboo to ensure her safety. In her absence, Jar Jar assumes her duties.
On her home planet Naboo, the relationship between Anakin and Padmé starts to intensify. Both have trouble denying their mutual attraction even though Jedi are forbidden to have romantic relationships. Frustrated, Anakin begins to berate his lot because he feels disrespected by the other Jedi. He also expresses jealousy towards Obi-Wan.
As the two star-crossed lovers exchange incredibly corny dialogue and frolic on CGI fields, Obi-Wan’s investigation directs him to the water planet Kamino. After he lands his spaceship amidst a raging storm on an above-water facility, Obi-Wan is greeted by its inhabitants. It turns out that the Kaminoans had been expecting him or at least a Jedi and tell him the order is ready. Confused, Obi-Wan plays along and learns that ten years ago, a Jedi named Sifo-Dyas hired the Kaminoans to grow a human clone army.
Obi-Wan is given a tour of the facility and he sees with his own eyes vast numbers of young and mature clones who are being trained and conditioned. He is told that the clones are being psychologically modified and trained to be more efficient and compliant soldiers. Then he is introduced to the Mandalorian bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) and his young son Boba (Daniel Logan). Jango was hired by the Kaminoans to provide the genetic template for the clones who are all copies of him. As part of his payment, Jango was given his own clone to raise as a son, who happens to be Boba. Jango is instantly mistrustful of the Jedi and when Obi-Wan leaves their quarters he tells Boba to prepare to leave the planet.
Once the tour is finished, Obi-Wan goes outside in the tempest to report his findings to the High Council. Afterwards, he tries to capture Jango because he believes Jango is the killer of the assassin on Coruscant. He finds the bounty hunter, now donning a high-tech battle armor, on a landing platform by his ship the SlaveI. The Jedi and the bounty hunter then engage in a furious battle that ends with Jango escaping into his starship thanks to some help from his son. Before the ship can leave the complex, Obi-Wan tosses a homing beacon on its hull.
On Naboo, Anakin has trouble sleeping; he keeps having disturbing prophetic visions of his mother Shmi (Pernilla August) in danger back in his home planet Tatooine. He can’t take it anymore and tells Padmé of his intention to rescue his mother. Understanding his pain, she decides to go with him.
At the desert planet Tatooine, Anakin’s search leads him to the moisture farm of Cliegg Lars (Jack Thompson) and his son Owen (Joel Edgerton). He learns that Cliegg purchased his mother from her slaveholder, then freed and married her. But just a month ago, she was captured by savage tusken raiders and he was unable to find her.
The young Jedi heads off in a determined quest to rescue his mother. He finds her badly beaten in a tusken raider camp. Their bittersweet reunion is short lived however. She dies in his arms from her injuries but not before telling him how proud she is of him. Anakin’s grief immediately turns into an uncontrollable rage and he shortly takes it out on the raiders, killing everyone in the camp, including the women and children.
Meanwhile, Jango Fett unwittingly leads Obi-Wan to another planet, Geonosis. The Jedi learns that the planet is a hotbed of Separatist activity. Enemy ships are everywhere, as is a battle droid factory. Not only that, he eavesdrop in a meeting held by Count Dooku and several important Separatist factions who plot a devastating attack against the Republic with a huge droid army. Obi-Wan is unable to get a signal to Coruscant, but Anakin’s location is closer to Geonosis. He transmit a signal to Anakin so that it can be relayed to the High Council. He is just able to make a transmission before he is captured by droid soldiers.
Back on Tatooine, after he brings back his mother’s body to the Lars homestead Anakin goes on an enraged tirade and tells Padmé of what he did to the tusken raiders. She is naturally aghast at his actions, but feels sympathetic towards him. Shortly after his mother’s funeral, they pick up Obi-Wan’s report and see on the holographic message that he is captured. Anakin relays his friend’s report to the Jedi led by Yoda (Frank Oz), who intend to rescue him. Even though he is ordered to stay put, Anakin and Padmé leave the planet to go rescue their friend. Little do they realize that they’ll soon be embroiled in a series of fast-moving events that ignite the Clone Wars.
2015 is shaping up to be the year of Star Wars with the continuation of the celebrated sci-fi saga in December with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Episode VII in the story. Here is a ranking of the previous six live-action films that came before and made movie history in order of personal preference.
1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Commonly considered as the best Star Wars film and in this instance, I agree with that sentiment. The reasons why are varied. It is a film that really explores the mystical side of the Star Wars universe with Jedi Master Yoda instructing Luke Skywalker all about the Force and the consequences of turning to the dark side. It is also a film that does not follow the traditional structure of an adventure film unlike the previous entry. Supporting this is the climatic battle between the Empire and Rebels, which occurs in the first half of the movie. Our heroes are put in constant jeopardy and there is no real resolution on the fate of Han Solo, setting up a cliffhanger ending that is almost jarring in its abruptness.
This was a risky move by George Lucas, since he could have just remade the original film and be done with it, but instead The Empire Strikes Back is an actual second part of an ongoing story and is very well done. It also introduces iconic characters like the aforementioned Yoda, and fan favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett. Plus, there is a wonderfully done lightsaber duel between Luke and Darth Vader that results (SPOILER!) in the shocking revelation by Vader that he is Luke’s father. Combine that with the epic battle of Hoth with snow speeders and AT- AT walkers and this film is a classic in every way.
2. A New Hope (1977): The movie that changed everything. What more can be said about the original Star Wars? It tells the classic tale of good and evil. It is a fairy tale that is set in outer space and introduced to the world Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, R2D2 and C-3PO, plus incredible worlds like Tatooine and Yavin with exotic aliens and robots.
Even if someone has never seen it, they know who all of these characters are and how they look like. That is when you know it has crossed from pop culture to something else. I think the simplicity of the tale of the Rebels fighting against an oppressive Galactic Empire with classic archetype character (hero, rogue, princess, wizard, villain, and comical sidekicks) is its biggest strength and the core of its widespread appeal. Iconic fixtures of the saga like the now-famous X-Wings, TIE fighters, lightsabers and the Jedi all started with this film.
3. Revenge of the Sith (2005): The best of the prequels, this film is George Lucas’ swan song and one of his best. It begins with a bang hurling viewers into the middle of a great space battle over the gleaming capital planet Coruscant. From there, the story does not let up with the prequel’s heroic Jedi, Anakin Skywalker beginning his descent to the dark side, which culminated in an epic lightsaber duel (one of the best of the whole saga) against his mentor and friend Obi-Wan Kenobi. This was something fans had been waiting to see for years ever since it was revealed that Vader and Kenobi were friends.
Unfortunately, this movie is sometimes attacked since it is a prequel, and there are hardcore original trilogy fans who want nothing to do with them. But despite that, this movie is excellent and belongs with the first two as great Star Wars films. Highlights include showing the widespread destruction of the Clone Wars, Anakin’s cruel actions at the Jedi council, him murdering his wife Padme, and the bringing of the whole saga full circle in the end with infant Luke being brought to Tatooine. These are all of the movie’s major strengths.
4. Attack of the Clones (2002): The second of the prequels, this film improves on what was begun in The Phantom Menace. Anakin is shown as a troubled, if somewhat whiny apprentice to Obi-Wan. The film presents the murky beginnings of the infamous stormtroopers with Sith Lord Count Dooku’s shady dealings, and Anakin’s slow turn to evil under Chancellor Palpatine’s sinister influence. Something I like about this movie is its look: the clouds on the capital planet Coruscant in the film’s beginning, the underworld club scene, and the waterworld of Kamino are all striking to look at. The epic ground battle on Geonosis during the film’s climax is also a big highlight along with Yoda’s subsequent lightsaber duel with Dooku.
A problem the film has is the clunky romance between Anakin and Padme Amidala. It is not done well and is somewhat of a drag thanks to wooden dialogue. Despite that, the movie is still a good effort by George Lucas.
5. Return of the Jedi (1983): As the last film in the original trilogy, it may not be as good as the first two movies, but is still a good Star Wars adventure. The fantastic Battle of Endor is still the best space battle ever seen more than 30 years later. Luke’s final clash with his father Darth Vader is also one of the best moments in the saga.
An issue with the movie is the fact that the plot is somewhat of a repeat of A New Hope with its start on Tatooine and having another Death Star to destroy. Another is that the cuddly Ewok characters somehow and unbelievably make Imperial stormtroopers seem like the Keystone Cops. However, Return of the Jedi Is still lots of fun and the final celebration with our heroes is always great to see.
6. The Phantom Menace (1999): Let’s be blunt, the first prequel, chronologically the first part of the saga, is the most polarizing Star Wars film by far.
This movie had huge expectations coming in after a very long wait since Return of the Jedi and many fans were not happy with it. They complained about Lucas’ rusty directing, over-reliance on CG, and the film’s pace. I myself like this flick and while it does have some problems, namely the somewhat childish humor with Jar Jar Binks and the slow middle portion on Coruscant, there are many things about it that I really enjoy. Just seeing old Ben Kenobi as a young Jedi cutting up battle droids was a big thrill. The multiple battles on Naboo in the end and the appearance of Darth Maul (one of Star Wars’ best villains) are all highlights and bring back good memories.
We’ll find out this December if The Force Awakens will also generate memorable viewing moments and where it ranks with the other films.