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

 

Star Wars Rebels Has A Fitting Farewell

Star-Wars-Rebels-Season-4-Banner

Star Wars Rebels has now finished its run and has seemingly tied up the loose ends fans were wondering about when these new characters were introduced during the series’ beginning. Specifically Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus, and his apprentice Ezra Bridger. In the case of Kanan, his story concluded in the episode “Jedi Night” where he sacrifices himself to save his friends and destroy an imperial installation. The antepenultimate episode “A World Between Worlds” truly embraced Star Wars’ mystical side with seemingly magical wolves on Lothal aiding our heroes. Plus, Ezra transported to a nexus in time and space by using a Jedi temple mural and rescued Ahsoka Tano from her supposed end while fighting Darth Vader in the season 2 finale “Twilight of the Apprentice”.

All of this sets up the final episode “Family Reunion and Farewell”, where the remaining heroes launch a final plan to free the planet Lothal from the clutches of the Galactic Empire. Ezra Bridger faces his fears and feelings for his lost parents and withstands a final temptation by Emperor Palpatine. Ezra is also able to help his friends free his homeworld, kidnap Grand Admiral Thrawn and disappear with him into parts unknown by using interstellar space whales that can travel in hyperspace. Yes, you read that right. The epilogue is very interesting in that it shows the other characters fans have come to know and love surviving the Galactic Civil War. General Hera Syndulla had Kanan’s child and took part in the Battle of Endor, as did Zeb Orellios, Rex and Sabine Wren. Sabine herself states in the episode’s final moments that Ezra is still alive and out there somewhere, and along with Ahsoka, they both set out to look for him.

Thus concludes Dave Filoni’s companion piece to his earlier show Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The fact that he was in charge of Star Wars Rebels helped to maintain a sense of continuity between the shows, with several characters from the first show appearing in  Star Wars Rebels, especially clone trooper Rex, the pirate Hondo,  and Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan Ashoka Tano. Similar to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the quality of Star Wars Rebels increased as the series went on.

The very beginning had Ezra Bridger with a slingshot, which seemed silly and stoked fears that Rebels was just going to be just a dumbed down kids show about Star Wars, but he matured as the show went on and the relationships between the crew of the Ghost developed quite nicely, as well as their trials and tribulations as a small band of partisans trying to do good in the galaxy. “Family Reunion and Farewell” showed quite well how our heroes’ struggle against the Empire finally ended with freedom for their homeworld. Also, the Rebellion finally took a stand against the Empire, and the fight for freedom truly starting to take shape.

The show added quite a lot to the lore of Star Wars by showing the origins of such varied things like the B-Wing fighter, Mon Mothma and Senator Bail Organa organizing the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance, Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian in early adventures with the show’s characters, bringing fan favorite Grand Admiral Thrawn out of the Heir To The Empire books, and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul having a final confrontation on Tatooine. It also gave something of a conclusion to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, (something the show was denied when it was canceled by Disney) by having Ahsoka’s fate revealed and with her confrontation with  her former master.

Star Wars rebels mural

 The two shows are linked in this way obviously due to the involvement of Filoni who oversaw both series and is now in charge of overseeing all of the Lucasfilm animation projects. This bodes well for the future of Star Wars shows, since he was able to maintain a high-quality storytelling throughout the run of both Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars and hopefully will be able to continue this when the next eventual animated show comes along. I have a feeling that this next series will take place between the original and sequel trilogies and bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. A clue indicating this is that Lucasfilm has trademarked the title Star Wars Resistance. I trust that Filoni will be able to bring new and interesting ideas to the new era of Star Wars; something that is needed. But regardless, the legacy of Star Wars Rebels has been set with its emphasis on a crew who became a family, struggling and fighting against seemingly impossible odds and finally overcoming everything and helping to defeat the imperial juggernaut. Not bad for a kids show on Disney XD.

C.S. Link

The Negativity Towards Modern Star Trek & Star Wars

The two big live-action sci-fi franchises, Star Trek and Star Wars, are undergoing a bit of an identity crisis. Or rather the crisis is about how their fans are reacting to the latest incarnations of both franchises.

The properties are several decades old by now and although so much of what made them popular still resonates with people, they have to remain fresh. In other words, Star Trek and Star Wars have to keep up with the times. This meant that the recent incarnations are distinctly different from the original versions, which has sharply divided fandom.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek returned to home screens with Star Trek: Discovery, a show that is in many ways a radical departure from the 1960s TV show. The lead is not a white male captain, but a black female science officer who committed mutiny. That’s not all. Star Trek: Discovery features an openly homosexual couple, a starship captain with questionable morals, and a much darker tone where adult language and violence are commonplace.

The premise of Star Trek is about a starship exploring new worlds and meeting new races. There is very little of that in Star Trek: Discovery as it takes place during a war with the alien species, the Klingons. This was something that Star Trek’s original creator, Gene Roddenberry, would not approve. He presented a futuristic show about an enlightened humanity.

While Star Trek: Discovery explores issues like its predecessor, the characters, not the guest aliens, are the ones undergoing their own ethical crisis. An early subplot of the show dealt with the morality of the ship’s crew forcibly using an alien creature as a means of propulsion. This brought up the problem of animal abuse and later the characters’ ethics were heightened when it was revealed that the creature was sentient. The captain’s justification for the abuse was that he was trying to win a war. Another main character is actually a Klingon disguised as a human, who suffers from PTSD and is grappling over his sanity. Then the main character, Michael Burnham, committed treasonous acts that ignited a war with the Klingons and agonizes over her past. These characters are not exactly clear cut heroes.

The Ambiguous Star Wars

The new Star Wars trilogy films have featured women as the lead characters, as well as non-whites. Unlike the original films that concentrated on a young, white male savior, the new films have strong women who are the central characters.

The films are also more ambiguous than the original ones with their simplistic good vs. evil plotlines. For example, in the latest film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the issues of war profiteering, class inequality, and animal abuse were brought up. The film’s villain had a more ambivalent nature as Kylo Ren was genuinely conflicted about embracing his dark nature. Actually, his descent into evil was more interesting than the film’s other one-dimensional foes, who were little more than cackling caricatures.

One of the heroes featured in Star Wars: The Last Jedi was Luke Skywalker, the main protagonist from the earlier films. In this film, he was a fallen man, full of defeat and bore little resemblance to the optimistic savior of the original trilogy. This arc gave Luke more dimension and provided a vehicle to explore his spiritual reawakening and redemption.  In the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the main characters were also spiritually murky as they carried out dubious actions in the spirit of winning the war. For example, one of the leads, Cassian Andor, cold bloodedly murdered an accomplice in order to escape the bad guys. The overall tone of that film was harsher as it dealt with the brutality and ambiguity of war.

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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