Solo has become the first Star Wars movie to tank at the box office, but why has it failed and what does that mean for Disney going forward?
It’s hard to imagine a Star Wars movie tanking at the box office, but Solo: A Star Wars Story has done exactly that, grossing $103 million domestically and $65 million globally against a budget of $250 million. To put that into perspective, the first Deadpool movie took more money on its opening weekend even though the R rating meant it was only shown in cinemas after 7pm and was banned in China which is a huge market. What went wrong?
Two things lead to the movie failing: Casting and Lucasfilm.
After auditioning over 3,000 people for the role of Han Solo, director Chris Miller said at Celebration Europe III, that they went with the first person who auditioned – Alden Ehrenreich. It didn’t take long for Lucasfilm to regret that decision as they became so concerned over Ehrenreich’s performance that they hired an acting coach for him. Star Wars fans had wanted Anthony Ingruber to get the part thanks to his phenomenal Han Solo impression (below) and him already playing a young Harrison Ford in the movie Age of Adaline.
When the Solo trailer premiered during the Superbowl there was nothing in Ehrenreich’s performance that evoked Han Solo whatsoever, something confirmed by the extended trailer. Donald Glover on the other hand is Lando Calrissian. Glover not only looks like a young Lando but sounds like him and has the same mannerisms, suggesting that Glover put time into studying Billy Dee Williams’ version of the character from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
The battles between Disney/Lucasfilm and Star Wars movie directors is becoming an ongoing saga of it’s own. Directors and co-producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired by Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy and replaced with Ron Howard who then re-shot between 70% and 80% of the movie in just eight weeks. Kennedy was also responsible for the significant re-shooting of Rogue One; in both cases it was because the movies didn’t match her vision of what they should be. Now, I’m not a movie director and I have no experience in the movie industry but when the budget is the ninth largest in cinematic history (possibly the third or fourth, as sources cite $300-350 million after re-shoots) I’d want to make sure I got everything right so I could maximise my use of the money available. Y’know like Avengers: Infinity War did.
Maybe calling Lucasfilm a problem is unfair as it’s not Lucasfilm as much as it is Kathleen Kennedy, the President of Lucasfilm. Kennedy is a proud feminist , falling into the category of Social Justice Warrior, who’s vision of Star Wars is much more female led with more diversity amongst ethnicity and sexuality. None of that is necessarily a bad thing unless you force it (no pun intended) onto your audience and ignore what your paying customers are telling you. Since Disney bought Lucasfilm it would be reasonable to think that Disney would be pushing its top tier customer service onto the Star Wars franchise, but instead the opposite has happened with fans being talked down to and criticism of the latest movies written off as being “angry white men” complaining. Criticism of incoherent plots and bringing real world politics and social issues into the Star Wars movies is legitimate criticism as the first is the basic concept of storytelling and the second is referred to as not breaking the suspension of disbelief.
Either way, when the people making the new Star Wars films refer to The First Order as “white supremacists”, Lando is confirmed as being Pansexual and The Force being female then you have to wonder what exactly is happening. While it’s easy to dismiss critics as ‘butthurt fanboys’, those are your customers and if you aren’t catering to them then that’s fine as long as youare growing a new and preferably larger audience. That isn’t happening though, fans are simply being driven away.
The Last Jedi was a car wreck of a movie as I covered previously and it seriously damaged the credibility of the Star Wars franchise. Is Solo a victim to the backlash? It’s possible as some fans have refused to see it but there’s another explanation which also falls on Kathleen Kennedy’s shoulders. This is the first Star Wars movie to be released on a holiday weekend where most people will have plans that don’t involve going to the cinema and it has been released while Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 are still showing.
While fans who aren’t pleased with the SJW elements are calling for Kennedy to be fired, if we ignore that element for now, Kennedy does need to go. Force Awakens was done well, The Last Jedi was a terrible movie which left no room for a third instalment and even Mark Hamill himself has said he no longer cares about Star Wars in its wake, Rogue One and Solo both needed almost total re shoots and now Solo has been released against another Disney franchise (Avengers) on a holiday weekend with dismal results. Merchandise sales are down too and while it is admirable that Kennedy challenged the status quo around female action figures, the huge number of unsold Rey and Rose figures that cluttered stores showed that her perception of the toy market was way off too. If Kennedy remains as the visionary behind the Star Wars franchise then it will likely continue the downward trend through mismanagement which is not something Disney, the fans or retailers want. With fans becoming increasingly sceptical of the movies and retailers lowering their orders for Solo after being buried in unsold Porgs and Star Wars Funko Pops, a decline in revenue is already happening and will get worse without a change at the top of the Lucasfilm totem pole. The big cameo in Solo was clearly a way of trying to hotshot interest in the movie but it’s been met with a resounding lack of interest as it reeks of desperation; a desperation which will become more evident with the next movie.
Can Star Wars pull out of the nose dive? Certainly but it’s time to leave Rian Johnson, Lawrence Kasdan, Kathleen Kennedy and the other activists out of the mix and stick to telling a story in keeping with the Star Wars mythos. With Boba Fett getting his own movie, there’s a chance to revitalise the franchise with a well written and directed movie where Fett remains masked, but sadly it’s more likely that we’ll get another mediocre sci fi movie that is Star Wars in name only.
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