Alden Ehrenreich in Harrison Ford’s iconic role, opens on Thursday.
New Star Wars movie Solo faces an out-of-this-world challenge to become a blockbuster hit after turmoil behind the scenes, tough competition and the very real danger of franchise fatigue.
Released just six months after the previous Star wars film The Last Jedi, this prequel adventure with the young Han Solo will serve as a test to see if fans are burned out after being served so many tales lately from that galaxy far, far away.
Star wars movies used to be rare – there were only six of them from 1977 to 2014.
So with five of the sci-fi sagas due for release between 2015 and 2019, could Disney be delivering too much of a good thing?
Since buying the Star wars production company LucasFilm, the entertainment empire has been churning out money- spinning movies, merchandise and theme park rides based on the space opera.
Ehrenreich in Harrison Ford’s iconic role, opens on Thursday – a day before its US release – and will aim to keep the popularity going.
But the fans appear cautious.
“Enthusiasm for this one remains a bit more tempered as die-hard fans await the first wave of reviews and social media reactions,” admits Shawn Robbins of film tracking service Box Officce Pro.
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
enthusiasm for this one remains a bit more tempered as die-hard fans await the first wave of reviews and social media reactions
Solo’s other battle will be to win back the favourite franchise crown from superhero stable Marvel, which has eclipsed Star Wars recently. Mega-hit Avengers: Infinity War demolished countless box of office records.
It will also be challenged by highly anticipated fillms such as Deadpool 2, which was released last Tuesday, and The Incredibles 2, opening in the States in June and in the UK in July.
The tricky mission is not helped by all the negative reports surrounding the troubled filming of Solo, starting with the ring of the original directors a few months into shooting.
Movie duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller were replaced, due to creative differences, as their lighthearted, largely improvised, approach clashed with the more serious tone required by Lucas film.
Hollywood veteran Ron Howard was parachuted in to the rescue mid-shoot.
Then rumours spread that leading man Alden Ehrenreich was finding it so hard to mimic Harrison Ford’s swagger and charm that Lucas lm brought in an acting coach to coax a better performance out of him.
The official line is that reports were overblown and that Maggie Kiley was brought in brie y as a resource for the whole cast, not just Ehrenreich.
All this has been a big-time baptism of re for Ehrenreich, previously seen alongside George Clooney in Hail Caesar and a string of lesser roles.
But after staying silent for months – while enduring online criticism for everything from being almost half a foot shorter than Harrison Ford to not looking or sounding much like him – the young actor is relieved to finally be bringing the film to the public and getting to talk about his work in it.
At the movie’s premiere last week, 28-year-old Ehrenreich seemed positively giddy: “After all the secrecy, to finally get to interact with the fans and present the film is a wonderful feeling,” he said. “Getting to be part of this world is incredible.
People have so much love for Star Wars. That world means so much to so many and you ride on that wave of positivity and excitement.”
As a childhood fan of Star Wars himself, flying Han Solo’s spaceship for real was a dream come true for him, he says: “Stepping into the Millennium Falcon felt very familiar in a way because as a kid you play make-believe and it’s like you’ve been there for years.”
He says what fans can expect from Solo is a fascinating look at the formative years of a beloved character.
“This film is all part of the great expansion of the Han Solo world.
“You get to see how this guy got to be the way that he is. We’re meeting him at a time when he’s more of an idealist.”
Ehrenreich also got some insight from the original star.
Thandie Newton as Val, Woody Harrelson as Beckett and Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
“Right before we started shooting, I wanted to talk to Harrison Ford. Just to kind of pay respect and have him give us his blessing for the film. So we had lunch and he was really encouraging and supportive.”
He says the taciturn Ford told him: “If anyone asks, tell them I told you all you need to know.”
Ford continued that dry sense of humour a few days ago, surprising Ehrenreich at an interview he was doing by shouting, “Get out of my chair – and get out of my life!”
Then he shared a handshake and a hug with the newcomer, wishing him all the best for the space saga’s next chapter.
Solo is set about 10 years before Han Solo meets Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and is about the loveable rogue’s early days as a galactic smuggler.
As well as supporting performances from Ehrenreich’s fellow Americans Donald Glover, as Han’s friend Lando Calrissian, and Woody Harrelson, as his mentor Tobias Beckett, the film also features a string of British acting talent.
Emilia Clarke is Han’s partner in crime Qi’ra, Thandie Newton shows up as sharpshooter Val, Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays shape shifting droid L3-37 and Paul Bettany takes on the role of ruthless crime lord Dryden Vos.
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Star Wars movies have always been about hope triumphing over despair.
Given all the negative headlines about this one, Lucas lm and parent Disney will be hoping Solo can continue the theme and bring a new hope to this enduring franchise.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas from Thursday.