The bad news first: Solo had the lowest-grossing opening weekend in Star Wars history since Revenge of the Sith.
The good news: Solo is a good movie and the lasting ramifications for the Star Wars franchise are slim if any.
Disney has already committed to looking into why it’s flopped, but it begs the question: Was Solo actually a flop?
Dr Jaap Verheul, a film professor at Kings College London, doesn’t quite think so.
“It’s easier with smaller films to determine success, but with a franchise that makes so much money and costs so much, including for Solo of course, it’s kind of hard to trace its success,” he told Express.co.uk
Solo: A Star Wars Story is still being called a flop, but how do we determine success/
Monetary success is built on two factors – the production budget and box office profit, but given the extensive reshoots and production problems, Solo’s budget was higher than most.
I think the way the film was positioned focussed on these filmmakers who came in from the margins, entering into this mainstream big multibillion-dollar franchise and perhaps shaking things up a little as they trying to reinvent Solo.
But even with the fact that it’ll operate at a loss estimated anywhere between $50 – $150 million, there’s more to consider for the longevity of its success.
“For example, streaming services, sequels… if this film doesn’t perform that well, but then the next few [Solo franchise] ones do, how will that reflect back on the success of Solo?” Dr Verheul posited.
Perhaps too forward thinking, reviewers and writers are focussing on the stagnant box office.
The turmoil during Solo production didn’t help.
“The transition from the previous directors, who were coming from a much more independent – not a radical angle – but definitely trying to do something different were then replaced with Ron Howard, who’s a mainstream establishment figure and is known for producing, whether good or bad, very mainstream products.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story may not be as much of a flop as people think
Dr Verheul went on to say: “I think the way the film was positioned focussed on these filmmakers who came in from the margins, entering into this mainstream big multibillion-dollar franchise and perhaps shaking things up a little as they trying to reinvent Solo.”
To then switch to a mainstream figure like Howard may have left viewers dubious.
The Star Wars franchise is used to backlash and The Last Jedi garnered its fair share of unwarranted attacks, most recently culminating in incessant bullying of Kelly Marie Tran (Rose – The Last Jedi) until she all but left social media.
These same fans probably didn’t have a problem with Solo, which was a relatively safe movie.
Solo even killed off its first black woman on screen in the Star Wars franchise within the first half hour of the movie.
“If there is a criticism to be made against Solo,” Dr Verheul said, “it actually plays it pretty safe. There’s very little surprise, it’s not really doing anything different in terms of its casting or storylines, so perhaps the combination of not being new enough and being released so soon after The Last Jedi, perhaps contributed to a sense of fatigue or lack of interest.”
Not to mention, the marketing campaign has mostly been deemed a failure.
Dr Verheul explained, “Solo is underperforming overseas, specifically the Chinese market which is interesting to think about in relation to the failure to market the film accordingly in overseas territories.
For non-European/American markets there may be less of an emotional connection to the Star Wars mythology so it’s just another Star Wars film for audiences who don’t have that nostalgic connection to the franchise.”
Ron Howard took to Twitter to defend Solo, writing: “I’m proud of #SoloAStarWarsStory and the cast & crew worked hard to give fans a fun new addition.
“As a director I feel badly when people who I believe (& exit polls show) will very likely enjoy a movie… don’t see it on a big screen w/great sound.”
Solo paves the way for more spinoffs, and Boba Fett could be a chance to do something different
Star Wars fatigue may not last long as there’s a year and a half before Episode IX comes out.
“If Solo makes a loss of 50/100million, I think that in the grand scheme of things in the Star Wars franchise, that’s a loss that producers could easily recuperate,” Dr Verheul said.
Solo hasn’t been a death knell for Star Wars spinoffs, and the franchise has announced a Boba Fett standalone film.
Despite the backlash, Dr Verheul was cautiously optimistic about it.
“One way in which the Boba Fett film could become interesting,” he said, “is by reinventing or trying to be a little bit bolder about what a Star Wars spinoff could be.”
If Star Wars continues to stick with a set formula, or the increased the perception that they’re trying to milk every possible angle, the sense of fatigue will definitely become an issue.
So, the good news: Star Wars will continue on, and hopefully Episode IX will bring back some of the enthusiasm and boundary-pushing that The Last Jedi, with its strong women and people of colour in lead roles, did.