HOLLYWOOD HEROES™: What is the long term future for the Star Wars brand? This is something I’ve been thinking about since Sunday, when the initial box office numbers began to trickle in as the weekend progressed for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Not so much the Saga entries, at least for the moment. Basically, are the Story outings really the way to go, as presently constructed? There isn’t necessarily a right answer (despite everyone acting like they know), but with this question being asked by a lot of people right now, I figured it couldn’t hurt to throw my own two cents into the mix.
As a reminder, Solo: A Star Wars Story opened this past weekend. Once again, the film is an origin story for Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), set well before he joined up with the Rebellion or came into contact with The Force. Here, he’s initially just a fugitive, one who escaped servitude on his home planet and fell in with a band of criminals. At the start, he’s just looking for a quick buck in order to get home and rescue his girl Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). His group of bandits is led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and includes Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio Durant (voice of Jon Favreau). While taking up shop with them, he’ll meet Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) for the first time, as well as begin to set his moral compass. Through it all, he encounters his iconic blaster, Millennium Falcon, and other seminal moments in his history. Ron Howard directs (taking over for the departed Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who retain Executive Producer credits) a script by the father son duo of Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan. The rest of the cast includes Paul Bettany and Warwick Davis, along with the voices of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Linda Hunt, among others. John Powell handles the score (with a little John Williams sounds thrown in), while the cinematography comes from the emerging master Bradford Young.
Now, the movie opening to only a little over $100 million over the four day weekend means it potentially left about 50% of its expected cume on the table. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not a full on disaster. This was just a number of odd factors pulling a ship off course. The troubled production buzz, opening in May (with Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 still making tons of money) instead of December, and just having a Han Solo origin story seem less essential, that all factored in. The end result was that this was less of an event film and more of an early season summer blockbuster without pedigree. Audiences treated it as such.
Going forward, it may pay for the Star Wars franchise to focus less on iconic characters and more on crafting compelling stories. Sure, we’re apparently getting a Boba Fett movie next from James Mangold, with a potential Obi-Wan Kenobi flick always speculated about. Plus, in the Solo lead up, a standalone Lando adventure seemed very much on the table. But, do we need to keep up with these? Do we need a Yoda film, for example? Rogue One: A Star Wars Story sort of split the difference, giving us new characters in a fill in the blank story. Something like that certainly feels fresher, at least. If not that, then just side stories about the Jedi, for example, could excite folks a lot more than another origin story, right?
For the moment, the franchise is just fine. Instead of a smash hit, which they were surely expecting, they’re probably going to just break even on this one. What will be interesting to see is if they see better numbers when they move back to December with their releases. Plus, maybe the bad buzz really did keep enough people home on opening weekend to matter? These are answers we won’t have just yet, but the simplest solution is still to make the best movies possible. If the films suck people in, the money flows along with it. Do that and you easily make the next non Saga Star Wars outing another billion dollar hit…
Solo: A Star Wars Story is currently in theaters!