The imminent release of a new Star Wars film ought to be a big event – there’s a huge fanbase out there, with Star Wars being one of the few franchises that is guaranteed to pack out cinemas. Just look at the excitement with every new trailer for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and I’ve no doubt that we’re going to be the same thing as Episode IX hits screens next year. And yet, there’s an exception to the rule – Solo: A Star Wars Story. It has failed to generate any degree of audience enthusiasm or excitement that usually comes with the release of trailers. Why have we finally found a Star Wars film that, it seems, nobody particularly cares about watching?
Solo follows the formation of one of Star Wars’ best-loved characters, played in the original films by Harrison Ford. We see him meet some other franchise favourites, like his Wookiee co-pilot ‘Chewbecca’ and the notorious gambler ‘Lando Calrissian’ (Donald Glover) which all looks exciting for fans.
It was reported that the duo were fired because Lucasfilm disagreed with their shooting style and tried to enforce particular directorial decisions
The film has suffered from the off. Directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (best known for their work on The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street), left the project during filming, citing “creative differences”. It was reported that the duo were fired because Lucasfilm disagreed with their shooting style and tried to enforce particular directorial decisions. Ron Howard was bought in as a safe pair of hands, and supposedly reshot approximately 80% of the film – that’s a huge vote of no confidence that is hard to ignore.
reports soon emerged that those same bosses were incredibly unhappy with his performance, and had sent Ehrenreich to acting classes
There was also an issue in the casting department. Aiden Ehrenreich, cast as ‘Han Solo’ after impressing bosses with his Harrison Ford impression, looked to be a promising lead, coming off a star turn in Hail, Caesar!. However, reports soon emerged that those same bosses were incredibly unhappy with his performance, and had sent Ehrenreich to acting classes. It’s hardly news that would inspire you to go watch a film, is it? Plus, no matter how good Ehrenreich is, his performance must inevitably be some approximation of Ford’s original performance, and it will be judged as such.
Looking beyond the production chaos, you can find loads of other reasons to explain the disinterest about Solo. It’s the fourth Star Wars film in as many years, and it has been shifted to an earlier release date. Whereas the most recent Star Wars have all come out in December, we’ll see Solo in May – it feels like a rush job, and too soon after The Last Jedi. This May release has also put Solo right in the summer blockbuster season – everybody’s talking about Infinity War and Deadpool 2, and that hasn’t left a lot of enthusiasm for Solo. An unexciting trailer with bland-looking action sequences and jokes failing to land hasn’t help matters.
it seems that the choice to use Han Solo is motivated by name recognition and, thus, the bottom line, and that seems both an incredible shame and a real missed opportunity
There’s also the question of who this film is actually for. No-one was crying out for a ‘Han Solo’ backstory, and there are fears that providing such a backstory could detract from part of what makes the character so interesting (as in every horror sequel ever). Fans have continuously asked for films looking at extended universe characters like ‘Admiral Thrawn’, or minor characters like ‘Boba Fett’ or ‘Lando’ (interestingly, the one aspect of the film that critics agree is good is Glover’s performance) – it seems that the choice to use Han Solo is motivated by name recognition and, thus, the bottom line, and that seems both an incredible shame and a real missed opportunity.
Critic reviews of the film have indicated that it is serviceable but unremarkable, and the average critical reception seems fitting given the meagre response to the film. Solo occupies a weird place in the cinema – nobody massively cares about it or is even aware that it exists, yet it’s supposed to be a new chapter in the second-highest grossing film franchise of all time. The release of a new Star Wars movie should be something exciting, but in attempting to create a film that appeals to as wide an audience as possible, we have a non-event that nobody cares about.