Solo: A Star Wars Story Box office discussion–what it means to everyone–and nobody cares about China

Box office numbers are often a good thermometer into what the world is thinking, and I pay attention to them closely, and sadly the new Star Wars movie Solo: A Star Wars Story is falling well short of the kind of numbers its going to need to make. I found it interesting to see how many news outlets were already writing stories on Friday about how dismal the box office numbers were for the new Star Wars movie, like The Hollywood Reporter for instance. Their story was that Solo was bombing big time in China. Well, since when was China the market decider for films, they are communists, more aligned with the villains in these stories? Solo: A Star Wars Story is all about freedom and I’m sure the “state” wasn’t all that happy with the film, and that whether or not people saw the film or even advertised it so that their billion people had access to it is probably a big factor. Asians especially in China are not big on the Star Wars films, but that’s OK, they haven’t been a big part of the box office numbers all this time—who really needs them now? Solo isn’t any different, yet The Hollywood Reporter was almost as happy as a kid on Christmas Day to learn that China was not supporting the new Star Wars picture. There’s a lot going on with this one which justifies a good long discussion.  (CLICK HERE FOR MY REVIEW OF THE FILM)

First of all, I don’t think the poor box office numbers so far reflect that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a bad movie. If you took the box office numbers of Infinity War and Deadpool 2 and released Solo: A Star Wars Story on a light release month, such as April I think this Star Wars movie would be on track easily to achieve a billion dollars at the box office, but with some competition out there, it would appear there is only so much money on the table to divide up between all the movies, and that’s not a bad thing for theater owners. I often say that Hollywood has let down all the personal investments that theater owners have to shoulder with less than stout productions that drive their concessions. That certainly isn’t the problem currently, there are a lot of movies released right now, and coming up as the summer unfolds which should help theater owners sell lots of popcorn. Hollywood owes them for always being available to display the Hollywood product to the public. That same public has a lot to do on Memorial Day weekend, that’s when the pools open in the states and people typically have things to do outside. In America Memorial Day weekend was pretty nice except for some flash flooding in the eastern part of the country. Everywhere else it was sunny and hot—and people spent time outside. May 25th may have been a traditional release date for Star Wars, but it’s no longer a great weekend for opening a movie because it’s the gateway to summer and people are often doing a lot of things that involve going outside.

Additionally, there are problems for Star Wars to overcome, the entertainment media is trying to do with Lucasfilm and Disney what the general media is trying to do with President Trump, and that is torpedo anything that they do that’s good, because everyone else is struggling to compete. Disney is going to make a lot of money this summer between the Marvel films and Pixar’s Incredibles 2—many in the entertainment business are very happy to see a Star Wars movie get bad press, because it’s a shot at Disney as a media company they are competing with. It’s like how the rest of the NFL teams around the country enjoy it when the New England Patriots lose a game, or Tom Brady throws an occasional interception. The trade media rushes out to talk about how Tom Brady is too old and is losing it. But the very next week Brady will throw for 400 yards and have a quarterback rating over 100 and the Patriots will win by 24 points over whoever they are playing. Disney and its tent pole of Star Wars is a big presence in the marketplace and the second handers love to see trouble happening in the Star Wars universe.

But then there is the very legitimate problem that I have talked about before and that is the mistake that Kathleen Kennedy and her story group at Lucasfilm has made in throwing out the extended universe of Star Wars and pushing very progressive themes in these new Star Wars movies cramming PC culture down the throats of the fans who clearly don’t want those elements in these movies. To me the Lucasfilm efforts with Solo: A Star Wars Story went a long way to fixing those problems with the fan base where some still want to enjoy new instalments, while others want to boycott the films in hopes that Disney will fire Kathleen Kennedy for messing with the elements that made Star Wars great to begin with. Nobody cared that Princess Leia was a bit of a feminist in the original A New Hope. George Lucas tried to make people happy by putting a black guy in the stories with the character of Lando. But in general, the heroes were white people, especially men and Kennedy has been very active to change that. But while doing so she literally destroyed two of the most popular female characters that fans loved, Jaina Solo, Han’s very strong daughter, and the wife of Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade. Fans who read the books went on a lot of journeys with those characters over two decades and suddenly fans were told that those people didn’t exist in Star Wars anymore, and that has caused a lot of consternation. When The Last Jedi failed to reveal who the parents of Rey were—many people were hoping that she was actually Jaina which would at least explain why she is flying around in Han Solo’s precious Millennium Falcon—a lot of fans stepped away from Star Wars at that point and now this second film in only a year has hit theaters and people are ambivalent about it. The Last Jedi was a very progressive movie that really split the fanbase, from not revealing the parentage of Rey, to the killing of Luke and the obvious progressive messages of feminism and sacrifice where everyone was blowing themselves up instead of taking the fight to the enemy, it’s that which made it so the fans stepped away from Solo: A Star Wars Story.

I have been enjoying the new Star Wars stuff the best I could. I have not been a fan of what Lucasfilm has done. I was a big fan of the Star Wars EU and I think Lucasfilm could have easily have just picked up these stories where the books left off and would have done something really special. However, I think the value of the movies and all the merchandise that is coming from the franchise does far more good than bad. I think Lucasfilm and Disney made a major mistake with Star Wars and that they are trying to remedy that now. For me Solo: A Star Wars Story was a huge step in that direction—of making things right with the fans. But its obvious that the fans are going to make Disney and ultimately Lucasfilm earn back that respect which is where things are today. There was a boycott of this latest Han Solo movie and it had an impact on the final ticket sales. As the word is getting out, because Solo: A Star Wars Story is pretty good—I think its one of the best and is certainly on par with the original films somewhere in quality of story telling between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But the film is more fun like A New Hope was. I like the prequel films but can admit that Solo: A Star Wars Story is better than those films and it is certainly better than The Force Awakens. But these new young actors are making a name for themselves, the young Alden Ehrenreich is earning his respect from the fans little by little. Many fans have been sitting on the fence with Solo: A Star Wars Story because they weren’t sure how to feel about a new actor taking over for the legendary Harrison Ford. If this latest Star Wars film does anything it shows fans that its possible to have a younger actor playing an old favorite, and because of that I think Solo: A Star Wars Story will have good legs into the future of the franchise, and people will come back to the films and forgive Lucasfilm and Disney for their mistakes with the first three films made since the acquisition in 2012.

Alden Ehrenreich is a smart young actor with a good head on his shoulders, and he likes playing Han Solo in Star Wars. He’s good for the franchise and understands that taking less money for the opportunity to do more films like this makes good business sense because it could place him in Hollywood as the next big demand actor—like Harrison Ford was. With all that under consideration I think Disney certainly put the cards down on the table with this one holding nothing back promotionally. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they spent $500 million on the movie and are worried at this point of making that money back, which I think they will. But they spent the money expecting a billion in return and that could cool them on launching the other projects that are in the pipeline. Hopefully they let Lucasfilm go forward with the budgets on those new films, the Kenobi film, the Boba Fett film, the Rian series, and of course at least two more movies about the young Han Solo—as well as a whole bunch of other films not yet released. It’s not too late to make these films into the kind of successes that were experienced with Marvel—but getting the fan base back on board is the key.

To win back the audience, and this is just my advice, do with it whatever you want Lucasfilm, you have to get Mara Jade and Jaina Solo into Episode Nine as its being directed now with J.J. Abrams. Everyone gets what they want if that happens, Kennedy gets her strong female leads, Luke has a reason for being so distressed in The Last Jedi, and Rey gets a name and a reason for having the Falcon with Chewie as her co-pilot. A new trilogy featuring Jaina could even take things further 30 years after Episode Nine—the possibilities are endless. It took Marvel ten films to build up the kind of anticipation that was seen in Infinity War, Star Wars could do something very similar, but they’ll have to earn back the fans, and Solo: A Star Wars Story was a big first step. Hopefully Disney doesn’t get cold feet after they study these box office results and consider whether fans will support two Star Wars movies in the same year. They will, and they will support three or four a year if Disney will make them and be very profitable with $200 million budgets. But it will take more movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story to earn back that fan trust, not more movies like The Last Jedi or even The Force Awakens. The nostalgia wore off and now reality is there for Star Wars films, going forward, people want to see new ground that pays respect to what they know from the original EU—and fans don’t want to be preached to with gay characters, or black characters, or women. They just want to see a story set in a galaxy far, far away that will endure for centuries—and not fall out of favor with whatever new political movements come in the next few decades. Star Wars fans want their traditions, and they want the long view—and its their money that Disney wants, so it’s up to the giant entertainment company to give it to them.

I think I’ve listened to the new Han Solo theme from the John Powell soundtrack back to back for a solid four days now and I love it, it’s so full of optimism. It reminds me of how it was when Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night series started back in 2008, with a movie that many people didn’t think was needed because at that point Batman had been done so many times. The Nolan trilogy built up a nice audience and earned a reputation by the fans that they trusted and supported. Those films each went on to make over a billion dollars each. Iron Man the first Avenger film also came out that year with a fantastic performance by Robert Downey Jr. The film only grossed around $500 million globally much like I think this new Han Solo movie will make, but it became the glue that built up those next nine Marvel films. Disney purchased Marvel shortly after that film’s release and the rest is now history, and has been very successful. It has allowed Disney to make obscure films like The Black Panther, which I thought was pretty good—which would have never been made unless there was a need for the ever-expanding universe. Star Wars could do better, but the fan base will have to be built and listening to that soundtrack of Solo: A Star Wars Story that new Han Solo theme could serve as a nice light in the darkness for all the Disney executives timid about the next stage of the adventure. The best thing to do would be to support the effort and not panic, there is a lot of good that came out of Solo, and it hints at how things truly could be now that it looks like Lucasfilm is starting to figure out how to make these Star Wars movies without the guidance of George Lucas. The John Williams contribution is absolutely brilliant and I hope that everyone involved can use it to launch something really special, because the opportunity is certainly there.

Rich Hoffman
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overmanwarrior

I write, and write, and write. And when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing. I have too many hobbies. I read too many books and I don't sleep. There's just too much life to be lived to waste it for even a second.

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