The Box Office Trouble for ‘Solo’ is Not the Movie’s Fault: Free advice to Disney on how to proceed forward–I just want it to work

I’d like to thank Disney and Lucasfilm for making the new Star Wars film Solo: A Star Wars Story. I am very sorry that financially it didn’t work out the way they needed it to. It was a bold film for them to make in these highly politically charged times and I’m amazed by the product that ended up on the screen. I’ve seen it many times now and after taking some of the emotion out of it, I think it’s the best Star Wars movie to date. It’s certainly in my top ten movies of all time. Part of that is that Han Solo is my favorite character but a lot of it is that it is a wonderful anthology film put together at a breakneck pace that was very positive. The characters are fun, the scenarios entertaining and the scope of it is just jaw dropping. Its science fiction and adventure on a top-tier level and is on par with the first two Indiana Jones films from back in the 1980s. I think the movie will go a long way to repairing the Star Wars brand which was severely damaged by The Last Jedi which came out just 5 months prior. I hope that Disney still gives Lucasfilm the latitude to continue making Star Wars films—because they are valuable. Solo: A Star Wars Story may have fallen short of expectations financially, but I think in the long run will prove to be one of the most important. It may have taken everyone three prior films to find their footing, but they certainly did—unfortunately the fan base was already damaged which played a major part in the poor financial outing of this latest movie.

The hatred and rebellion that many fans showed toward Disney and Lucasfilm prior to the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story is complicated and filled with many contemporary minefields that are specific to our times. I knew what was going on during the second weekend of the film’s release when Forbes, The Hollywood Reporter and Vanity Fair all did hit pieces on Solo: A Star Wars Story about the weekend box office take before anybody really had a chance to get to the theater. Clearly, they were trying to shape the story as the media picked up and created a narrative that actually contributed to low ticket sales. Many people who I talked to on Saturday June 2nd who had not yet seen the film told me they hadn’t gone because they heard the movie wasn’t very good and was struggling financially, so they were holding out for Jurassic World or seeing The Avengers again. I was thinking that this situation was very much an Ellsworth Toohey moment from the great American novel, The Fountainhead. It didn’t matter how good Solo: A Star Wars Story was, critics intended to torpedo the film due to their own political activism and it was having an impact. People who might otherwise want to see the film weren’t going because they got caught up in the narrative created by the entertainment press that was using the power of their media to instigate more Star Wars films without “white” heroes in them and more gay characters focused on diversity, not unrealistic adolescent popcorn action sequences.

Even with all that against it, a movie like this can still make a billion dollars at the box office, but Solo: A Star Wars Story unfortunately was the victim of a massive rebellion of fan wrath that I was afraid was going to happen. If Solo: A Star Wars Story had come out in December of 2017 and The Last Jedi had come out this past May 25th, the fan base might have been aligned more than it was. But as it stood, the fan base for Star Wars was split and a percentage of fans just were not going to see Solo no matter how much they wanted to. That in itself was complicated as there are many cultural trends locked up in that protest intention—for instance the belief that big companies like Disney should not be in the movie making business to make a profit. But if the real roots of the narrative were explored there was a very legitimate fan complaint that Disney had ejected the previous expanded universe of Star Wars and had stuffed the new era films with political activism that just didn’t fit.

Politics has always been a part of Star Wars, but the vantage point has always been on the big scale. For instance, the Empire was always reminiscent of Nazi Germany and most everyone going to the movies could agree that Hitler and the Nazis were evil. However, these days not even the filmmakers at Disney and Lucasfilm can agree on what a Nazi is. To liberal filmmakers like Jon Kasden and the director Ron Howard, Nazis are Trump Republicans while Republicans from the flyover states see the Empire as the tenants of liberalism. George Soros is the ultimate Emperor in the eyes of the Midwest so there is already a divide in the fan base that was exacerbated by the filmmakers due to their liberal activism, such as Jon Kasden, the writer of Solo: A Star Wars Story letting it leak ahead of the film’s release that the character of Lando was pansexual. I understand why he said what he did—he was looking for a way to appeal to the liberal critics and get better reviews on the Rotten Tomato meter—which didn’t work. But it was worth a shot, I can’t blame him. Then Ron Howard Tweeted nearly the same day a bunch of anti-Trump information that fed into the story of Solo: A Star Wars Story, that the Empire was like the United States and taking over domestic planets against their will. In the Han Solo film, the political activism wasn’t nearly as bad as it was in The Last Jedi, but it was there certainly as a distraction, something that just wasn’t done back in the days of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Once the makers of Star Wars allowed it to be known that they were all liberals, they turned off half the American nation to their product and if the Americans weren’t going to support such a movie then the oversea markets certainly weren’t going to give it a chance.

Then there are the fans who just wanted to protest this film by denying it support. They are angry, and I understand it. I was one of those guys after The Force Awakens. I took a whole year off Star Wars and it was only about a month before Rogue One was released that I decided to give the movie a chance, and it was good and did win my approval. So I decided to give The Last Jedi a chance, which I thought was good enough to enjoy. It’s my least favorite Star Wars movie by far, but it was worth the attention. Solo: A Star Wars Story however won me back. I felt that Lucasfilm and Disney went well out of their way to win back fans, but for many it came too late. So Disney is going to have to keep listening and work hard to build back the fan base. They did for me with Solo, hopefully they stick with it and give people the films they want, not the political activism that they think the fans will just take so they can get a Star Wars fix—which is what I think Kathy Kennedy got caught doing. She and many of the top executives at Disney thought that Star Wars fans would put up with gay characters, progressive plot points, and the complete eradication of 30 years of books and comics just so they could get another Star Wars movie and that turned out not to be the case. Many people just didn’t even give Solo: A Star Wars Story a chance, they were intent from the beginning to protest the film to force Disney to make executive level decisions about the entire franchise.

If I were Disney I would let Lucasfilm make more films like Solo: A Star Wars Story. I’d set a budget cap at a $150 million and force the filmmakers to stay under it. I wouldn’t let any Star Wars film go up over $200 million assuming that the movies will make over a billion dollars each. That may not be the case even when the fans come back to Star Wars, I’d keep the projects down to something reasonable and focus on rebuilding the franchise, because the nostalgia factor is no longer there. It’s time to make movies that make history not ones that remember it. Solo: A Star Wars Story had both elements in it, and if Disney made more movies like it, the fan base would expand, not contract. But its going to take time, I just hope they have the patience to follow through on it. Three Star Wars movies a year with budgets of $150 million each and a box office take of $500 million each globally would do a lot more for the franchise than one movie a year that makes a billion. It’s just simple math, but the fans need to be fed. If Disney is smart, they’ll give the fans what they want, and then everyone can be happy. Solo: A Star Wars Story was certainly a step in the right direction. The fans will agree once the politics of the moment drift into history. But not until then.

Rich Hoffman