In the past few years, in which Disney and Lucasfilm have acted terrified they might ruin their “Star Wars” cash cow by making movies that don’t exactly fit some mathematical formula of what a “Star Wars” movie looks like, I feel like they missed an important detail — a detail that is becoming very clear with “Solo” shaping up to be a massive disappointment.
There are other ways to damage a brand than just by making bad movies, or movies that don’t appeal on the surface to the audience you’re targeting. You can diminish a franchise just as easily by coasting on former glories instead of actually moving forward with new ideas.
That’s exactly what Disney has done since it bought Lucasfilm, and “Star Wars” with it, back in 2012. And it’s the reason why “Solo” is doing so poorly at the box office. The powers that be have failed to make people care about this iteration of the series. Disney has been doing this “Star Wars” thing all wrong, and “Solo” is the proof.
Also Read: Things Are About to Get Worse for ‘Solo’
We all understood when Disney made that $4 billion purchase that the plan was to pump out “Star Wars” movies for the rest of our lives. But now, just a few years into this endeavor, there is suddenly a very real chance that the whole thing may fall apart much sooner than we could have imagined — if they don’t get it together soon.
In hindsight, “Solo” was probably doomed from the start, being born from a lack of vision for the franchise.. It has no bearing on the portion of the franchise that is ostensibly trying to advance the brand — the numbered main saga movies — which renders it optional viewing by default for casual viewers. There’s no reason to think that future movies about Boba Fett or Obi-Wan will do any better, because they’d be even LESS relevant.
If there was a time when “Solo” and other future standalone movies maybe could have worked, it was before Lucasfilm decided against going in any sort of interesting or fresh direction with them. Way back in 2015, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy described these “Star Wars Story” movies as an “opportunity for us to tap into emergent directing talent out there and do some things that are unexpected.”
That idea was certainly reflected in the hiring of Gareth Edwards for “Rogue One” and Phil Lord and Chris Miller for “Solo.” But both of those movies ended up swapping that “emergent directing talent” for fixers, who ended up delivering the most generic possible “Star Wars” experiences.
Also Read: 22 Times ‘Solo’ Recycled Moments From the Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy
The way I see it, these spinoffs are the products of hubris — the thought, in this case, that the brand is so strong that so long as you throw things out there that feel sufficiently “Star Wars”-esque, they will succeed. But the box office failure of “Solo” (which looks on its way to pulling-in less than a half-billion worldwide — definitely a failure) shows that didn’t pan out. And if Disney/Lucasfilm thinks this is just some one-off freak accident that doesn’t warrant a major course correction, then this situation will eventually get worse.
To put it a different way: “Solo” is a sign that Disney is on the wrong path with “Star Wars.”
It’s clear that the novelty factor that has driven the wild and unprecedented success of this new era of “Star Wars” is gone now. The first couple of new “Star Wars” films were going to be big winners by default, because that’s just how it is when you bring back the most popular movie franchise in history after a long hiatus. (We saw a similar thing happen with “Jurassic World” just six months prior to the release of “The Force Awakens.”)
Fan fervor for new, potentially good “Star Wars” movies gave Disney what amounts to a grace period to figure out what they wanted to do — there was built-in goodwill just because they were bringing “Star Wars” back, and doing so just as the inarguable success of Marvel suggested to us that the company Knows What It Is Doing. But at some point they were gonna have to make a real effort if they wanted that gargantuan success to continue with yearly releases.
Also Read: 5 Reasons Why ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Crumbled at the Box Office
They haven’t done that. Star Wars” in the Disney era has no identity of its own, as it opts to re-use the old franchise identity instead. The franchise now just lives in the past, with new saga movies judged by how well they echo previous “Star Wars” movies, and spinoffs that tie into the 40-year-old original trilogy instead of the new one they’re making right now.”
And that’s why “Solo” is flopping.
“Solo” is the fourth in a severely disjointed sequence of movies that were all released in quick succession. There is absolutely no sense of direction to all this, no vibe that these movies are leading to something other than more references to the old movies. Maybe they had a vague plan to create some kind of mini-universe out of the standalone movies — movies about Boba Fett and Obi-Wan would certainly allow for characters to cross over between each other and also “Rogue One” and “Solo.” But there’s been absolutely no sign to that effect so far — we didn’t get any “Rogue One” characters popping up in “Solo,” for example, and they keep killing off nearly every important character who wasn’t already in the original trilogy.
Generally, these movies exist apart from one another, and serve mainly to give viewers the thrill of recognizing references to the original trilogy.
But more than that, there’s been no feeling that there’s any kind of real vision for the franchise as a whole at all the last few years.
Also Read: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ – What’s the Deal With Those Gold Dice?
That problem is hardly localized just to the “Star Wars Story” standalones. “The Last Jedi” was particularly egregious in its disposability and lack of connection to even its own context. If anything, it was more preoccupied with clearing the board that “The Force Awakens” had set than with setting anything new up — if “The Force Awakens” was a franchise reboot of sorts, then “The Last Jedi” was a reboot of the reboot.
That movie leaves the world in much the same state that “Revenge of the Sith” did — our heroes have lost, and are in no position to mount a real opposition to their enemies. But when we saw “Revenge of the Sith” we already knew what the next part of the story was because we’d seen it already in the original “Star Wars.” “The Last Jedi” just leaves us wondering where the story could possibly go from here, with the entire fighting forces of the Resistance all but completely destroyed.
That’s a huge deal, but for some reason, Disney/Lucasfilm followed that up with a spinoff movie that has absolutely no bearing on those events.
Sure, Disney and Lucasfilm apologists could point to the fact that fans have been pleased in the moment with each of these new movies (to the tune of A Cinemascores for the first three they put out and an A- for “Solo”) as proof contrary to my complaints. But satisfying the “Star Wars” audience on opening night doesn’t necessarily equal a good legacy. For proof of that just look at the maligned prequels, each of which earned an A- when they were released. With “Star Wars” it’s much harder to get a bad Cinemascore than it is to get a good one
Also Read: All the ‘Star Wars’ Behind-the-Scenes Shakeups Since Disney Bought Lucasfilm (So Far)
A long-running franchise can only persist in perpetuity — without long breaks like the ones “Star Wars” has taken in the past — if it works as a coherent unit.
The lack of overall vision for the movie franchise is particularly glaring next to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which Lucasfilm so obviously has been hoping to replicate. The big difference between the two is that the MCU has had at least a broad plan from the very beginning, and each of its movies — even seeming stand-alones like “Guardians of the Galaxy” — have played into the grand tapestry that is the whole of the franchise. Meanwhile, remember how “The Last Jedi” essentially rebooted what it didn’t completely discard outright from “The Force Awakens”? We’re now four movies into the new “Star Wars” and it still does not appear to have any kind of plan or even an attempt to make its movies function as a unit.
Lucasfilm needs a vision for where it wants to take the franchise as a whole, and all the movies it produces need to take part in delivering that vision. Spinoffs need to bolster the main saga in at least some small way, not be completely separate from it. And that main saga needs to have a destination in mind — they can’t just undo each other to way “The Last Jedi” rebuked “The Force Awakens.”
Also Read: 10 Plot Threads ‘The Force Awakens’ Set Up that ‘The Last Jedi’ Blew Off
From here on out, those are the problems that have to be fixed. Because if “Solo” is the indicator it appears to be, rather than a fluke, the days of Disney/Lucasfilm being able to pump out a serviceable “Star Wars” movie and make oodles of profit by default are coming to an end.
22 Times ‘Solo’ Recycled Moments From the Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy The new Disney era of “Star Wars” is well known at this point for its incessant nods to old “Star Wars” movies, and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is the most referential of these movies yet. Below you’ll find our list of 22 ti…The entire plot is identical to Han’s predicament with Jabba the Hutt — Han’s situation in “A New Hope” is that he’s on the hook to Jabba the Hutt for a lot of money. That’s because Han was smuggling some cargo, but when …The Maelstrom recalls the asteroid field of “The Empire Strikes Back” — After pulling the heist on Kessel, Han and his crew have to escape through the massive cloud that blocks the planet off from the rest of the galaxy, …Chewie’s not great at holochess — Back when audiences first met Chewbacca in “A New Hope,” one of the first things we saw him doing was playing a holographic chess-like game with R2 on the Falcon. The game, dubbed Dejarik…Chewie actually rips off some arms — “A New Hope” lets us really start to get to know Chewbacca in the holochess scene with R2-D2, and we get a sense of his physical prowess from Han. When R2 beats Chewie at holochess, Ha…Han decides to help the rebels instead of running off with cash — In both “Solo” and the original “Star Wars,” Han has managed to do what he needs to in order to pay back a crime lord who’s mad at him (Dryden Vos now and …Han shoots first — Back in the original “Star Wars,” Han shot Greedo straight up in the Mos Eisley cantina, but George Lucas digitally altered it in the 1997 special edition to make it so Greedo himself got off a shot fir…Han pretends to be mad at Lando — When Han reunites with Lando after years in “The Empire Strikes Back,” Lando at first greets Han and his friends with anger. “You’ve got a lot of guts coming here after what you pulled,” …Han won the Falcon “fair and square” — After Han wins the Millennium Falcon in a game of Sabacc at the end of “Solo,” he yells “Fair and square!” It’s the same thing he says to Lando years later when they see each other a…Lando and Han: “I hate you.” “I know” — Probably the second-most-famous line in all of the “Star Wars” films (after “I am your father”) is Han’s forlorn answer to Leia when she says “I love you” in “The Empire Strikes Bac…“I’ve got a really good feeling about this” — It’s become a running joke that every “Star Wars” movie includes the line “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” stretching through the original trilogy and into the prequel tri…Beckett wears Lando’s rescue getup from “Return of the Jedi” — When Han and his crew head to Kessel to steal hyperfuel, they need to slip into the mining facility without any alarms being raised. To do that, they don a fe…Thermal detonator gag — Near the beginning of “Solo,” Han faces down the scary worm person Lady Proxima by holding up a rock and pretending it’s a thermal detonator, mirroring the moment from “Return of the Jedi” when Lei…The communications dish on the Falcon gets torn off — When the Falcon is racing away from the black hole known as the Maw in “Solo,” the satellite dish on top gets ripped and falls into oblivion, mirroring the moment from…Stormtroopers say “Move along. Move along.” — “A New Hope” is pretty slow about introducing the Force to the movie. We first see it deployed by Darth Vader to choke out one of the Imperial brass who insults him; the secon…Han kisses a lady in the Falcon and gets awkwardly interrupted — In both “Solo” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” Han spends a lot of time with a romantic interest who is resisting his charms until they end up making out in …The Marauders use Darth Vader’s homing beacon trick on the Falcon — After Han and Luke rescue Princess Leia from the Death Star, Leia is the only one who knows what’s really going on. She immediately realizes that Darth V…“They don’t serve our kind here” — In the bar where Lando and Han first meet, Lando’s droid pal L3 remarks, angrily, that the place sucks because “they don’t serve our kind here,” a callback to the original film when the …They run the wookiee prisoner gag on Kessel — Speaking of the heist on Kessel, Han and Chewie use a plan that will also work a little later when they board the Death Star in “A New Hope.” (It’ll also be part of the deal w…Chewie carrying half a droid aboard the Falcon — After L3 gets blown up on Kessel, Chewbacca ends up grabbing half her burned chassis and lugging it into the Falcon, very similar to how he hauled around C-3PO’s during the…Lando mispronouncing Han’s name — The correct way to pronounce “Han” is like “on,” but in “Solo” Lando pronounces it more like “hand” without the “d.” The movie plays it like Lando is trying to get under Han’s skin while …The Falcon’s “alluvial dampers” — In “The Empire Strikes Back,” Han gets a chance to shout about weird, random ship components as he and Chewie are trying to fix the Falcon’s hyperdrive as it flees an Imperial Star Destro…Smuggling compartments — The secret compartments beneath the deck in the Falcon of course made an appearance in “Solo,” though not really for smuggling exactly, as they aren’t exactly pretending to be innocent since the b…
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