Last night I published a post discussing Jon Kasdan’s comments about Solo: A Star Wars Story. For those who didn’t read the post, Kasdan was a co-writer on Solo and he has addressed the commercial success of the movie, which we can all agree is tepid at best.
As previously discussed on It’s A Stampede!, I really enjoyed Solo and while I admit it’s not essential viewing, I do think it offers a fun ride for fans and in many ways it has made me excited for the future development of the Star Wars Universe. I certainly don’t want to bash the movie, because I think it does many things right and deserves a bit more praise than it’s getting, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore its shortcomings at the box office.
I feel like it would be a bit amiss if I didn’t address the simple fact that Solo is failing financially. As noted last night, the movie’s current box office total after a week on release is $197,468,465 – which is considerably poor for a Star Wars movie – and with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom mere days away, Solo is going to struggle to find its feet before it is obliterated by the competition.
Why is Solo: A Star Wars Story performing badly?
Below are five reasons as to why Solo is struggling at the box office. You’ll be pleased to note that not one of these reasons has anything to do with the quality of the movie itself, which is generally quite good.
First and foremost, the biggest issue hitting Solo right now is general apathy – both from fans and from casual cinemagoers. Regardless of anyone’s feelings towards the movie, the appetite for a Han Solo standalone movie just isn’t there and to be honest, this isn’t a new revelation.
When the project was initially announced, the feeling amongst the Star Wars fan base was confusion, with many asking ‘why would Lucasfilm/Disney make a movie about a character we already know so much about?’. This question has pretty much dogged the movie from the get-go and it’s something which the film has never really managed to shake off.
If a film starts on a fairly apathetic footing, then it is often very difficult for the project to turn things around. At best – which seems to be the case with Solo – the general attitude towards the movie is now quite positive, but that’s not enough to get bums on seats.
How could Lucasfilm/Disney have changed this? Well, it’s possible that nothing would have changed the initial reaction to this movie – people just aren’t interested.
Moving forward, studio bosses now need to consider whether or not it is better to green light projects about less prolific characters, rather than icons. Of course, this does not bode well for the future of the Boba Fett or Obi-Wan Kenobi movies which are reportedly next on the slate.
Behind the scenes issues
Another factor which seems to have effected Solo from the early stages of its production is the behind the scenes issues, namely the firing of original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. While fans might not have been all that fussed by the prospect of a Han Solo movie, the fact that Lord and Miller were on board did make the project sound a little more interesting.
Lord and Miller are known for their quirky approach to properties (The Jump Street films (2012-2014), The Lego Movie (2014) etc), so the general feeling was that this pair might be able to bring something new to the table. When the duo were dismissed due to ‘creative differences’, the interesting hook of the project went too.
Bringing in Ron Howard as the replacement director was a good business move by Lucasfilm/Disney, as it placed the project in safe hands, but safe hands doesn’t necessarily get anyone excited. Once again the core fan base slipped back into a state of apathy (see above).
Another big problem hitting Solo has been the backlash from The Last Jedi (2017) – and there’s still A LOT OF BACKLASH. The movie – which hit cinemas at Christmas – was a very, very divisive film which has caused a great disturbance in the For… er… fan community.
With Solo landing less than six months after The Last Jedi, the fan base were simply not ready to dive back in for an experience that they felt could offer similar disappointment. Once again, there was a general consensus on this one and the feeling seemed to be that the movie should have been pushed back to Christmas 2018, giving the dust a chance to settle.
Distance may have benefited Solo – it may not, but being released so close to The Last Jedi doesn’t seem to have helped. Again, this is something which Lucasfilm/Disney will need to consider when scheduling their next set of movies.
A big concern with Solo, mostly resulting from the change in directors, was the sheer lack of a trailer for the film. Sure, we got a couple before the film was released, but it all felt very last minute and this made fans feel very uneasy.
People like set patterns for things, so when a trailer doesn’t drop within a certain time frame they get worried. The worry is that backstage difficulties have caused a delay and this only adds to the negativity surrounding the project.
Solo‘s marketing campaign was released quite late in the game and this caused a lot of unrest. Loyal fans saw this as a bad sign, while casual cinemagoers were too busy caring about all the other heavily marketed movies (Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) to even notice Solo existed.
The way films are marketed nowadays differs greatly from how they were marketed in the past, but never underestimated the power of a well presented, carefully timed trailer and/or poster. And, as seen with Deadpool 2‘s very clever marketing campaign, promotion is key to getting audiences hyped about a movie.
Just look at Suicide Squad (2016) which opened to terrible reviews, but a very healthy box office. Why did Suicide Squad do so well? Because it had a great marketing campaign which ensured healthy interest long before the movie played on the big screen.
The marketing for Solo arrived a little too late in the game and to be honest, was lacklustre at best. Again, this should be a key focus for Lucasfilm/Disney moving forward.
And finally, one of the biggest problems Solo is facing right now is stiff competition from the likes of Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2 and the forthcoming Jurassic World sequel. This competition is having a huge effect on Solo‘s potential and it’s a battle that I do not think Solo can win.
As previously discussed on It’s A Stampede!, when a heap of big blockbusters get released at the same time it becomes a little too expensive for the average cinemagoer to keep up with. Infinity War was such a massive movie that it easily became the No.1 must-see movie, followed by Deadpool 2. Solo fell to the back of the queue.
Asking audiences to pony up more cash to see Solo, all within the space of a month is a big ask, especially with cinema prices being high. Let’s also not forget that Black Panther was still drawing in audiences right up to the moment Infinity War was released, plus the likes of Rampage, Ready Player One and Tomb Raider have also swallowed up some cash in the months leading up to Solo‘s release.
There is only so much money to go around and while the constant arrival of big blockbusters and event movies is great for film fanatics, it’s not great for anyone’s wallet. Ultimately choices have to be made and the result is that some people will choose to skip a movie or two. Solo is getting skipped. The irony here is that Solo‘s biggest competition is Avengers: Infinity War – another property owned by Disney.
Is Solo a misfire?
So what does all this mean for Solo? Well, while the box office certainly isn’t all that impressive for Solo, the film isn’t completely dead in the water – this is a Star Wars movie after all.
Those that are skipping the film during its cinematic release will no doubt pick it up when it gets a home release. General audiences will watch the film as they know a Star Wars movie carries a certain degree of quality and long-term fans – yes, even those who are boycotting the film at the moment – will still pick it up in time as they’re already heavily invested in this world.
The truth is, most people who are opting to watch Solo on the big screen are having a fun experience. Even those that aren’t that fussed about it don’t think it’s a particularly bad film, just one that may not be needed.
Mistakes have been made with Solo – highlighting, as with all movies, this is a product and at the end of the day it needs to be sold to its consumer in the right way. Solo hasn’t been sold in the right way and it’s a shame as this isn’t a defective model, it’s just one that perhaps needed some rewiring under the hood.