Solo: A Star Wars Story did poorly in the box office. Almost every news source speculates on the same short list of possible reasons:
- Marvel movies that recently came out competing for attention
- A shorter wait than usual since the last Star Wars movie reducing anticipation
- Production trouble behind the scenes causing doubts about quality
- Alden Ehrenreich not seeming like a great replacement for Harrison Ford
The problem is, this stuff rarely affects other “big universe” movies. If people trust a franchise, they’ll go watch the movie, end of story.
People saw Batman v. Superman in theaters more than they saw Solo even though they thought Ben Affleck was a terrible Bruce Wayne. Justice League changed directors and had tons of reshoots and still outperformed Solo. Marvel movies are always coming out, and rarely do they sabotage one another, much less do they ruin vaguely comparable competitors.
In fact, the most likely reason for Justice League’s otherwise low numbers was the fact that Batman v. Superman was not a great film. And that points us to exactly why very few people showed up for Solo’s opening weekend.
The Last Jedi was a historically bad film
With the size of its budget, the number of brilliant people available, and the historical case studies of what has worked and not worked for the franchise, Rian Johnson had all the resources he needed to make at least a mediocre film, if not a great one.
But The Last Jedi was hot garbage. Once people had seen it, they couldn’t exactly get their ticket money back. Even after hearing negative word of mouth, many others had to “see it for themselves” as Star Wars fans and independent thinkers, helping to bolster the box office performance a little. But overall, The Last Jedi only brought in 2/3 of what The Force Awakens could pull in the box office.
The Force Awakens was okay at best and made a lot of its money on hope and nostalgia that wasn’t promised in Episode 8. Once people were confident that The Last Jedi was awful, people weren’t going back to see it again, and they weren’t taking their friends.
The trend has only continued for Solo. Many people will go see a major franchise action film, so Star Wars isn’t completely dead on that front. There are also the super-loyalists, who will follow Star Wars blindly in its descent to a Transformers-quality spectacle series.
The rest of us, who still need a great story and script along with a little more craft than just the visuals, casting, and sound, didn’t see Solo in its opening weekend. Most of us won’t see it until it’s on Netflix, if we ever watch it at all.
The main issue isn’t with Solo, but the movie is part of the problem
The Han Solo origin film may have been a good movie. It probably wasn’t a great one, though, based on the current era of Kathleen Kennedy Star Wars films.
It’s just not worth the risk to see it knowing that it will probably be disappointing. The bad taste of the last few movies would probably also make it harder to enjoy in the moment despite its own merits. It’s also nice to think that Disney may rethink its strategy if the numbers encourage them to.
For things to turn around, we’d have to get a truly amazing Star Wars movie; one that would capture imaginations for decades to come, just as the original trilogy did. I’m not going to lie: that movie would do well in the box office because word would spread that there was finally a great Star Wars movie again.
And then, after a moment to enjoy that film, we might give the franchise another chance.
But this sounds like I’m talking about an alternate universe. I’m not very hopeful that it’ll happen.