Monday 16 September 2019

Star Wars fatigue? Where it all went wrong for Solo: A Star Wars story as box office disappoints

Star Wars cast and crew (left to right) Thandie Newton, Ron Howard, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Alden Ehrenreich, Chewbacca, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson
Star Wars cast and crew (left to right) Thandie Newton, Ron Howard, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Alden Ehrenreich, Chewbacca, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Solo: A Star Wars movie has failed to set the box office alight in the same manner as its franchise predecessors.

While opening to a tidy $103m would be cause for celebration for most movies, the origin story of one of the series’ most beloved characters had originally been expected to pull an estimated $130 to $150 million on opening weekend in the US, which would have gone some way to recouping its estimated $250m budget.

Until now Rogue One was the least best performing in this respect, but it opened to a healthy $155m.  The most recent release, The Last Jedi, opened to $220 and grossed more than $1.3 billion while the first from the Disney stable, The Force Awakens, bagged $248 domestically over three days.

Internationally the news is even more eyebrow-raising for Solo as it took just $68.2 million.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo: A Star Wars Story

So where did it all go wrong?  Disney are asking themselves the same question.  Speaking to Deadline, the studio’s head of worldwide distribution Dave Hollis said they will “spend a lot of time digging into every question in every market to get the answer”.

“We came into the beginning of the year with this one of the most anticipated films,” he added. “We gotta spend some time looking at the exits and get a better handle on all the questions.”

During filming creative differences led to the departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street fame) followed by the drafting in of Solo saviour Ron Howard.

Read more: Ron Howard's rescue mission for Solo: A Star Wars Story 

The issues were extensively covered in the media and perhaps that negative press left something of a bad taste with fans, the assumption being that the film would ultimately suffer.   However, the movie itself has garnered largely favourable, if lukewarm, reviews from critics and generally positive reaction from audiences who have seen it.

Its lack of box office success may simply be down to bad timing.  It comes just five months after the release of The Last Jedi, prompting accusations of ‘Star Wars fatigue’ from some quarters. 

Also, when a film is released is as important as the quality of the film itself.  In this case Solo released over Memorial Weekend in the US rather than in December, like previous Star Wars releases.  This meant much greater competition for bums on seats with blockbusters like Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War.

That said, Variety reports that it landed the best domestic Memorial Day weekend since 2014 when X-Men: Days of Future Past was top.

Regarding the notion of fatigue, Hollis pointed out to Deadline that the previous three Star Wars films grossed four billion and added that the Marvel movies are released in close proximity to each other in the schedule.

“We’re in a world where we’re in the same conference rooms planning Marvel movies,” he said. “We have a Thor and a Black Panther and an Infinity War coming out in November and February and May and each are massively successful. They each do well and people are not asking these questions.”

Read more: Solo: A Star Wars Story movie review: These new Star Wars films feel like carefully and rather cynically constructed confections

Some fans have expressed dissatisfaction with the casting of Han Solo, arguing that Alden Ehrenreich does not look like a young Harrison Ford.  There’s also the fact that Harrison Ford obviously does not appear in the film.  With the foundation of a pretty decent film under him, however, perhaps Ehrenreich as Solo simply needs time to bed in with fans.

Whatever his fate, there are reportedly more spin offs for Obi Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett in the offing as well as the next JJ Abrams-directed instalment planned for December next year.

Hollis has not given up on it yet, however, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "Let's measure how we feel about this until more time passes".

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