Why 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' is seen as the franchise's first failure

Plenty to chew on … a still from Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Plenty to chew on … a still from Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Han Solo is one of Star Wars’ most beloved characters but sadly it doesn’t look like his solo movie is going to be one for the history books.

The latest film in the Lucasfilm franchise features Alden Ehrenreich taking over the role from Harrison Ford, in this prequel to Star Wars: A New Hope where the smuggler’s criminal origins are explored.

Ehrenreich is joined by a stellar ensemble cast in the movie, with Donald Glover playing franchise favourite Lando Calrissian and Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany and Pheobe Waller-Bridge in supporting roles.

The reviews for the film have been mostly good, with Solo earning a 71% approval score on the reviews aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, but sadly that acclaim hasn’t translated to ticket sales.

Solo: A Star Wars Story opened across the globe last Thursday and only managed to take in a worldwide box office of $168 million (£127 million) with its domestic opening standing much lower than the most recent releases.

Solo earned just $84,750,000 at the US box office compared to The Force Awaken’s $247,966,675, The Last Jedi’s $220,009,584 and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s $155,081,681.

So why is this film turning out to be a failure? Here are a few reasons that could have contributed to its disappointing performance.

On-set drama

Ever since it was announced that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had been fired from the film there had been concerns over the final product.

The somewhat negative reports coming out of Pinewood Studios – that the directing duo was taking too long, complaints of a lack of creative freedom from LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and the rumour that Ehrenreich needed an acting coach – did nothing to fill its audience with confidence.

Even after Ron Howard was brought in to bring the production back into line there were still misgivings over the movie following the release of the first trailer. Many felt it came across as rather dull while others felt it did better to shine a light on Lando than it did the eponymous character.

These issues may well have caused some of its audience to feel sceptical of the film and disinclined to shell out to see it at the cinema.

Solo: A Star Wars Story stumbles at the box office, Disney caution against ‘fatigue’ suggestions
Solo: A Star Wars Story stumbles at the box office, Disney caution against ‘fatigue’ suggestions

Too soon

Since Star Wars’ return in 2015, each movie has come out around Christmas time with a year gap between each outing. Solo’s release comes just over five months after The Last Jedi which hasn’t really given viewers enough time to miss the franchise.

As one industry source told Deadline, “I think Disney got caught milking the Star Wars franchise a little too much. Everyone acknowledged the risk of releasing another movie five months after Jedi. They really should have pushed Solo to Christmas.”

The fact that the film’s narrative is rather self-contained too could have added to this. With barely any connection to the storylines of the last three movies, it’s not exactly essential to the saga so viewers may not feel the need to watch the film unless they are particularly fond of Han Solo or Star Wars.

Ron Howard took over as director of ‘Solo’
Ron Howard took over as director of ‘Solo’

Poor man’s Han Solo

When you think of Han Solo you think of Harrison Ford so any other actor trying to play the role may well have fallen short in the eyes of his fans. Alden Ehrenreich is a relatively unknown star who has failed to earn as much excitement in the role as Donald Glover has after taking over Lando Calrissian from Billy Dee Williams.

Glover has built up a large following from his role in Community and for creating the critically-acclaimed series Atlanta, as well as from his stand-up shows and music career as Childish Gambino, but Ehrenreich has no such backing.

That’s not to say the actor performed badly as Han, but his iteration seen in the trailers and promotional material may have failed to entice audience members to give his solo movie a go.

The ‘Solo’ cast with fired directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller
The ‘Solo’ cast with fired directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Oversaturation of franchise movies

Last week Deadpool 2 came out in cinemas and a month earlier Avengers: Infinity War was released so maybe the deluge of franchise movies and sequels have put people off seeing another one.

“It feels like general moviegoers are making a conscious choice to wait, probably until Jurassic World 2, to see their next movie,” one exec told Deadline.

As Solo is a spin-off rather than part of the main Star Wars narrative, audience members again may not feel the need to see it, unlike MCU movies that have all been leading up to the release of Avengers: Infinity War.

Fatigue and The Last Jedi backlash

Maybe viewers are already tired of the reinvigorated Star Wars universe. There have been four movies in just over three years and they all revolve around pretty much the same story: the Rebels v the Empire. Some Star Wars fans were also disappointed by the narrative direction of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi causing them to become disillusioned with the franchise.

But Disney’s outgoing worldwide distribution chief Dave Hollis does not think fatigue is causing a problem. “This is just the fourth movie and the first three did $4B combined,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s so much that people aren’t excited for additional stories.”

Was Harrison Ford really replaceable as Han Solo?
Was Harrison Ford really replaceable as Han Solo?

He added to the New York Times, “We’re going to judge Solo by where we finish rather than where we start.

“The base is a little smaller than we had hoped for, but it’s very respectable, and there is no substantial competition for the next couple weekends.”

Expectations for Solo’s box office success may well have been too high considering that it is a spin-off and unlike The Force Awakens, didn’t mark the big comeback for the Star Wars franchise.

However, it did reportedly cost over $250 million to make so Disney will be hoping to recoup most of that money in the coming weeks. With no big releases on the slate until Jurassic World 2 on June 7, they might just do it.

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