On the same day that Solo: A Star Wars Story was released, Disney announced the third of their upcoming Star Wars anthology movies: a film centred around Boba Fett.
Both Solo and the Boba Fett movie occupy interesting positions. In the leadup to its release, Solo was perhaps most often described as “the Star Wars movie nobody wanted”; a prequel film focusing on one of Harrison Ford’s most iconic roles, the movie was controversial amongst dedicated fans and ardent critics alike. Meanwhile, the Boba Fett movie feels in many ways an even more unnecessary film than Solo – indeed, at least Solo was about an actual character, rather than a glorified action figure. Both seem to typify a very specific approach to Star Wars films: grounded very specifically in the original trilogy, films that don’t want to stray particularly far from the traditional understanding of Star Wars.
Since its release, discussion of Solo has turned to its relatively disappointing – for a Star Wars movie, at least – box office; the Hollywood Reporter describes it as “well behind expectations with an estimated three-day debut of $83.3 million-plus and projected four-day debut of $101 million”, noting this performance is significantly below “fellow standalone movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), which opened to $155 million in North America”.
Obviously, this is going to be a result of various factors; Solo is the first of the Disney Star Wars movies to open in May rather than December, meaning there was more competition and less time between instalments. Equally, it could be argued that comparing it to Rogue One isn’t quite taking the whole picture into account – arguably, the prior anthology film was buoyed by the success of The Force Awakens, and Solo sees a more settled response, in effect the “true” expectations for an anthology movie in relative isolation.
A third possibility, though, is that Solo simply didn’t quite push the envelope enough to capture audience attention. Up to a point, that seems like the intention; in comparing the main saga to the anthology movies, it seems that they’re deliberately intended to counterbalance one another – that Solo is, in effect, the more traditional movie designed for people who didn’t like the more experimental The Last Jedi. A Boba Fett movie, and indeed the planned Obi-Wan Kenobi movie, seem to follow broadly the same thinking. However, if audiences have rejected Solo for being too traditional, and not offering enough new ideas, it’s possible this approach isn’t quite going to work.
In turn, though, that opens up one particular question about the other upcoming Star Wars property: what does Jon Favreau’s Star Wars TV show need to be to succeed?
At the moment, we know relatively little about Jon Favreau’s Star Wars TV show: it’s set three years after the Battle of Endor, as depicted in Return of the Jedi, and will feature CGI characters akin to those from Favreau’s recent Jungle Book adaptation (indeed, this seems to be the specific reason for hiring him for the show).
From these few details, we can assume a few things – it is, probably, likely that Favreau’s show will explore the events that lead from the end of Return of the Jedi to the galaxy as we saw it in The Force Awakens. It’s a fairly broad canvas, with a lot of potential to explore; notably, while it does grow out of the original trilogy, it’d be the first of the live action Disney Star Wars properties to focus on a part of the galaxy far far away that we’ve not seen before. If we’re assuming that the reason, or part of the reason, Solo has struggled (and it is, in fairness, an assumption) is because of a relative lack of new ideas, then this is one of the first important steps for Jon Favreau’s Star Wars TV shows to make to succeed.
Another important thing for Disney to consider with this show is which behind the scenes talent is involved. While we know that Jon Favreau will presumably act as showrunner, Kathleen Kennedy noted that “this series will allow Jon the chance to work with a diverse group of writers and directors and give Lucasfilm the opportunity to build a robust talent base”. For some time, there’s been a demand for greater diversity involved with Star Wars – the irony of Jon Fravreau being announced as working on a Star Wars TV show on International Women’s Day prompted some criticism – and hopefully this is an opportunity that will be taken to broaden the range of voices working on Star Wars. As well as being worthwhile simply on its own terms, greater behind the scenes diversity would be another key way to makes sure this Star Wars TV show offers a take on the franchise we’ve never seen before.
Ultimately, it’s still a while before we’ll see Jon Favreau’s Star Wars show – the Disney streaming service intended to be its home isn’t set to launch until some time in 2019, after all. While it doesn’t have to as experimental as something like Legion, for example, the show should make some tangible efforts to give audiences something they’ve never seen before; hopefully, that’s exactly what it’s going to do.
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