Why did Solo: A Star Wars Story fail where Rogue One succeeded? Max explores the factors that contributed to the downfall of Ron Howard’s standalone adventure
Rogue One was the first foray Star Wars did into a non-episodical movie. It was a standalone and took place in the events preceding the original 1977 movie. It told the tale of how the Rebels got the plans to the Death Star that Princess Leia was able to upload to R2-D2, and put in place a chain reaction of events that we all know and love. Due to its soaring success, the House of Mouse felt confident to produce at least 2 more standalone movies. And next up was the origins of Han Solo, simply titled Solo: A Star Wars Story.
BOX OFFICE BACKLASH
Solo premiered in 2018, and even though it was a great movie, it tanked at the box office. Disney, fearful of hemorrhaging more money, put the brakes on Number 3 and instead transitioned into TV shows on its streaming platform, Disney+. I personally loved Solo and didn’t get why it underperformed. Statistically, it didn’t underperform. But for a Star Wars movie, the number was simply not what Disney expected. It was directed by the legendary Ron Howard, but only after Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy fired the two original directors, citing ‘creative differences.’
Rumor also said that Solo had many problems with dialogue and other direction issues. And it was thought that George Lucas himself returned to the set to give a few pointers. Yes, we can’t forget that Rogue One literally had to be re-filmed due to creative bugs. But you have to chalk it up to the fact that it was a first-of-its-kind experimental idea. Now, looking closely at these movies, I still say I prefer Solo. But I understand why it failed and why Rogue One is looked at as the better movie, for many reasons.
The first reason is scope. Solo was not a high-stakes adventure, as it didn’t affect the galaxy in the monumental way that Rogue One did. The caper of the Death Star plans changed the galaxy. Solo was just a movie about a heist that went wrong and the origins of how Han Solo became the scoundrel that he is.
Rogue One literally opened the door for the universe we know and love, and is every bit as important as IV, V, and VII because it is completely enmeshed in the story (at least as of 2016.) Solo, while containing a better plot, is not a critical viewing. You could effectively skip it and still understand The Skywalker Saga. Solo has great direction, great characters, and great plot points. However, it didn’t matter in the long run.
The second problem Solo suffered from, was the immense challenge of filling the shoes of Harrison Ford. Harrison is legendary, and many view him as synonymous with Star Wars. His character has been hyper-analyzed by many, many creatives for the last 40 years. Therefore, it is very important to fans that his younger portrayal stacks up.
Alden Ehrenreich (at least to me) does not resemble Harrison, until you get a closer look and say, “yeah there is a resemblance”. As an actor, he is decent but not on the level of Harrison. Many of the movie critics, said it just wasn’t Han Solo and I partially agree. Could they have done better? Probably not, but still, you can’t just make feelings go away. The third and final reason that Solo underperformed is probably the most obvious reason of all. What is Star Wars known for? Some might say epic music. Lasers going pew-pew. Ships jumping into the magical realm of hyperspace. Sure. But the REAL thing that makes Star Wars, Star Wars. Lightsaber action.
LIGHTSABERS AND DREAMS
All 9 of the Skywalker films had at least 1 lightsaber duel. And Rogue One (while not having a duel), gave us an incredible scene of the unstoppable man-machine Darth Vader; mowing through soldiers with his fearsome powers and deadly blade work. I decided (in the movie theater) at that moment that Rogue One was “good” due to the inclusion of that scene. Sometimes it doesn’t take an entire movie to please a Star Wars fan. Solo almost knew that not having lightsabers would be a problem, so they tried to put a band-aid on and had a very popular character activate and brandish a lightsaber at the very end. While cool, it wasn’t even in person. It was over a holographic message and did nothing, other than to show the lesser villain that the big bad means business.
In the end, Solo was an enjoyable movie. But it was bogged down by problems that never allowed it to become synonymous with the success these movies create. Now in 2022, fans are eagerly awaiting news for the next Star Wars movie and I wonder what they will do to try and learn from Solo’s mistakes. The next rumored project is called Rogue Squadron and tells a tale of X-Wing pilots. There is an entire series devoted to X-Wing pilots in Legends, so this theme has its niche. But will lightsabers appear? Possibly no. However, unless it means something significant for the future of the galaxy and creates solid characters, it surely will flounder as Solo did. Let us have faith in the Force, and wish that this movie is epic.
Why do you think Solo underperformed? Was it the lack of Lightsabers? Or was a shortsighted release schedule clash with Avengers: Infinity War a major factor? Or perhaps the uncharacteristic lack of advertising and merchandise tie-ins? Sound off below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
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Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!