Solo A Star Wars Story

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.

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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.’

GEORGE LUCAS

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.

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HARRISON FORD

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.

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ALDEN EHRENREICH

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.

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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.

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CONCLUSION

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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1 thought on “A Star Wars Story | Why Rogue One Succeeded And Solo Failed!

  1. It was a case of “death by a thousand cuts”, I think – the release window was a nightmare (it should have been rolled well away from May-April; Disney should have stuck to their December release window – they had a good “thematic” thing going with “Star Wars” Christmas releases; also – and let’s be honest here – the build-up to Marvel’s “Infinity War” climax sucked all the air out of any promotional momentum for “Solo”) – the behind the scenes trauma blew the budget way out of scale – and the social media insanity (whether it was Russian trolls or just childish rage) surrounding “The Last Jedi” gave the entire brand a terrible black eye – it was a terrible, embarrassing time to be a fan, when (virtually) every internet “Star Wars” search brought back reams upon reams of articles going over how toxic “Star Wars” fans were.

    It is a much better show than it ever got credit for – Alden did an excellent job in what was (inevitably) going to be a thankless role; it is (somewhat) like Lazenby following Sean Connery in “Bond” – no one is ever going to “be” what Connery or Ford were (are) to these characters. The rest of the cast was also good, and the movie had a cool, small-scale “heist/western” feel that was kind of (truthfully) awesome – and is really the same story-telling niche (or a very closely related one) to “The Mandalorian” and “Book of Boba Fett” (especially the first season of “Mando”) – so yes, it can (does) work to move “Star Wars” away from lightsabers, now and then.

    It was a little cramped, at times (it sometimes felt like everything that made Han Solo “Han Solo” happened within the span of a few hours) but the pleasures of the film far outweighed the negatives – Han & Chewie played beautifully off one another, and the rivalry/friendship between them and Lando felt right – would that the film had allowed itself to linger a bit more and not felt as rushed. It has seemed to have gotten a bit more “affection” as time has passed, and – to be honest – I would much rather see “Disney” bite the bullet and recast these core actors than to perpetually play the “uncanney valley” with digital trickery. There is room to play around in the OT era, still, and people are (or should be) willing to accept that the character is not the actor; time passes, people age (and – unhappily – die) but fictional characters need not.

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