EDITORIAL: Why Did “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Bomb At The Box Office?

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Who would have thought that Solo: A Star Wars Story would do so poorly at the box office? I think most people did, and maybe Disney and Lucasfilm did too, but of course they weren’t saying it publicly!

Currently, Solo has earned a total of $168 million at the worldwide box office. It debuted this weekend with only $103 million in the US. That amount came in far below the projected estimates for Solo, which went as high as $150 million for the opening weekend. Matters were even worse overseas where Solo pulled in a dismal $65 million. Let’s compare those amounts to The Force Awakens, where it made $248 million domestically, and $281 million globally during its opening weekend. That is a bit of an unfair comparison because the hype was insane back when The Force Awakens was released. OK, let’s compare Solo to Rogue One, which was the first Star Wars spin off movie. Back when Rogue One was released in 2016, it made $155 million in its opening weekend in the United States. Overseas, Rogue made $135 million. Also, take into consideration that Solo’s numbers include an extra day for the Memorial Day Weekend, where the other Star Wars movies did not.

No one knows for sure exactly how much Solo cost to make, especially since there were extensive reshoots that were rumored to account for a large portion of the actual movie. But most estimates have the cost coming in at around $400 million, which reflects the budget and cost for marketing. Solo could still find life when it is released on home video, but still this is seen as a massive failure.

So why did Solo fail so badly at the box office?

Here are my top reasons why I think Solo failed:

  1. No one wanted a Star Wars movie based completely on Han Solo – Star Wars has always been a worldwide phenomenon. It is a part of our culture and it eventually captured the world’s heart. When Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise, most people were beyond excited to hear the announcements of a new trilogy that would take place after Return Of The Jedi. We were finally getting an Episode VII after almost 30 years. What happened to Luke, Leia and Han? Did any of them have children? Did those children go on to become Jedi or maybe even Sith? The announcement of a movie based on a young Han Solo, before he met Luke, Leia and Darth Vader, really did not interest the general public or Star Wars fans. I have yet to meet anyone, or even read about someone, that was dying to see the origins of Han Solo on screen. Why not have a movie based on a young Luke working on his uncle’s moisture farm? Because we really don’t care. Lucasfilm must have looked at all of the characters in the Star Wars Saga and felt confident that a Han Solo movie had the most potential for some reason. And they were wrong. I think the one character that they should have focused on for a spin off movie was Darth Vader. People would have loved to have seen what Vader did between Episodes III and IV on the big screen.
  2. Don’t air your dirty laundry in public – The termination of Chris Lord and Phil Miller was handled poorly by Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm made an official announcement that Lord and Miller were no longer part of Solo and then Lord and Miller basically slammed Lucasfilm. I think Lucasfilm should have still retained them, but had Ron Howard come on as a “consultant”. Meaning, pay the original directors to keep them quiet. Create an appearance that everything was just fine. Then pay Ron Howard a ton of money to quietly look at what worked and what didn’t, and have him work his magic. But once the news came out that Lord and Miller were fired, people, especially Star Wars fans, saw the project as being doomed. It was rumored that Lord and Miller had finished 80-90% of the principal photography for the film and for Lucasfilm to just give them their walking papers, that movie had to be really bad. All that did was give most people the idea that this movie was a mess and probably retain most of its mess, no matter what Howard did. Also, they were cutting it close because Disney was sticking to the release date and we all wondered was it really enough time for Howard to basically reshoot the majority of the movie? Unfortunately, Justice League set a precedent that bringing in a new director doesn’t always work. Zack Snyder was fired as the direct of Justice League and replaced with Joss Whedon. And people could tell that the tone of Justice League was a bit messed up because the parts that were Snyder’s were too dark, and the parts that were Whedon were too light.
  3. A mediocre Rotten Tomatoes score – In the world that we live in now, a lot of people decide whether they will see a movie or not based on the score that Rotten Tomatoes gives a particular movie. The Last Jedi received a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and Solo received a 70%. Right away people looked at that and though the Solo score was not good. Movie goers might as well just save their money and just wait a few months to rent it at home. All I can say is I have seen Solo and liked it. I’ve yet to talk to anyone who did not enjoy it. People on various Star Wars forums seemed to have nothing but good things to say about Solo. Compare that to the reception that The Last Jedi received when it first came out and that movie was split by most fans as 50-50. Some fans thought that Last Jedi was the best Star Wars movie ever and some thought it was the worst.
  4. In most people’s minds, only Harrison Ford is Han Solo – Other than Darth Vader, the real breakout star of the Star Wars movies was Harrison Ford and his performance as Han Solo. So much so that he was really the only star from the Original Trilogy that went on to have a successful acting career in Hollywood. People really liked Luke but they loved Han Solo. And in most people’s minds, Harrison Ford is Han Solo and Han Solo is Harrison Ford. Any actor taking on the role of any version of Han Solo had a huge task ahead of them. How can they get people to accept them as Han Solo? For most people, it can’t be done. And if Lucasfilm decides to reboot Indiana Jones, they are going to have the same problem. The public will always compare these actors to Harrison Ford. If the actor is too much like Harrison Ford, they will say he is just doing an impression of him. If the actor just plays the role as he sees it without a Harrison impression, people will complain, he isn’t enough like Harrison Ford. The best thing to do is not to do an impression and just do your best job with the material. It’s been successful with other movie franchises. When Roger Moore took on the role as James Bond, he was nowhere near like Sean Connery and the current Bond, Daniel Craig is nothing like either of them. And the public accepted it and still does. A perfect example was Chris Pine taking on the role of a young James Kirk in the Star Trek reboot. Pine did a fantastic job of playing Kirk and no William Shatner impression was required. With all that being said, Alden Ehrenreich did a really good job. In no way did he fail with his performance of Han Solo.
  5. There was no real villain – I think it is almost a certainty that Star Wars gave us the greatest villain in cinematic history with Darth Vader. For a Star Wars movie, Darth Vader is a tough act to follow. So much so, that not only was his story the main focus in The Prequels, but he was also written into Rogue One. Did his appearance in Rogue One help sell more tickets? I think it did. I would say the one scene that people talked about over and over again was how Darth Vader single handedly decimated a group of Rebels trying to escape from The Empire. Even the shadow of Darth Vader looms in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Maybe not physically, but he is mentioned enough and it is implied that Kylo Ren could be the new Vader. Solo did have a villain. But the villain was not memorable at all and really had nothing to do with The Empire. For me, that was fine and kind of refreshing. Solo was a heist movie and the villains were more of the crime lord variety. But one thing I have learned is that a movie is only as good as its villain. Batman needs his Joker. Spider-man need his Green Goblin (maybe one day we’ll get a good one) and Star Wars needs its Darth Vader, or someone just as good, I mean bad.
  6. Solo was released only a few months after The Last Jedi had left theaters – Maybe Solo would have fared better if it was released this December. People were just getting over The Last Jedi, for better or for worse, and then boom, Solo is now in theaters. Solo could have used time to breathe and also the extra time could have given Ron Howard more time to fine tune the movie and maybe the marketing department could have gotten things together too.
  7. The Last Jedi was very divisive among Star Wars fans – Although a lot of people liked The Last Jedi, there were also a large portion of people who just hated the film. The Last Jedi was by no means was a failure, but I feel it came in below Disney’s expectations, especially with The Force Awakens making almost a billion dollars more. Unfortunately for Solo, the direction that The Last Jedi had gone to may have caused fans to abandoned or even possibly boycott future Star Wars films.
  8. It’s John Carter all over again – Solo was kind of dead on arrival. Marketing did not help the movie at all and I have a feeling heads will be rolling in the marketing department. Disney and Lucasfilm didn’t start really marketing Solo until February when we got a teaser during the Superbowl. Why not show a teaser before The Last Jedi? Maybe get those Star Wars fans in attendance excited for it? Nope, we’ll wait till February, four months before we release the film. And the trailers and TV spots really did not sell the movie well. I know they released a few trailers, but I couldn’t tell the difference in most of footage like I could with The Last Jedi. As soon as they added 3 seconds of additional footage in a TV spot for The Last Jedi, I knew. They could have also released some movie posters showing actual action instead of some artistic individual character posters that flooded the market. I saw more Lando posters leading up to the movie than I did of Han Solo himself.
  9. Lucasfilm tried to replicate what Marvel did too quickly – Back when Disney acquired Lucasfilm and Star Wars, their goal was to make as much money from the brand as possible. And the best way was to make “new” Star Wars movies, especially sequels to the Star Wars Saga that had become a part of most people’s lives. At the time, Disney was profiting with the huge success of the movies being released in The Marvel Cinematic Universe. The audiences seemed to shell out money again and again for the next superhero movie that held the Marvel moniker. And to this day, they seem as though they still can’t get enough of Marvel. I’m sure there were many executives at Disney that felt that if The Force Awakens made $2 billion in a few months, every Star Wars movie they release would make close to that. So let’s start releasing a Star Wars movie every year, and then eventually two or three a month. The problem is that it seems as though they are over saturating the market and we might be seeing diminishing returns now. Not everyone can copy Marvel’s formula. DC tried and they failed, but similar to Star Wars, they wanted to flood the market with superhero movies to get some of that sweet, sweet, box office mullah. You can’t sacrifice quality for quantity.

Hopefully, Disney and Lucasfilm will learn something from this. They need to slow down and space the movies out a bit. And don’t rush. If they would have taken their time, instead of rushing to get Solo out for the date that they set in stone, they could have hired directors that were on the same page as them from the very beginning. Solo is a good movie. I don’t know how much rewatchability it will have, and it’s not the best Star Wars movie, but it’s far from the worst too. It’s a shame that Solo will not do well at the box office because Lucasfilm could have had a new trilogy on their hands. I hope that Disney and Lucasfilm use their heads and put the brakes on the rumored Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett movies for now. I guess the good thing to come from Solo’s failure is hopefully Disney and Lucasfilm will wake up and we won’t see this ever happen again.

About the author

Joe Hogarty

Joe moved from New York to Florida back in 1997. He currently resides in St. Petersburg and visits the parks frequently. His first visit to the Magic Kingdom was when he was 8 years old back in 1974. Joe originally originally started as a photographer for WDWNT and is now the host of WDWNT: Nerd Alert, our movie reviewer and reports the news for WDWNT. You can contact Joe through email at [email protected]