The first bonafide “dud” in the Disney-fied Star Wars universe was delivered over Memorial Day weekend in the form of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. The Ron Howard-helmed film performed far below expectations, despite a stellar cast and a gigantic publicity push.
Once projected to pull in between $130-150 million this has become a disappointment on par with “Justice League”. There was plenty of negative advance word about the production but the main problem for this title is that is is facing a bloated marketplace, and this comes in probably too close to the release this winter of “The Last Jedi”. While this title may be lower the overall weekend is strong, with a 27% increase over last year. “Deadpool 2” and “Infinity War” are competing for the same audience, and they combined for almost $75 million. That is a significant amount of distraction away from a Star Wars title. While time will be needed to call it an outright failure Disney/Marvel did drop a high amount on the budget and marketing. It will be a challenge from here to see a profit.
By all projections this should have been yet another blockbuster for hungry Star Wars fans eager to see an origin story about one of their most beloved characters. Film reviews have been largely positive, with a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not the best rating, but certainly not the worst. The consensus seems to be that it’s a fun heist movie worth the price of admission.
So why has it been received with such a thud? What exactly is the matter with Star Wars?
There are many theories on the issue. Donald Glover threw out a social justice dart when he suggested his character – space rogue Lando Calrissian – was a pansexual. That isn’t exactly what family movie-goers want to see modeled in their pricey outings. While the character description didn’t seem to be played out on film, just the notion that it may be might have been enough to keep some families home.
Another theory is that Star Wars fatigue is beginning to set in. After waiting a decade for a new film, fans have been presented with four Star Wars films in just 30 months. It could be that the shine is wearing off; the law of supply and demand may be taking it’s toll.
However, a more plausible explanation is that the very base a Solo stand-alone movie needed to win over at the box office has simply decided they aren’t that interested anymore. After all, the controversial The Last Jedi made a purposeful and direct break from the Star Wars of old. Writer/director Rian Johnson warned fans not to expect the same formula that had come to identify one of the world’s most powerful brands. What he presented was a visually stunning yet jarring film that completely dispensed with the successful formula that had been the hallmark of the series all the way up to the acclaimed The Force Awakens.
Furthermore, Kathleen Kennedy – president of Lucasfilm – has made it all too clear that she intends for the Star Wars universe to take a major shift in the murky waters of social justice activism, even going so far as to hire rookie directors who claim they’ve never even seen the original trilogy.
In a somewhat bitter op ed, one writer suggested that Kennedy’s only goal was to turn the franchise into a vehicle for feminism.
The Last Jedi has Kathleen Kennedy’s fingerprints all over it. She’s a Berkley educated liberal-feminist who was groomed by Hollywood men, told she had good ideas and was given powerful positions without having to do all that much… kind of like Rey.
All the men in The Last Jedi are cowards, failures, inept, or suffer from toxic masculinity. The women know better then them must save the men from their masculinity. It’s the mindset of an arrogant woman who for years has put up with the men around her (remember Hollywood is a cesspool) and believes herself to be some beacon of feminine light in the darkness. Burning the tree of the Force is setting fire the the patriarchy. The subtext of The Last Jedi is very deep and very post-modern. It’s a reflection of Queen Kennedy. It’s also why they had to destroy what Star Wars meant to us and why half the audience hates this film.
Presumably the newer, younger generation of Star Wars fans Kennedy and Johnson were looking to create aren’t really the same people Lucasfilm would expect to be chomping at the bit for a Solo movie. Kennedy and company just spent the last two years telling fans of the “old” story that it was time for them to move on. Star Wars isn’t for you anymore. It’s time to let the past go. As Kylo Ren put it, “Kill it if you have to”.
And that is exactly what Kennedy and Johnson did. But you can’t spend millions of dollars and dozens of months killing an institution and then turn around and expect the very fans you told to “get over it” to buy a story from the very past you just set fire to.
Star Wars is infinitely entertaining. The possibilities are limitless in that universe and with careful guidance that is rooted in the desire to tell good stories, the fandom will go just about anywhere you take them.
But it seems the one place they couldn’t go is back to a past that not only doesn’t exist, but is treated with contempt by the very people who hold it’s future in their hands.