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Will You be Ready for Yet Another “Star Wars” Film ... in Four Short Months?

Updated on January 20, 2018
From left: Emilia Clarke as Kira, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, and Jonas Suotama as Chewbacca. The artwork is unofficial.
From left: Emilia Clarke as Kira, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, and Jonas Suotama as Chewbacca. The artwork is unofficial.

The “Star Wars” Brand is Alive, Well ... and Healthy. Believe it or Not.

We have no official trailer, nor any official images as yet, but we do have a synopsis:

Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in Solo: A Star Wars Story, an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes.

I can’t wait.

A buddy of mine writes for Forbes. He loathed - understatement of the decade - The Last Jedi, and has spilled a great deal of ink over nearly a dozen articles about how that polarizing episode of the legendary Star Wars saga irrevocably damaged the franchise. For me, The Last Jedi was easily the series’ finest entry since The Empire Strikes Back. Both evolved the saga by moving the storyline forward; both proved controversial on their initial release for that very reason. My friend, who refused to arm wrestle me over the merits of Episode 8 (winner would post a public Facebook recanting and free dinner for a week) shifted his Forbes focus to the boxoffice grosses:

’The new film is an unmitigated disaster for Disney,’ he said. ‘It’s a bomb of historic proportions.’ I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the gist. ‘It will only gross a third of The Force Awakens; what a catastrophic drop-off!’

I answered back, several times, but it didn’t matter. Though I have a substantial social media following, his is a larger forum. “On it’s first release,“ I said, “the original Star Wars (pre-title tweak to Episode IV: A New Hope), grossed $307,263,857, en route to a lifetime domestic gross of $460,998,007. Conversely, The Empire Strikes Back, which many initially opined was not nearly as light or “fun” as its predecessor, grossed $209,398,025, on its way to a lifetime domestic gross of $290,475,067.

All boxoffice figures are courtesy of Boxoffice Mojo (www.boxofficemojo.com). Note The Empire Strikes Back is now widely considered to be the finest Star Wars film of them all. Its worldwide gross (as with these other numbers unadjusted for inflation) stands at $538,375,067. The original film‘s final worldwide tally is $775,398,007, both all the more impressive when one considers the years they were in theaters.

The first film opened in 1977; the second in 1980. For the record, Return of the Jedi earned more than the second film, attaining an initial domestic gross of nearly $50 million more than Empire.

Today, The Force Awakens maintains the number one spot of all domestic feature film releases, an astounding first release domestic gross of $936,662, 225, with a worldwide gross of $2.068 billion. The Last Jedi, as of the end of this weekend, will have grossed, domestically, a total of $603+ million, with a worldwide-in-progress gross of nearly $1.3 billion. The film is winding down its run, but is expected to gross up to another $30-$40 million in the U.S. and Canada, and about the same worldwide.

When all is said and done, The Last Jedi should hit #5 of all time on the domestic list, #8 of all time on the worldwide list, and adjusted for inflation, #35 or thereabouts. The drop-offs from The Last Jedi to The Force Awakens are very similar in trajectory to those from Episode 4 to Episode 5.

No one cared back then. Today, many of those who believe The Last Jedi hurt the series are squarely on my friend’s side. Star Wars is over!” they say. “It’s dead! Rian Johnson ruined it!”

We heard all this upon the release of The Phantom Menace too, which, incidentally, I pretty much loathed. It still grossed $460 million domestically. “George Lucas raped my childhood!” was the usual refrain. Years later, The Force Awakens more than doubled the gross of TPM. Yeah, it’s dead. The brand is forever tarnished.

Hardly. Disney will continue to make a mint on this acquisition, and we will continue to be its audience. Despite our protests to the contrary.

So what does any of this have to do with new new Solo film? What’s with all the facts and figures? I can hear it now: “Under that measure, then Transformers is one of the greatest films ever.“ No. George Lucas’ creation is unlike any series ever in terms of the size and passion of its fanbase, and its consistency as a top performer. And many of the films, prequels aside, were sizable critical hits. For the purpose of this article, I had to delve into the Star Wars is dead myth to remind us all that a new Star Wars film opens on May 25. I’m counting. Four months and four days from the time of this writing.

I’ll be there on opening day. Will you?

The cast of “Solo.”
The cast of “Solo.”

Deja Vu

The hardcore fanbase is in an uproar. “The Last Jedi is a disgrace,” those againsters are saying (the late, great James Cagney was nicknamed “The Professional Againster” by Warner Brothers head Jack Warner; I had to use it once somewhere). “It’s time to move on,” many of them conclude. Peruse a random geek site talkback thread, and you’ll frequently see in the very next sentence something along these lines: “There’s been nothing released about Solo yet. How much longer do we have to wait? When will we finally get a trailer, a poster, or anything about Solo?” And those comments are oft-punctuated with, “That’s because it’s going to flop. Disney must already be counting their losses!”

Solo, full title Solo: A Star Wars Story, is the second standalone Star Wars film since Disney purchased George Lucas’ intellectual property for $4 billion. Rogue One, the first standalone, was a smash hit, well-placed in the Top 10 of all-time domestic grossers. That film, though, had a troubled production history. Reshoots of the Gareth Edwards movie took place months prior to its release, when the film was well into its post-production phase. Disney paid $5 million to bring in veteran writer and director Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Ultimatum) to script new scenes that would tighten action and character, while editor John Gilroy, also a latecomer, helped reconceptualize some of the story. Actor Ben Mendelsohn further stated that there were “20 to 30 of the scenes” that were switched from their original scripted order. Once the film was released, it was notable that many clips shown in the film’s trailers did not exist in the final cut.

The end result was either a happy accident, or a scrupulously-executed risk that paid off beyond anyone’s expectations. Rogue One was a critical and commercial smash.

Solo has received dire word-of-mouth, but not based on any pre-screened footage. The negative buzz has been based in part on a revealing June 26, 2017 Hollywood Reporter expose detailing the film’s production woes. The article is linked here: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/star-wars-han-solo-movie-firing-new-details-behind-phil-lord-chris-miller-exit-1016619.

Original directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord were fired, and ultimately replaced by Ron Howard. The editor was replaced, and a last-minute acting coach for star Alden Ehrenreich was brought onboard to strengthen his performance.

Not exactly confidence builders, you know?

Publicity still of Harrison Ford as Han Solo, from the original 1977 “Star Wars.”
Publicity still of Harrison Ford as Han Solo, from the original 1977 “Star Wars.”
Harrison Ford as Han Solo, from 2015’s “The Force Awakens.”
Harrison Ford as Han Solo, from 2015’s “The Force Awakens.”

The Harrison Ford Factor

How does one assume one of filmdom’s most iconic roles from one of its most beloved performers?

Harrison Ford became a legend with Star Wars, which set him on his course as the second-highest-grossing film actor ever (presently behind only Samuel L. Jackson). The collective of Ford’s films, domestically, have grossed nearly $5 billion.

Alden Ehrenreich is best known for his roles in Hail, Ceasar! and Beautiful Creatures. The search for the new Han Solo was intense, and one has to assume that the studio, and Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm, saw something in his audition.

Still, the acting coach hired in mid-production was all-too-real. The Hollywood Reporter expose was well-researched.

The film will be released in four months, and we’ve yet to see a thing save for some fan videos and images, such as those below.

So what gives?

The First Word Hits. And the Word is Good.

First footage of Solo was recently shown at a Disney trade show in Germany. One viewer who posted his thoughts online offered thIs:

”Aldren Ehrenreich is amazing as Han Solo ... (the film) definitely has an old Star Wars feel to it.”

Now, I’m not resting my hopes on a post of that nature, but it nonetheless offers a glimmer of hope.

Fandango currently lists Solo: A Star Wars Story as number four on their list of most anticipated films of the year. The anticipation is building.

Will Rogue One history repeat itself? Time will tell.

Will You See “Solo: A Star Wars Story?”

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