Friday, June 1, 2018

Why Did Solo Bomb?

As you have read in my review, I thoroughly enjoyed Solo: A Star Wars Story.  But this movie was not only incredibly expensive to make (even by Hollywood standards), but it drew in disappointing numbers.  As of this writing it has only made $200 million worldwide.  That may sound like a lot, but consider that the movie cost around a rumored $250-$300 million.  Then you double that for advertisement and marketing.  It looks like Solo will lose money.

And I think this is a shame since the movie was enjoyable fun.  I even plan on seeing it again.

So why didn't something with the Star Wars brand become a hit?

Many people have offered their opinions, some of which are, to put charitably, stupid. 

Among them I've heard that audiences are feeling Star Wars Fatigue.  This ridiculous.  If you have a franchise people love, they will continue to pay money.  Look at Infinity War's box office which came out 2 months after Black PantherStar Wars is an institution.  Young and old want to like these movies. 

I will now offer my reasons for the poor box office and you may feel free to let me know where I am going wrong.

1.  Bad Trailer

A trailer can make or break box office, of this I am firmly convinced.  There have been movies that I've never heard of who won over my money with a great trailer.  There have been movies about which I was excited that doused all of my enthusiasm with a terrible trailer.

Solo gave us the latter. 

Those early trailers gave us know strong indication of the the story and worst of all, we got no sense of the man himself.  I don't recall seeing the lead actor say a line on camera in that first teaser, thus fueling the rumors that his performance was terrible (turned out it wasn't). 

Granted the later trailers improved, but you only get one chance to make a first impression.

2.  Politics

Leading up to the movie, websites thought it would be a good idea to play up Lando as being pansexual.  This and the preview buzz around the Social Justice Droid (as the people at Red Letter Media dubbed her), L3-37 brought Solo into the culture wars in a way that did more to turn people away than draw them in.  The same thing happened with the Ghostbusters reboot.

The idea of Lando hitting on lifeforms of all species is more reminiscent of Captain Kirk than Albus Dumbledore.  And L3 was played mostly for laughs than lectures.  Nevertheless, people do not like to go to movies to be lectured at.

Star Wars should take a cue from Marvel.  The last two Captain America movies were political in the sense that it dealt with issues of government, liberty, and rights.  But it never felt like your own political and moral belief were being insulted or greatly challenged.  There is a place for that kind of cinema, but not if you want to appeal to the widest audience possible. 

3.  Fan Betrayal

This may be the most important one.  Many fans were lukewarm on Rogue One after seeing it and making it a hit.  But more importantly many felt betrayed by Rian Johnson's take on the Star Wars mythology in The Last Jedi.  Even though I loved Episode VIII, I am not blind to what that movie meant to a lot of the long time devotees of the saga.

This is not the same as making a bad movie.  Many fans railed against the quality of The Phantom Menace, and yet the following sequels made money. 

Instead, many felt that Disney, Kathleen Kennedy in particular, has taken something that they love and ruined it.  She hired Johnson who on some fundamental levels does not understand Star Wars and doesn't care about the fans.  There is something to be said about expanding the franchise to bring in new customers.  But it should not be done at the expense of the current ones.  McDonald's added salads for people who want to eat healthier.  It did not then promote the salads above the Big Mac and lecture the customers who did not enjoy salads.  Many fans felt like changes to the the saga were done at the expense of the core themes of Star Wars.  And if fans expressed this, they felt dismissed as retrograde in their tastes.  Whether or not this what Disney intended, that is how many feel about the family-friendly property.

After the one-two punch of Rogue One and The Last Jedi, many fans would not give Solo a chance. 

I hope good word of mouth will give Solo a second wind.  It does feel like a course correction to the dark directions the franchise has been headed.

We will find out with Episode IX if the right lessons have been learned.

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