All the behind-the-scenes drama that went down on Solo: A Star Wars Story, and why you should watch it
“Is anyone really desperate to see Solo: A Star Wars Story?” That’s the headline of a Guardian story that argues Solo: A Star Wars Story, the second in the spin-off series that runs parallel to the main trilogy of films, is an unnecessary addition to the blockbuster franchise. And going by the box office performance of the last three Star Wars films in India, the Guardian might be on to something.
The Last Jedi, the last Star Wars movie to release, made less than Rs 10 crore in its entire India run. In comparison, Avengers: Infinity War made more than Rs 100 crore in its opening weekend.
And of all the new Star Wars films - the series was rebooted in 2015 with JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens - Solo is inarguably the most minor of the lot. There is a clear preference given to the main trilogy - a third and final film, also directed by Abrams, will release in 2019 - but strangely enough, Solo might be the best option for newbies.
In 2016, we saw the first of the planned spin-offs to the main series in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which was a prequel that was directly connected to 1977’s first film. But Solo takes the saga even further back into the past. It focusses on one of the series’ favourite characters, Han Solo, played originally by Harrison Ford.
Alden Ehrenreich steps into Ford’s large shoes, and while things looked a little shaky for a while - uninspiring rumours that an acting coach had to be hired for him on set were floated for a while - he has received very positive reviews for his performance.
Solo was completed before schedule, which is remarkable because for several months, it seemed like the project was doomed. But when it was screened for the press for the first time - two whole weeks before release, a sign of great confidence by the studio - it received generally positive reviews.
Director Ron Howard was lauded for his deft handling of the series’ legacy, and for his ability to tell a fast-paced adventure story.
But Howard signed on to the film when it only had a few weeks of shooting left. Solo was initially supposed to be directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directing duo behind the two Jump Street movies and the Lego Movie, but they were abruptly fired at a dangerously late stage in production. It was later reported that their freewheeling directing style clashed with LucasFilm boss Kathleen Kennedy’s more meticulous approach. Howard, an old friend of Kennedy’s, was quickly brought on board as a replacement, days after Lord and Miller were sacked.
What were initially reported to be routine reshoots lasting no longer than a few weeks turned into a four month race to the finish line, as Howard, a veteran of the industry with hits such as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and the Da Vinci Code under his belt, scrambled to deliver a $250 million film on time. And he did, with days to spare, even for the much publicised screening at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
A recent report in Variety said that Howard ended up reshooting 85% of Solo, which was enough to get him sole directing credit on the film, with Lord and Miller being relegated to executive producers. But Howard said that ‘their fingerprints are all over’ the final cut.
But with a strong if not spectacular rating of 72% on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Solo retains the Star Wars’ series streak of delivering critically approved films, even if fans have a different opinion altogether. The Last Jedi was infamously trashed by a section of the devoted fanbase, who claimed that director Rian Johnson had taken too many liberties with the characters.
Again, in that regard, Solo is by all accounts a more traditional Star Wars story. “Solo: A Star Wars Story should satisfy newcomers to the saga as well as longtime fans,” Rotten Tomatoes’ critics consensus reads.
And this is precisely what the franchise needs -- a movie that can introduce new fans to what has traditionally been an American favourite. And Disney has recognised this necessity in the film’s marketing campaign in the world’s second biggest movie market, China. The Force Awakens did well in the country, grossing over $120 million, but Rogue One, despite the inclusion of two big Chinese stars, witnessed a significant drop, ending up with $69 million. The Last Jedi continued this downward trend, and finished its run with less than $50 million. In comparison, Infinity War opened to more than $200 million recently.
Like Indians, the Chinese have also been rather unenthusiastic about Star Wars, which is probably why Disney has ditched the ‘Star Wars’ moniker altogether from the film’s China release. It will instead be called Ranger Solo in the Middle Kingdom.
So all hopes for the series future - which will include two new trilogies, one by Rian Johnson and another, unrelated series by Game of Thrones’ DB Weiss and David Benioff, and a live action TV series from Jon Favreau - have been dumped on the shoulders of Solo.
But as Harrison Ford’s character says in the original films, “Never tell me the odds!”
Solo: A Star Wars Story will release worldwide this Friday. The film also stars Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Donald Glover.
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