Solo: A Star Wars Story has been facing an uphill battle ever since its inception. The idea of a Star Wars prequel film about a younger Han Solo was a tough sell; to fans, the prospect of anyone other than Harrison Ford playing the Han Solo role was pretty much blaspheme. Buzz for Solo didn't seem all that big going into spring 2018 - but in true Disney/Lucasfilm fashion, things seem to be turning around!
So could Solo: A Star Wars Story end up being the surprise hit of the 2018 summer movie season? Let's break it down!
Some New Hope
Now that the summer movies are here, Solo has come racing out of the background and quickly established itself as one of the most highly-anticipated films in the lineup. As of writing this, Solo has been outpacing Marvel's Black Panther in advanced ticket sales, with the film in range of a $170M opening weekend box office, according to projections. That's not too shabby for a movie that many were openly worried would go down as one of the biggest flops in Star Wars history, just a month ago.
So what's led to this turn around in opinion? Well, no doubt the usual summer movie hype and increased awareness on the part of mainstream viewers; however, a change in strategy has also helped Solo out in a big way.
Embracing the Underworld
A few weeks back, we broke down why Solo needed to make more out of its Star Wars underworld connections. The early marketing for the film tried to sell audiences on the idea of this new, younger, version of Han Solo - but as stated, fan reception to actor Alden Ehrenreich taking on the role was lukewarm, at best.
The latest batch of Solo trailers and promos have instead focused a lot more on the crew of unsavory characters that join Han Solo and Chewbacca on one of their first big heists. That includes Donald Glover (Atlanta) as a younger Lando Calrissian; Thandie Newtwon (Westworld) as Val; Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) as Han's childhood friend (and potential femme fatale) Qi-Ra; and Marvel movie stars Paul Bettany as crimelord Dryden Vos and Jon Favreau as Rio Durant, Beckett's pilot sidekick. That cast is diverse lineup of some of the more popular TV and/or movie actors around right now, and they all come with proven chops to play great scoundrels and/or schemers.
Touting this lineup of galactic underworld characters, and the big heist at the center of the story, has repositioned Solo in the light of a cool, retro, vibe. That tone not only jibes with the aesthetic of the Original Trilogy, but also invokes the atmosphere of a '70s-era heist film, which helps distinguish Solo from the other Star Wars movies. It's also an exciting hook for mainstream moviegoers, who may better connect to a sci-f crime story, rather than the more fantastical Force user narratives of the main Episodes.
Aside from tone, or franchise mythos, the other main reason that Solo is gaining hype and attracting a bigger audience, is that the most recent trailers and promos have been selling fans an exciting action-adventure experience that is the signature of Star Wars.
For all the concerns about director Ron Howard taking over for Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the footage makes it look like Howard has actually done a pretty impressive job, with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young (Arrival, Selma) helping deliver epic shots like this:
There's been palpable reaction on social media to shots and sequences like the one above. Early on, there were vocal concerns that Ron Howard's directorial style would be too bland and boring for a Star Wars film. Now, after seeing these sorts of clips, even cinephiles seem to be coming around to the idea that Solo could offer actual technical and artistic flare, along with an exciting crime-heist storyline.
Taken altogether, that's a lot of boxes being checked off for hardcore Star Wars fans and casual moviegoers alike. In other words: it's a recipe for potentially big success.
Do you think that Solo: A Star Wars Story will be the surprise hit of summer 2018? Or do you think it will crash and burn? Let us know in the comments!
Solo: A Star Wars Story warps into theaters on May 25th.