There's little over a month to go before Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters - not that you can really tell. At the time of writing this, the level of enthusiasm for Solo seems to be so low that many moviegoers probably don't even know that it will be dropping in theaters right on the heels of big headliners like Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2.
Solo runs a real danger of being the most underwhelming and disappointing Star Wars movie to come along since the prequels -- possibly even worse than those films, which had an passionate audience. However, the problem with Solo is arguably not with the film itself, but rather, with the way Lucasfilm has marketed.
Here's why Solo: A Star Wars Story should be marketed as the first Star Wars Underworld film.
The biggest misstep of Solo's marketing campaign has been trying to put star Alden Ehrenreich front and center, and rely on the appeal of seeing the Han Solo character once again take center stage in the Star Wars universe. The reasons why this has been a glaring error are pretty clear:
- Nowhere in the marketing does Ehrenretich come even close to matching the charisma of Harrison Ford.
- Without establishing Han as an entertaining centerpiece, the entire marketing strategy behind the film (selling the backstory of Han Solo and Chewbacca's early days as smugglers) quickly unravels.
What we've been left with is a generic odd-pair heist comedy with a sci-fi backdrop. Due to the limited staples of the franchise that can fit into this particular story (set between the end of Revenge of the Sith and beginning of Rogue One), it doesn't even look or feel much like a Star Wars movie; you could swap in any other big sci-fi adventure franchise name (say... Star Trek?) and Solo would conceivably fit right in.
So if trying to hang this story on a failed concept like a Han Solo origin was wrong, what would be the right move? Well...
Welcome to the Underworld
The debate over whether "Solo: A Star Wars Story" was even a title worth going with will rage for some time in the fandom, but no matter what the title implied, the marketing for the film could've pushed a much more expansive view: our first deep foray into that fan-favored Star Wars Underworld!
Talk of a Boba Fett or "Star Wars Bounty Hunters" movie has been going on for decades within the fandom - and there's probably never been a better time. A story about the corruption and underhanded dealings that came in the wake of the Empire's rise to power would be almost to timely; more to the point, it would be a much better hook to get a wider portion of the Star Wars fanbase involved in a new wing of the franchise, while enticing causal moviegoers with promise of a blockbuster-style galactic crime story.
The most frustrating part is: the elements for such a marketing play are already in place! Solo has a fantastic supporting cast of famous faces all playing ne'er-do-well figures from within the Star Wars underworld (or adjacent to it), including Donald Glover (Atlanta) as a younger Lando Calrissian; Thandie Newtwon (Westworld) as Val; Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) as 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's an incredible ensemble for director Ron Howard to be working with, yet the marketing of Solo has been so lost in its nostalgia play that it hasn't bothered to push the gathering of morally questionable individuals and their interactions as its main attraction. Films like Ocean's Eleven and Deadpool 2 have found great success in taking that approach -- so not sure why Solo has chosen skip that opportunity.
A Fragile Hope
The marketing for Solo won't kick into high-gear for a few more weeks, so there is still hope for a big change in strategy. It's also important to note that the actual film may indeed play up its underworld setting and impressive ensemble to perfection; it'll just be a shame if the box office doesn't reflect that accomplishment, because a poor marketing campaign failed to draw viewers in. After so much success, the new Star Wars franchise seems unstoppable; it'd be shame if Solo is the first film to ruin that momentum.
Do you think Solo will be hit? And do you think the film is being marketing correctly? Let us know in the comments!
Solo: A Star Wars Story warps into theaters on May 25th.