Lucasfilm, ever since it was bought by Disney, has been known to do a lot of behind-the-scenes tweaking of its Star Wars slate. People forget that. Star Wars: The Force Awakens tossed the script of an Academy Award-winning writer and got delayed from summer to winter of 2015. Josh Trank’s untitled Star Wars Story got thrown out completely when they fired him before production even started. Gareth Edwards had Rogue One essentially taken away from him, with Tony Gilroy coming in to write and direct a metric ton of new material. Colin Trevorrow got canned before he could get Episode IX made, leading to that film also getting delayed. And yet, up until now, they’ve managed to avoid any large-scale public relations disasters because the movies they’ve released have all been well-received. With Solo: A Star Wars Story, that may all change…
See, Solo: A Star Wars Story, similar to its other brethren within this new crop of films from that galaxy far, far away, has been the subject of its own massive overhaul. Only this time, things got really far along before they course-corrected. As in, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were a mere two weeks away from finishing up principal photography when they were suddenly fired and subsequently replaced by Ron Howard. Howard didn’t merely finish the two remaining weeks that were left; He shot months worth of reshoots.
This feels, in many ways, similar to what happened with Zack Snyder on Justice League. Snyder had completed principal photography and was preparing to enter the next phase of post when the studio decided that his rough cut of the film was so off-target that they had to bring in Joss Whedon to change a huge portion of things.
Then, as reports started to leak about how massive the overhaul was going to be, the cast and studio went out there and did damage control. Everyone insisted, publicly, that the film was still Snyder’s and that Whedon was merely completing the original director’s vision while he mourned the tragic loss of his daughter, Autumn. When Justice League finally arrived in theaters, it was apparent that everyone had been trying to conceal and minimize what had truly been a complete facelift of the film. It was all just PR for the sake of selling the movie.
Meanwhile, questions arose. Questions like, “How could Warner Bros let this happen? This is the first-ever Justice League movie, yet it feels oddly rushed- with CG that was several months away from being ready for mass-consumption and a villain that feels like he was just a cog in a much larger wheel. Why didn’t they delay this thing to help smooth out the edges?”
The uncomfortable answer to those questions about Justice League, for those unafraid to be frank and cynical about it, is: The studio gave up. They knew this was as good as they could get it without actually going back and starting from scratch. They’d already spent in the neighborhood of $250-$300 Million on it and they didn’t want to keep throwing money at it. They knew this thing was going to be a problem, so they just dumped it into theaters to get it over with and move on to their revamped DCU 2.0.
And I’m afraid the same thing is happening to Solo: A Star Wars Story.
A couple of days ago, we published an article about the apparent confidence the cast had in Ron Howard, where they all took turns saying how wonderfully seamless the transition was from Lord & MIller to Howard. One quote, from Donald Glover (who plays Lando Calrissian in the film) is particularly puzzling:
“I think we were never faced with anything like that and he did a good job of coming in and didn’t want us to change what we were doing at all. He wanted us to be comfortable with our vision.”
How can that possibly be true? The entire reason Lord & Miller got sacked two weeks before completing principal photography was because you guys “were doing” wasn’t working! Reports flooded the net that the tone of what they were shooting was all off, that it felt almost like Curb Your Enthusiasm in space! Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan reportedly fought with the duo because their penchant for improvisation on set was leading to stark departures from the script. So how can you sit there and tell us that Howard seamlessly stepped in and didn’t want you to change what you guys had been doing under Lord and Miller?
It’s honestly ridiculous.
That’s one of the things that makes this reek of Justice League-level damage control by the people involved with the production.
But we can take this comparison even further. The film is a mere five months away and we have yet to see a trailer! In fact, we haven’t even seen an official image of Alden Ehrenreich has Han Solo. We’ve seen, essentially, nothing. All we got was this paltry “Official Synopsis” yesterday:
“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 co-pilot 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.”
Yikes. This sounds like a Disney XD cartoon!
The fact that Lucasfilm has kept things so guarded doesn’t bode well. You have to understand that mainstream audiences don’t even have this film on their radars yet. The lack of any real promotion for the flick seems to imply that Lucasfilm isn’t feeling confident about it yet. It was one thing when they saved the first trailer for The Last Jedi for only a few months before its release, because the collective pop culture consciousness already knew the film was coming. That’s not true of Solo.
The more you look at the writing on the wall, and the more you consider the fact that Lucasfilm is adamantly sticking to that May 25 release instead of delaying it to allow for a more robust post-production period, the more you get the sense that they’re just looking to get this over with and focus their energies on Star Wars: Episode IV and the rumored Obi-Wan movie.
No one can reasonably argue that its post-production isn’t in an insane rush. Consider this:
- The film was hugely reshot only months ago
- They’re currently doing routine reshoots
- With five months left, they have to finish off all of the effects that go into making a Star Wars film look like a Star Wars film
- We’re fine months from release, they have to actually introduce the film to mass audiences, and actually promote the thing…which will be opening only three weeks after another Disney monolith: Avengers: Infinity War.
By comparison, The Force Awakens had wrapped principal photography 13 months before its release; The Last Jedi had wrapped principal photography a full 17 months before its release.
Why are they rushing through this? Why aren’t they just pushing it to December- a month that has housed all three of the recent Star Wars films, thus training audiences to expect a new movie every year around Christmastime? Why do they refuse to show us anything from the film?
While it’s impossible to say without seeing the film, the answer seems to be: They know they’ve got a clunker on their hands and, similar to what Warner Bros. did with Justice League, they’re just going to dump it into theaters and let audiences put it out of its misery.