Has the Star Wars franchise peaked? Is it running out of steam? If you listen to some of the voices in the fan base, or certain critics, you begin to get that impression.
I don’t think so.
On FilmRejects.com, Max Covill states the film “didn’t connect with audiences.” I’ll address that assertion in a moment. Covill goes on to say why he thinks the movie didn’t live up to box office projections (a bit different assertion):
A few explanations come to mind for what might’ve happened to this latest entry in the Star Wars canon. The biggest of which might be box-office fatigue. The Last Jedi launched in theaters around Christmas time and that meant only five months between the release of Star Wars features. Never in the history of the franchise have movies released that close to one another. Star Wars has always been positioned as an event film. When you make it a common occurrence, it becomes less exciting. Disney might have thought they could get away with it, given how their Marvel movies have been released, but it doesn’t work for Star Wars. The series’ next entry, Episode IX, won’t launch until Christmas 2019. By then, the fever for a new Star Wars feature will be higher than right now for sure.
Covill doesn’t believe the franchise is over, by any means, but that this particular film just doesn’t live up to Star Wars standards. I’ll let you decide for yourself if this is true. Just, please, watch the movie for yourself before you decide if you like it, and then consider what I have to say below.
Before I get into the movie itself, I want to clarify some things about the box office numbers, and the connection with the audience.
- If you look at the box office records for every Star Wars film which opened on a Memorial Day weekend, Solo is number one. The only other Disney film which did a better box office on that holiday weekend is Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
- Solo was the number one domestic movie from the day that it officially came out until Friday, June 8, when Ocean’s 8 (deservedly) took the top spot. Solo was number three, behind the newcomer Hereditary, and still ahead of Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War. May and June have been very competitive months, and the matchups certainly have hurt the numbers for Solo.
- Solo is the number 5 box office movie of 2018, hitting that mark in only its second week in theaters.
- The audience has connected with the movie. As of this writing, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 71% critics score, and a 65% audience score. These are not nearly as high as the scores for Rogue One, but the audience score for Solo is higher than for The Last Jedi. The audience seems to be more critical when it comes to Star Wars films that resurrect main characters, which is understandable. But, while The Last Jedi was much preferred by the critics, Solo is preferred over Last Jedi by the general audience.
So much has been said already about Solo that I have decided to go a little rogue with my review of the film. There will be spoilers ahead, so if you have yet to see the film, I would recommend you view it before continuing. I contend there are some great things in the movie, and I’d hate to spoil the fun. My concentration will be not so much on the plot, but how Solo fits into the Star Wars universe, and whether the harsh criticisms made about it are justified.
When we first meet Han Solo in the 1977 movie which started it all, we meet a jaded man who is all about himself. Leia tells him, “If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.” Han has lived the greater portion of his life serving the underworld. He is about survival, and has learned to fear gangsters more than the Empire.
But, as we find out at the end of that movie, there is a “good guy” side to him, too. Han doubts along the way, but he always comes back, becoming an important part of the Rebellion. However, when the New Republic fails, it is no wonder that in The Force Awakens we find back to his old pirate ways. Even then, when he meets up with Rey and Finn, he tell them the stories about The Force are “all true.” There is still a small hope alive in him after all he’s been through.
Ironically, the Han we meet in Solo is hopeful in an era when hope had been lost. He dreams of leaving his taskmasters, with Qi’ra at his side. He is not the jaded man we saw in the original trilogy. He is only interested in money as a means to escape and give himself a chance. Even his experience of war doesn’t completely destroy the altruism which lies beneath the surface. He is happy to let Enfys Nest have the coaxium, even if he is unwilling to join her group, which apparently is a germ of the Rebellion.
Qi’ra, however, has her own agenda. She certainly still has feelings for Han, but not an unconditional, sacrificial love. Nor does she believe Han would love her back if he knew what she had done. She only knows how to use him for her own advantage. At first it looks like Qi’ra betrays Dryden Vos simply because of her love for Han, but she has a more insidious purpose. She wants power.
Qi’ra now takes Dryden Vos’ mantle, and the movie sets itself up for a sequel, or at least a potential television series. It is also revealed Crimson Dawn is under the control of Maul (formerly Darth Maul). Some have complained about Maul’s appearance in the film, but many who have watched the animated series and read the comics know how he fits. If you are interested, here is a good place to start: Star Wars Solo movie: How did Darth Maul survive? What is Crimson Dawn?
The movie ends with Han being betrayed by both Qi’ra and Beckett, whom he shoots first—an obvious reference to the controversy over who shot first in the bar scene in A New Hope. With all he has been through, Han still has a positive attitude. He goes back to beat Lando at his own game, and wins the Millennium Falcon. He then talks about going to Tatooine to work for the Hutts.
Some of you who have made it this far into my piece are asking, “Who cares?” And you have a right to ask. Some of you don’t care about the minutiae of Han Solo’s life; you’d like to just leave him as you knew him in the original trilogy. And that’s fine.
But some of us want to know. We want to know how Han got his last name and what making the Kessel run in 12 parsecs means. (I was delighted to know I was right in saying, all these years, that Han had to be talking about distance, not speed.) We want to know how Han met Chewbacca. We want to know the story about how Han got the Millennium Falcon.
I am one of those guys who actually plodded through The Silmarillion because he wanted to know the backstory. Admittedly, it was not as pleasurable as reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I watched the Star Wars prequels, too. Not because they were top-notch movies; they weren’t. But they satisfied an itch that could not be satisfied any other way. I wanted to know. And there is a certain satisfaction in knowing.
And apparently millions of others wanted to know, too.