The Journey Of Solo: A Star Wars Story To The Screen
January 30th, 2017
Chris Miller tweets an image of a clapperboard with the then working title of Solo, “Red Cup” with the caption “Han first shot”. Production didn’t officially begin until February 20th but let’s just assume then-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were anxious to get started.
— Chris Miller (@chrizmillr) January 30, 2017
May of 2017
Lucasfilm fired editor Chris Dickens and replaced him with Pietro Scalia. At the same time they also brought on an acting coach for the man who would be young Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich, an unusual move on such a large production and an unprecedented move that late in production.
According to reports, Lucasfilm was not satisfied with Ehrenreich’s performance, and there are also reports that the actor was not happy with directors Lord and Miller, either, and let his concerns be known to a producer who moved the news up the ladder to Kathleen Kennedy.
Also in May of 2017, Kathleen Kennedy decided to attempt reign Lord and Miller in by having Lawrence Kasdan shadow them on set. Lord and Miller pushed back against this, and that likely helped lead to their firing.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lord and Miller did not hit it off with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy from the beginning, and both sides constantly battled about how scenes would be shot and how often Lord and Miller strayed from the shooting script. Their improvisational style reportedly led to hundreds of crew members standing around the set without direction and slowed forward progress.
June 20th, 2017
Then Lucasfilm announced that Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the original directors of the Solo: A Star Wars Story, had been fired. The reason cited was “creative differences”, although at the time there had only been a few weeks left on principal photography.
While change-ups in movie productions are de rigueur in Hollywood, and directors being replaced during production is not unheard of, firing the directors at almost the end of the production was an unprecedented move. I can’t think of another example of such a thing happening before.
It’s worth noting that they did not change the May 2018 release date with the firing, and have not moved it since, which one expects has rushed re-shoots and visual effects production on the troubled project.
June 22nd, 2017
Ron Howard is officially announced as the new director.
August of 2017
Next it was announced that Michael Kenneth Williams’ role was being cut from Solo, and he was being replaced by Paul Bettany. This was in part because of the large number of re-shoots Ron Howard was planning and scheduling conflicts with Williams, despite statements from Lucasfilm that much of the Lord and Miller footage was “extremely usable”.
September of 2017
In September it was widely reported than Ron Howard would, at the end of the day, ultimately have ended up re-shooting 80% of the movie.
October of 2017
Finally, Solo: A Star Wars Story got its title. This occurred at the same time that principal photography ended. It was not particularly well-received by a number of fans, but that’s a minor issue compared to others.
December of 2017
In December ScreenGeek reported that Disney was preparing for Solo to bomb. A source informed them:
“Disney is bracing themselves for the Han Solo movie to bomb. They were worried about it before all The Last Jedi controversy, but now they’re essentially writing Solo off. The lead actor, Alden Ehrenreich, can’t act, and they had a dialogue coach on hand for all of his scenes. On top of that, the script is unworkable. It’s going to be a car crash.”
Also in December of 2017, Paul Bettany told a journalist during an interview that Ron Howard had been forced to re-shoot much more of the film than he had originally intended— all while maintaining the May 2018 deadline.
February 4th, 2018
On February 4th, Lucasfilm released a brief teaser trailer during the Super Bowl. Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo was conspicuously absent.
February 5th, 2018
On , the first full trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story debuted. The general reaction was positive but a number of fans expressed concern about Ehrenreich’s performance, many saying the trailer had everything… except Han Solo. It became clear that there is some concern that Alden does not make for a convincing version of the famous space smuggler.
March 1st, 2018
On , French Artist Hachim Bahous claimed that Disney directly stole his artwork for their Solo posters, having obviously ripped off designs he had done for a series of CDs in terms of both typeface and coloration. With no official word from Disney, they ceased using the stolen artwork and came up with a new series of posters.
March 21st, 2018
Then the news broke that new posters for Solo had been released, now sporting a version of Han Solo with his handy blaster suspiciously omitted. Pre-release images of the poster designs for the media had featured Solo brandishing his weapon. Turns out Disney had all the guns removed from the Solo posters, which resulted in a great deal of eye rolling from fans.
March 23rd, 2018
Lord and Miller announce they were taking an executive producer credit on the movie. No director credit as they didn’t really direct it, almost all of their material being re-shot.
March 26th, 2018
Business Insider published a story on March 26th detailing some of the problems behind the scenes with Lord and Miller. The actor complained that the directors seemed unsure of what they were doing, and would demand more than 30 takes or more per scene, all while not getting the 10-12 angles that Lucasfilm/Kathleen Kennedy wanted for each shot.
The actor also confirmed that despite his late arrival, Ron Howard ended up re-shooting essentially everything Lord and Miller had done up until that point.
Although Lord and Miller deny this, the actor also claimed the first assistant director had to step in and help Lord and Miller direct a lot of the scenes.
The actor also suggested that everything was smooth sailing after Howard arrived, so one could be forgiven for thinking this story is an intentional Lucasfilm plant.
March 28th, 2018
The Guardian publishes a piece with the click-baity headline, “Is The Han Solo Star Wars spin-off spiraling towards disaster?”
However, the story dismisses the problematic Solo timeline, saying Rogue One had a troubled production and turned out fine. Although the bit that makes me suspect this article is pure shilling is this:
“Studio big cheese Kathleen Kennedy has spent three decades proving herself capable of alchemy, so why should we doubt her now?”
The article goes on to continue to make the case that there’s no reason to be worried about Solo, and that the twisted path Solo has taken to the screen will be just like how Han Solo survived deadly asteroid fields and Imperial garbage compactors in the original trilogy.
Which leads me to suspect that, as Solo‘s opening date of May 23rd, 2018 nears, Lucasfilm is enaged in an active, behind-the-scenes effort to downplay both the negatives and insist that, whatever happens, Kathleen Kennedy is doing a really, really good job as steward of the franchise.
Expect a lot more of this kind of thing leading up to opening day.
Just What Is Solo Facing On Opening Day?
Now that I’ve reached the end of my timeline, I want to step back a little bit.
Another thing happened in December 2017 that might not appear directly relevant to the future of Solo: A Star Wars Story to the casual observer. That is, The Last Jedi was released to a great deal of negative reaction from old fans and newer fans alike.
Although many people loved and praised the film, it has both critically and financially underperformed The Force Awakens, and don’t think the suits at Lucasfilm didn’t notice.
The Last Jedi was savaged by Star Wars fans and some non-fans in a way that The Force Awakens never was. And that is not good news for Solo.
Let Me Explain
Rogue One — the interim film following The Force Awakens — made a very decent $1.1 billion worldwide compared to The Force Awakens $2.1 billion. That’s a fall off of nearly 50% from trilogy film to stand-alone, when Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm was still a new thing for moviegoers and the general response to The Force Awakens was largely positive.
While there has also been a lot of positive response to TLJ, the negative response has been orders of magnitude more negative than anything experienced by TFA or Rogue One. The Last Jedi has cleared $1.3 billion as of this writing, a little over $300 million more than Rogue One but almost $800 million less than The Force Awakens.
If the relationship of Rogue One to The Force Awakens is reflected in the performance of Solo in relationship to The Last Jedi, box office for Solo could be capped at $650 million. Or less.
Solo Will Be A $650 Million Bomb At Best
It’s my opinion that $650 million for Solo is optimistic. Much of the drop off in ticket sales between Force Awakens and Last Jedi came from the latter having much less repeat business than TFA. Some of that can be explained by a general disappointment with the film or exhaustion with the brand, but likely much of it comes from TLJ’s cavalier treatment of the original trilogy in general and the character of Luke Skywalker in particular.
Even after TFA, not everybody was exactly thrilled with how Han Solo’s death was handled. After TLJ, these same people were often disappointed or even outraged in how Luke was treated, Leia’s abrupt display of outrageous force power, and the fact Han’s death was essentially dismissed and in no way memorialized.
So they might have originally planned to come see the movie two or three or four times, but after seeing what the movie actually was, they decided once was enough. Perhaps too much.
After that experience, how many of them really trust Disney and Lucasfilm to do a good job with Han Solo? How likely is it that the OT characters that find themselves prequelized in that movie will be well-treated and not, in some way, insult the memories fans have of the original trilogy? How likely is it the movie won’t end up directly insulting OT fans themselves?
I personally don’t have confidence that Lucasfilm, using its present creative process, is going to honor the character of Han Solo or have anything but disdain for fans of the original trilogy. So when I watch Solo: A Star Wars Story for the first time, it’s almost certainly going to be on HBO or Netflix.
I’m Done Paying Good Money To See These Things
I’m done paying theater money to watch movies that, by themselves, would be mediocre and convoluted big-budget popcorn fare. In the context of them being Star Wars movies, they are likely to distort characters, retcon the timeline, and otherwise flip the bird to old school fans like me who happened to like the original trilogy: fans who were foolishly hoping for more of the same when these new films were originally announced. Why do I want to pay money to be alternately bored, disgusted, and insulted?
It might just be me, but I get the sense I’m not the only fan who paid good money to see both TFA and TLJ that feels that way.
The trailers don’t show enough, and I haven’t heard enough about the story, to know whether they are intentionally flipping the bird to the fanboys on this one or not. But one critical early decision suggests to me either that they are doing just that, or are so clueless about how to make a good Han Solo movie that they never should have even tried.
And that’s the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo.
Not just because they had to hire an acting coach and re-shoot a significant amount of the film, although that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. It’s because nothing about how he looks, his voice, or what I’ve seen in the trailers reminds me remotely of Han Solo. He doesn’t seem to be anything like Han Solo should be, and I expect that’s because evoking the original Han Solo in the minds and hearts of the fans is not something that Lucasfilm cares about. At all.
Anthony Ingruber Would Have Made a Better Han Solo And Everybody Outside of Lucasfilm Knows It
Anthony Ingruber both looks and sounds like a young Harrison Ford. His performance actually playing a young Harrison Ford in Age of Adaline suggests he could easily manifest the swagger and attitude of a young Han Solo. I understand fan-casting can’t always work in the real world, and that the director might have felt Anthony Ingruber wasn’t right for the part for other reasons, or was a choice that was a little too on-the-nose. But reportedly, he was never asked to even audition. He didn’t even read.
They were making a young Han Solo film, and they didn’t even consider this guy. There is a guy who is practically the reincarnation of Harrison Ford, at exactly the right age, and they didn’t even have him audition. WTF, Disney?
The official word from Lucasfilm is that they’ve seen the current cut of Solo and are very pleased and expect it to be a hit. The rumors suggest Ehrenreich’s performance and the fan backlash to The Last Jedi have them worried and preparing for a box office flop, or at least massive underperformance.
Which do you think is right?
End of line.
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