Solo: A Star Wars Story - Ron Howard

It’s no secret that Solo: A Star Wars Story didn’t turn out to be the box office hit that Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm hoped it would be. The film’s performance convinced Lucasfilm to hold back on anymore spin-offs under the “Star Wars Story” banner until they regrouped and figured out how to best approach the future of Star Wars.

But what was the reason for Solo: A Star Wars Story underperforming at the box office? If you ask director Ron Howard, it might have something to do with the competitive summer release date as opposed to the new Christmas tradition for Star Wars movies. But he also believes relentless trolls may have influenced general audiences unaware of any malicious internet activity.

Speaking on the Happy Sad Confused podcast (via Cinema Blend), Solo director Ron Howard looked back on the Star Wars movie and the reception, both at the box office and with fans. Howard doesn’t seem to have any regrets, but he has certainly thought about what resulted in the movie’s disappointing box office returns. The director said:

“I feel very good about the way it turned out. I love the way it played to audiences, which I witnessed and was a part of. So all of that I’m able to feel good about. Sure, I wish it would’ve done [better] and lived up to the box office and so forth, so that’s disappointing. Why? Maybe it’s the release. Maybe it’s the idea that it’s sort of too nostalgic, going back and revisiting an origin story for a beloved character may not be what the fans were looking for. It kind of seemed to me, looking at it, the opening — which was big, not as big as the others, it was probably my biggest opening, personally, it was still disappointing to them — I think those are the hardcore fans. It sort of tells you how many people are tagalongs who need to wait to see what people think and whether it’s essential, if it’s a zeitgeist movie or not, and whether it’s just ‘I love Star Wars and I want to see what’s next.'”

This is exactly why Lucasfilm probably can’t, or at least shouldn’t, churn out as many Star Wars movies as there are Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Star Wars may be extremely popular, but it’s also more niche than the Marvel Studios movies have become when it comes to general audience interest. While many average moviegoers are very interested in what happens in the primary Star Wars saga, they’re not necessarily interested in these side stories, whether they’re about familiar characters or not.

That’s likely why we’ll start seeing more Star Wars stories going to Disney+ in the form of shows like The Mandalorian, the Rogue One spin-off focusing on Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, and potentially an Obi-Wan Kenobi series, which could be the mystery third live-action series that Disney CEO Bob Iger has referenced.

Because Star Wars doesn’t have as big of a draw as the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, general audiences are more easily influenced by word of mouth and online buzz. And that’s where Ron Howard thinks Solo also suffered, largely thanks to internet trolls trying to tank the movie simply because they didn’t like Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Howard added:

“Whatever millions [Solo] made worldwide, those were the core fans, but it didn’t hit that zeitgeist point, for whatever reason. Timing, young Han Solo, pushback from the previous movie, which I kept hearing was maybe something. And some trolling, definitely some trolling. Some actual aggressive… It was pretty interesting. Not so much, a little bit the Twitter feed, yes, but it was especially noticeable prior to the release of the movie. Several of the algorithms, whether it was Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, there was an inordinate push down on the ‘want to see’ and on the fan voting. And when you look at it, it’s like 3, 4, 5 — or whatever the rating is, I forget what the rating is on Rotten Tomatoes, whether it’s a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 — but pretty high, and then a series of 0s or .5s or 1s.”

It seems like the audience score for Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t in bad shape as of today, with a 64% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and an average score of 3.44 out of 5. That’s not too far off from the critical score of 70% and an average rating of 6.39 out of 10. But at the time of release, with far fewer Rotten Tomatoes users having actually seen the movie, the audience score probably didn’t make the movie all that appealing to general audiences.

At the same time, let’s not forget that Solo: A Star Wars Story had plenty of problems before the movie hit the big screen. Directors Phil Lord & Chris Miller were famously fired from the movie due to creative differences with Lucasfilm. Ron Howard was brought in to steer the ship home and get the job done. That likely didn’t have a positive influence on audience perception.

When all is said and done, it’s probably better that this happened early for Lucasfilm so they can figure out what fans and casual moviegoers really want from the future of Star Wars. With the end of the Skywalker saga around the corner and a new trilogy on the way three years later, the studio needs to figure out how to make Star Wars simultaneously engaging and profitable.

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