Solo: An Underdog Story
With only a few weeks left until Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters, the fandom is in as much turmoil as ever before. Solo is set to be the 10th live action Star Wars film in the franchise and the fourth released since December 2015. The question asked far too often, "Is too much Star Wars a bad thing?", is only relevant if the fandom begins to ask that of itself. In some circles they already have answered the question. The results vary depending on what type of fan you talk to. However, each of them, old or young really want Solo to do well when it opens. Even if they refuse to admit it to themselves.
When LucasFilm was sold to Disney in October of 2012, fans were cautious as to what would happen with their beloved universe. In spite of the existing split in the Star Wars community, due to the love/hate of the Prequels, most fans were somewhat excited as to what this new era would hold. When the first teaser of The Force Awakens was released in November of 2014, it's safe to say that EVERYONE was paying attention. This new installment would continue the story of the Original Trilogy and offer all of us a nostalgic roller coaster that captured the world's imagination and broke box office records. The Force Awakens was a success, for the most part.
"No one hates Star Wars like a Star Wars fan."
The Force Awakens further developed the ongoing saga of the Skywalker bloodline onscreen, and further divided the fan community off screen. In the wake of Episode VII, we were faced with the following sects:
Star Wars Fans (Fans of the whole franchise)
Star Wars Purists (Fans of the Original Unaltered Trilogy)
Prequel Haters (Fans who regard Episodes I-III as an abomination)
Sequel Haters (Fans who believe that Disney has ruined their Star Wars)
I am sure there are more divisions, but I think that you can tell where I am going with this.
Flash forward to December 2016 when Rogue One was released to acclaim by both critics and fans. Groups of fans typically divided by trilogies were surprised to get a Star Wars movie that reminded them of what made them fans in the first place. Once the death of Carrie Fisher was no longer a topic of mainstream media, an oft cited "over saturation" of Star Wars began to plague average fans. Don't get me wrong, there will never be too much Star Wars for myself. However, we must consider the mainstream fanbase as an important factor into how our beloved franchise's future will turn out.
"This is not going to go the way you think." -Luke Skywalker
Who in their right minds wouldn't want a new Star Wars movie every year? It's sure to work, just look at Marvel Studios who release 2-3 films every year. Not exactly. Marvel's universe is far more expansive than that of Star Wars. Once the Expanded Universe was declared as Legends, the rich 40ish year history of Star Wars suddenly became very lean. Star Wars films have been revered as events when their releases came around, due to the large gaps between trilogies. Marvel's larger universe has offered something fresh that has sustained it throughout the past 10 years, a shared cinematic universe. With the inclusion of Star Wars Stories, LucasFilm, is just now getting onboard.
In 2015 with a schedule for the Sequel Trilogy as well as several standalone movies planned well into the early 20s, fans were salivating at the idea of regularly paced new content. The Force Awakens was an enormous success. Rogue One redefined what a Star Wars movie could be. Then, The Last Jedi added a new divide among the fanbase and admittedly fell short in some cases. Why didn't it garner the same appeal as The Force Awakens? Simply because once the story was told it could never be untold. In some ways fans' expectations of what should have happened didn't match what did. Rian Johnson told a very unique and bold story that even the hardest of hardcore fans had to watch multiple times just to see if met their approval.
Controversy over a Star Wars film hadn't been this overwhelming since the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999. In the wake of that disturbingly negative response, many fans gave up and moved on.
"Everything you've heard about me is true." -Lando Calrissian
Solo has been an underdog story since it was first announced. Everyone's favorite smuggler had just been killed off by Kylo Ren, and no one wanted to consider anyone other than Harrison Ford in the role. Support of a young actor named Anthony Ingruber, who portrayed a young Harrison in Age of Adeline, quickly surfaced and died off. Discussions of what this film should be about peppered social media along with discussions about why Kenobi isn't going to be a thing. Then a bit of news was released. Chris Lord and Phil Miller would direct as Kasdan and son would pen the script. That was good news, right?
Undoubtedly, Kasdan as writer was the choice that everyone wanted. Lord and Miller drew some discussion. As directors of The Lego Movie and FOX's Last Man on Earth, Lord and Miller are most well known for their comedic contributions to entertainment. Even as a fan of all their previous work, I was a little concerned myself. Yet, I believed that just as Jordan Peele proved with 2017's Get Out, comedic talent often understands pacing and storytelling far better than most filmmakers. BUT then, Lord and Miller were removed due to a conflict of interest. So, we were left with a cast led by a relative unknown, whom was reported to have needed acting lessons onset, and no director. Enter: Ron Howard.
"Never tell me the odds." -Han Solo
It's hard to imagine that I am writing about a film directed by Ron Howard as an underdog story, but that's exactly where we are at this point in the Star Wars fandom. It seems as though we may be jaded to the fact that one of Hollywood's premier talents is involved with this picture. Ron began as a child talent on the Andy Griffith show followed by a role on Happy Days, starred in George Lucas' American Graffiti , and has directed an Academy Award winning film as well as LucasFilm's Willow. No one is more qualified. No one.
Since his announced involvement, Howard has been very open and vocal about progress onset. The famed director used Twitter to revive hope in the project as one that is set to please. The media promotion has moderated itself. Merchandising has taken a backseat. Given all the odds this film has stacked against it, the trailers look amazing. The universe appears to be expanded with new ships, droids, species, and lore about some of our favorite characters. No one can see the future of the franchise, but given the darkness of the recent past, I have a good feeling about this.
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens May 25, 2018; forty one years after George Lucas' Star Wars.