The Han Solo Reshoots Show the Lengths Disney is Willing to Go
After firing the original directors, the Han Solo reshoots are reportedly extremely extensive – they also confirm how far Disney will go to protect the property.
Although it won’t be released until next year, one of the most talked about films of the year is without question, Solo: A Star Wars Story. The problem is, it’s being talked about for mostly the wrong reasons.
In June 2017, Disney announced that it was parting ways with Phil Lord and Chris Miller – “parting ways” being a polite way to say they were fired. After four months of shooting and more than a year working on pre-production, the duo was nearly finished with principal photography when the axe dropped. There are a few stories on why this all happened, including significant issues between star Alden Ehrenreich and the directors, rumors of a power struggle between writer Lawrence Kasdan and the duo, and suggestions that the studio wasn’t happy with the tone, which was more comedic than adventurous, as Lucasfilm and its owner Disney had hoped for.
Whatever the reason, the end result was that the movie was left without a director and consisted of a bunch of footage the studio didn’t like. So Disney and Lucasfilm turned to Oscar-winner Ron Howard, who quickly got to work.
It’s not clear exactly what Howard changed. He may have added new scenes, completely altered older ones, or just looked for new takes (probably a little of all three). But the end result was a massive, and significant reshoot. In fact, according to Resistance Broadcast podcast, Howard reshot around 80-percent of the movie.
Disney proved with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that it isn’t afraid to send the film back for more work if it isn’t happy with the result. Rogue One faced extensive reshoots, although those reshoots were said to be closer to 40-percent and were overseen by the film’s only director Gareth Edwards (with help from writer and director Tony Gilroy). Rogue One was always something of an experiment, and the reshoots – while significant – weren’t all that surprising. They were even credited with saving the film.
Even so, the Rogue One reshoots exploded the budget, pushing it close to the $300 million mark even before marketing. It ended up working out, of course, as Rogue One went on to earn over $1.056 billion worldwide at the box office alone, and that’s not counting merchandising and home media sales. The budget for Solo hasn’t been revealed, but whatever it was before, you can assume it nearly doubled. Given the timetable, that may even be a conservative estimate.
Disney remains committed to seeing Solo in theaters on May 25, 2018 for… reasons. The two previous Star Wars films under the Disney umbrella both released in December and both cleared $1 billon – and that’s not counting all that sweet, sweet merchandising that arrived just in time for the holidays – but for whatever reason Disney decided that Solo will be a summer blockbuster. Disney does have the family-friendly Mary Poppins Returns set for December 21, 2018, so the decision makers may worry about cannibalizing their own audience. Plus, Sony has an animated Spider-Man movie hitting the week before, and the deal between Marvel (which is under the Disney umbrella, of course) and Sony that brought the new Spider-Man to the MCU may have affected the decision to not release Star Wars that month – if not explicitly, then maybe as a courtesy since the studios are partly sharing the property.
Regardless, a number of effects in a Star Wars movie are significant, and a lot of the costs associated with VFX work comes down to pure manpower. Disney can hire multiple VFX studios and ensure the special effects will be complete in time, but it will cost them – significantly.
Despite the costs, there is a very good chance that Solo will make back its budget and more. It probably won’t reach the billion-dollar mark (it’s possible, but it will be the third Star Wars film released in less than 18 months and it won’t be quite as tied into the franchise as Rogue One), but it will likely be a hit. It also shows the lengths Disney is willing to go to protect the brand.
If Solo were a failure, it would likely throw a major wrench in Disney and Lucasfilm’s plans. After Solo, Episode IX will debut the next year, and there is a third stand-alone film featuring Boba Fett that was originally going to hit theaters before Solo with Josh Trank directing, but Trank’s fall from grace was so epic that he took the film with him. A Yoda film is also supposedly in the planning stages, and there is very little chance that Disney will stop there.
All of that leads to the inevitable problem of franchise fatigue. Marvel can get away with it because the films are essentially just action films and each has its own style – Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther may exist in the same universe, but they are miles apart in terms of tone. On the other hand, a Star Wars film is a Star Wars film, and a bad one at this point would potentially hurt the franchise and Disney’s plans. Keeping up the quality is ultimately worth more than any single movie budget, even an exorbitant one.
There are few studios in the world that have the resources to do what Disney just did, and to its credit, fewer still that would risk starting over almost from scratch on a film with a budget already in the $100+ million range. The result may not challenge fans or alter perceptions of the franchise, but it almost certainly won’t be bad – it may not be great either, but it won’t be bad.
This also raises the question of where Disney will stop. If an upcoming Marvel movie isn’t testing well, will it reshoot it? If the live-action Mulan or a similar property being planned isn’t coming together will Disney start over from scratch? It’s a problem all studios have, but very few can do anything about like Disney can, and apparently, will.