Is the Future of Star Wars in Doubt?!? No, And There’s an Easy Fix
Following the lukewarm box office of Solo: A Star Wars Story, some are questioning if the future of Star Wars is in trouble. Short answer: no, not as long as original content is on the way.
If you lived in a vacuum and the only thing you knew about the recently released film Solo: A Star Wars Story was the response to its opening weekend box office, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the movie was an absolute game-changing disaster for the studio that released it.
Following its release last week, Solo went on to earn just shy of $85 million domestically over the weekend (and $65 mil internationally), and around $103 mil for the extended Memorial Day period. For a film that was expected to open at between $130 to $150 mil in the US alone, that is a significant difference and one that has real consequences. Disney, which owns Lucasfilm, saw a significant stock drop as a result, and given that the film is rumored to have the highest budget of any of the four Disney-released Star Wars films, estimated to be at around $250 million before marketing, a poor opening weekend is not insignificant.
It’s not the end of Star Wars either.
The relatively weak opening has drawn plenty of overreaction and wild assertions, with some claiming white men may be box office poison and others questioning if this is a sign of Star Wars fatigue. The first is an interesting discussion turned into the hottest of hot takes, while the second is a legit question (and one we’ve asked ourselves), but also overlooks several important factors and has too broad a scope.
So basically, everyone should calm down a bit.
Headlines like those above seem to put the failure – again, relative failure – at the feet of fans. Both headlines are looking for external factors for why Solo didn’t reach the hoped-for $150 mil, and both ignore the much more obvious red flags people saw coming for months (or years) and often willfully ignored. That doesn’t mean Lucasfilm and Disney shouldn’t learn from this, but hopefully, they will take away the right lessons.
To start with, Solo was just an ok movie. Opinions will vary, of course, but you won’t find too many glowing reviews. And given that Solo is not directly connected to any other Star Wars movie (in the sense that it isn’t part of a trilogy or even a direct lead into the trilogy), it just comes off as unnecessary. That was always the case, and people have been calling out Disney’s decisions for a while now. From the start, it just felt a little cash grab-y.
There’s also the behind-the-scenes drama that plagued the film from the start. Disney/Lucasfilm managed to get away with it for Rogue One, but that was a much more interesting premise, and it was only the second Star Wars movie in 11 years. It also followed the immensely successful Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. By comparison, Solo is the fourth film, it follows the slightly less popular (and divisive) Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, and it earned far more press for being a mess than it did for being a Star Wars movie.
On top of all of that, there’s also the film’s timing. The three previous Star Wars films all came out in December, and they owned the Christmas holiday. They didn’t face much competition and they became something for families to do together, plus they had a solid year of build up. Solo, on the other hand, immediately followed Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2, so audiences had better choices, at least based on crowd and critic reactions. It also came just six months after the last Star Wars film and missed out on plenty of chances to build up anticipation (events like Comic-Con, for instance).
To the question of the Star Wars fatigue, that may be a factor, but not in the way people may think.
Disney seems to be looking to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a possible roadmap for its Star Wars movie. Marvel is releasing three movies per year, and audiences are showing no signs of rejecting that pattern – the two that have been released so far this year are currently the first and second highest grossing films of the year, and both are in the top 10 of all time grosses. So fans don’t seem to be rejecting the flood of content. They are more likely rejecting the flood of the same content.
There is a huge amount of potential for Star Wars to continue on for years, but the immediate plans are to milk the existing films for all they are worth. Even the new trilogy (Episodes VII to Episode IX) is an extension of the first three (as were Lucas’ prequels). Disney is planning on new stories, with both Rian Johnson and the Game of Thrones showrunners developing original trilogies, but there’s no timeline on either and the next several years are filled with more of the same.
The next Star Wars film is Episode IX, which will probably be a box office hit no matter what, but after, that the next film up is probably James Mangold’s recently announced Bob Fett project. The story hasn’t been hinted at yet, but it will almost certainly take place during the original trilogy or shortly after (it would be easy enough to have Boba Fett survive the Sarlacc Pit, and there are canonical hints he made it out). There’s also talk of an Obi-Wan film, and rumors of a Jabba the Hutt film (which are very much just rumors at this point). On top of that, you also have a new live-action TV show, which is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
That’s a lot of Star Wars, but more importantly, it’s a lot of Star Wars covering the exact same ground, albeit from different angles. Every new film – and game, TV show, comic, etc. – that builds on the existing continuity is helping to further exhaust it. It’s also limiting its scope by only offering content for diehard fans, even if there are a lot of them.
Star Wars isn’t just the story of Luke Sykwalker and friends, it’s a different universe with fertile grounds for storytelling. To put it in perspective, it’s like Disney announced it was going to make several historical movies set in Europe, and then only focused on WWII. Sure, that’s a fascinating period of history with plenty of stories to tell, but there’s other, really interesting potential that is going unexplored.
Solo will probably go down as a box office failure, even if it manages to turn a decent profit over time when you factor in the international box office. Despite that, there is still infinite potential for the Star Wars universe and there’s too much money to be made for Disney to walk away, or probably even slow down. Just give fans something new and you’ll see Star Wars go strong for years to come.