REVIEW: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Dialed-Down Social Justice but Still Disappointing

Solo: A Star Wars Story was released to a lukewarm response from both audiences and critics, and an underwhelming box office opening.

The movie, which reportedly cost a minimum of $250 million to produce, and an estimated $100 million to market, had a flaccid four day weekend opening of $103 Million.

While projected to reach $170 Million domestically, the movie underperformed significantly, unable to reach that number worldwide. As it stands, Solo is unlikely to even gross its production and marketing costs.

The movie explores the backstory of Han Solo, explaining how he met Chewbacca and Lando, and won the Millenium Falcon. While the movie’s plot itself is un-noteworthy, there are two characters that should be mentioned: ‘L3-37’, a female robot that created herself and cannot stop mentioning droid rights any time it is on screen. As well as the return of Darth Maul, the character that was cut in two in Episode 1 and fell down a seemingly infinitely long shaft.

Solo experienced major problems with former directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who were fired and replaced by director Ron Howard.

This major shakeup lead to the entire movie essentially being reshot, making the costs as high as DC’s Justice League.

Of the many reasons Solo has underperformed and is now bombing at the box office, its predecessor may take most the blame. Star Wars: The Last Jedi caused a significant negative response from audiences. The Last Jedi’s Rotten Tomatoes audience score is 46%, which ranks worse than The Phantom Menace. Old fan favorites were killed off, the new characters have little to offer and, from their own admission, Disney did not have an overarching plan for the trilogy, creating a movie that alienated its own audience and devalued the brand. 

Couple that with the reported production troubles, news of which was sure to reach audiences and lower expectations for the movie. No one expected Solo to come out anywhere near good or great.

Disney and Kathleen Kennedy also have been engaged in abysmal public relations, choosing to engage in divisive identity politics–insinuating that Star Wars was a franchise only white men participated in previously and that would change–rather than embracing it as a franchise that always reached a wide audience. 

Rian Johnson wrote The Last Jedi in a way that alienated and angered audiences and did so under the supervision of Kennedy, whose only job has been to ensure quality, consistency, and continuity for the Star Wars brand. She let director Rian Johnson damage the brand.

While Kevin Feige of Marvel has managed to build a massive blockbuster empire that consistently delivers at least medium success, his team started from relatively minor movies like 2008’s Iron Man and built-up trust, a stable of directors and writers, and a solid franchise that has lasted a decade.

Disney instead hit the ground running with massive releases right off the bat, buying the Star Wars franchise for $4 billion and clearly stumbling early because of the lack of an overarching plan.

Whether Disney will be able to salvage the brand and reverse this downward trend remains to be seen. Executives as well as stockholders should be concerned that already the company has found itself in a situation where the course needs to be corrected. As it stands, it remains doubtful whether J.J Abrams will be able to salvage the trilogy.

Considering Disney owns Marvel, which is celebrating unprecedented success, it’s all showing signs of massive failure. Changes in leadership are likely to happen quite soon, and one would hope Disney doesn’t continue to value virtue-signaling over at least breaking even.

You can follow Marc Geppert on Twitter @Darian_Wolf



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