Samuel Brace on Solo: A Star Wars Story…
Is Solo: A Star Wars Story, against all odds, a success waiting to happen? It’s more than possible and one could even argue probable given the circumstances.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is the film nobody wanted, aspersions have been cast upon it since the moment of conception and its short life has only been further maligned via the cudgel of a censorious fandom that feels an unhealthy and unwarranted possession over the franchise. Time will only tell, and it will tell it soon, if gossip surrounding the film has been by any means apocryphal, but surely things can’t be as bad as they’ve been perceived to be.
In any case, it seems to me that with expectations for Solo being so very low – while perhaps not being a nadir for the series, they might very well have reached the desperate lows that surrounded the release of Attack of the Clones – that this could be just what the franchise needs following on from the even more absurd reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And we needn’t not revisit here the many imperfections of Rian Johnson’s movie, suffice it to say that it was indeed imperfect, perhaps more troubled than any since the prequel area, and we should by no means try to palliate such mistakes as which were made, however, the rather temperate atmosphere that is now existing in the Star Wars sphere could very well be fertile ground for something rather grand.
And make no mistake, the reaction to The Last Jedi is absurd. What started out as understandable grievances have morphed into a beast that can warrant no sympathy and appears to me to be stemming from a certain subsection of the population that is too used to telling themselves stories of their own, and just can’t handle the notion of events not only out of their control but ones that aren’t what they had wished for. And given that seemingly vast, or at least vocal, swaths of the fan base are currently moping over the death of their favourite franchise (for an example of such petulance, just visit the comments section of certain Star Wars YouTubers, whose world’s have seemingly been flipped on their axis) and that expectations are where they are for Solo, it would seem to me that Ron Howard’s film can hardly disappoint.
Howard is likely to find himself in a position where Solo can’t possibly be as egregious as those that wish to see it fail would have you believe, and where it thusly soars above all expectations. As a result, if Howard delivers something anywhere near as popular as Rogue One, the series will have quickly forgotten the dark times of The Last Jedi and will have left the insufferable antipathy that surrounds it. With release for Solo being only four months away, Lucasfilm find themselves in the rather pleasant position of being able to answer critics in a timely fashion, and possessing the opportunity to change the conversation with a movie that no one wanted and that no one expects to succeed.
But succeed it very well could. Not only is the screenplay by the Kasdan’s said to be tremendous but the nostalgia factor of the original trilogy time period can’t be underestimated. I’ve already written down some thoughts on how Solo can succeed, which for those that wish can be read here, but leaving all of that aside, all things that can make it a tremendous film, one can see rather clearly a pathway to victory for Lucasfilm, and it’s because of, not in spite of, recent events and the bellicose reaction to decisions made inside and out of the fictional Star Wars universe. If The Last Jedi was perceived to be so grand and glorious as to avoid any criticism, matching the fabled Empire Strikes Back for instance, if there had been zero mumblings regarding Solo’s troubled production, the film itself would be faced with a similar environment that greeted The Last Jedi. The environment being one where expectations were nigh impossible to meet and that would have likely caused Solo to fall flat on its behind.
This is not where Solo finds itself. The situation could not be more different, and therefore its trajectory ever more optimistic. While, of course, Lucasfilm won’t want to hang their hat on the notion that Solo at least isn’t as bad as everyone thought it would be, this scenario does relieve an awful amount of pressure. More importantly, if the film is actually of substantial quality, if the film can come close to matching Rogue One for instance, well goodness gracious, the sky is certainly the limit. Not only will audiences be thunderstruck at such developments but the whole conversation around Star Wars will be changed immediately. All of a sudden, the world will be clawing for Episode IX, all of a sudden, the Obi-Wan Kenobi movie will feel paramount to our viewing pleasure and not at all superfluous.
This could very well be the future that we have in store. One can only hope the naysayers and the perpetually aghast are able to recognise quality when they see it, despite what it does to their cherished narrative. And one can only hope that Solo: A Star Wars Story does more than clamber over the meager expectations placed around it and delivers an experience that can be appreciated, if not cherished. The stage has been set, the pieces are in place, and the question perhaps now worth asking is if Ron Howard, and not J.J. Abrams, is the man to get this ride back on track.