The live action panel at Disney’s D23 expo brought some big news on the many films Disney has in production, including a section devoted to Star Wars, but the troubled Untitled Han Solo spin-off movie received barely any mention. After the sudden firing of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the project last month, fans have been curious about the future of the film. Seemingly without blinking or even changing the release date, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy brought in journeyman director Ron Howard to guide the movie through the last few weeks of principal photography, the inevitable reshoots, and post-production.
While it’s a bit early to expect any sort of Han Solo footage to make an appearance, many fans hoped Disney and Lucasfilm would want to provide reassurance on the status of the project by providing some bit of news, if only an official title. But there was nothing to be had, and Disney’s own graphic with the logos of all in-progress movies still has it listed as ‘A Star Wars Story: Untitled Han Solo Film’.
With no plans for a Star Wars live-action presence at Comic-Con this year and no Star Wars celebration next year, will there be an official unveiling for Han Solo? While it seems like the resurgent Star Wars franchise is just as established as any other shared universe, it’s important to remember that this new era is still brand new. The Force Awakens isn’t even two years old, and with the addition of Rogue One, we only have one example of what to expect from Star Wars episodes and one example of spin-offs – far from a sizable enough sample to assume any sort of “normal” behavior when it comes to marketing for Star Wars movie.
The only thing we have to compare to the Han Solo movie is Rogue One, and while the distance between The Force Awakens and the first Star Wars spin-off was a full year – twice as long as the wait for Han Solo after Episode VIII – there was no Rogue One footage revealed until well after The Force Awakens. This strategy makes sense, too. Han Solo is clearly its own property, but ultimately Star Wars is a brand, and the people showing up to buy tickets for Han Solo are the same people buing tickets to every other Star Wars installment. Sure, many people will be excited specifically by the focus on Solo, but they’d be in line if it was Obi-Wan Kenobi, Boba Fett, Knights of the Old Republic, or Episode XX.
Because of the synergy in marketing for the Star Wars brand, the safest way to get fans excited for Han Solo is to get them excited for Episode VIII, which sounds like it saw a far more cohesive production and already has more goodwill from fans. It may be running it down to the wire to wait until after The Last Jedi to begin marketing the Han Solo movie, but the current power of the Star Wars brand could conceivably make that an option.
With principal photography nearing a close, however, it would make sense for Disney to at least confirm the title, and maybe provide a proper first look at the main cast in full costume. Before bringing Rian Johnson on stage at D23, Disney Chairman Alan Horn promised said we’d know more “soon,” which is an obviously ambiguous time frame, but with the beginning of post-production fast approaching, it’s not unreasonable to expect something in the coming weeks. It’s been fairly common to see the newer Star Wars movies mark the beginning and/or ending of photography with some special reveals, and Han Solo followed that trend when production first began under Lord and Miller, so the most reasonable expectation at this point is a small character reveal and potentially a proper title reveal whenever that happens.
While the firing of Lord and Miller was not the kind of news that instilled confidence in many fans, Rogue One notably also underwent significant changes through reshoots and post-production resulting in a movie that was praised critically and jumped to the top of 2016’s domestic box office, also earning one of the top spots in international gross. Clearly the issues with Han Solo are more pronounced, but the track record of both Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm, and new director Ron Howard suggest there’s still no reason to expect anything differently from Han Solo. Even if they aren’t ready to roll out a marketing campaign just yet.
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