Solo: A Star Wars Story has finally wrapped production. But does it have enough time to make its May 25, 2018 release – a date that’s a little over seven months away?
If you’d only discovered the Han Solo Star Wars spinoff today, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the most controversial part of its production was the title. That predictable name was finally confirmed at the end of principal photography last week and the reaction was roundly negative, with fans quickly suggesting their own, edgier title. We’re not going to defend that here (although most of the complaints seems to come from the fact something so plain was kept a secret, not that it’s actually underwhelming) but it is crazy that there’s such a backlash when Solo is the least objectionable development for the movie in months.
Maybe it’s because “Solo” is quantifiable – we can all spot how light it is. Everything else about the film? Not so much. Having two beloved directors fired weeks before the end of production (after heavy rumors of a similar shift on the previous Anthology film), then replaced for a shooting extension that almost doubles filming time and recasts key roles is just too massive to comprehend. Very little in modern Hollywood is unprecedented, but this really was; stories of directors leaving projects unamicably during pre-production are so common we have reams of intriguing “what could have been?” films, but once the cameras are rolling you presume its locked. It was a shock to the system, a sign that the director-focused facade that the producer-led industry often tries to trumpet really is just an illusion and, should the studio heads wish, they can cast you aside with nary a whimper.
Why Aren’t We Talking More About Solo’s Production Issues?
What’s been so unexpected, though, is the audience reaction. Everyone was shocked by the firing of Phil Lord and Chris Miller in June (despite rumblings of disagreements, nothing this extreme had been mooted) but in the months since the conversation has abated. The story’s deepened, with a major rift between the directors and producer Kathleen Kennedy painting a production in peril, then our research revealing the entire firing was a last minute final resort by Lucasfilm to keep creative control, but the discussion stopped pretty much when Ron Howard came on board.
Compare it to Justice League, where what can only be described as less work from Joss Whedon – he reshot around three weeks on Zack Snyder’s film only after the original director stepped down for wholly understandable personal reasons (rewrites for these scenes were written before this and under Snyder’s approval) – has been a major controversy, one that continues to unravel in pockets of the DC fanbase. What’s going on there is lesser than what’s on Solo, but the discussion doesn’t reflect that.
A big part of it is PR. That the DCEU doesn’t have a perfect lock on its image is well documented, whereas Lucasfilm has a very tight grip on what gets out and what doesn’t, and it’s helped by respectful fans who diligently keep spoilers under wraps (periodic reminder the entire plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens leaked in May 2015). Directors, producers, writers and other higher-ups are always on hand to tactfully respond to any negative rumors, and for Solo, Ron Howard’s been tweeting like a bot with images from the set. These are particularly powerful as they don’t just exemplify enthusiasm but also show the scale of the movie’s world and tease major fan favorites; they distract from the conflict and promote the product.
The problem is that for Solo, it feels like they’ve gone too far. If you only get your information from direct Lucasfilm sources, Lord and Miller weren’t fired or even left; they were never there in the first place. It’s it’s Ron Howard’s film and it always was. There’s no mention of conflict outside of the official statement, with The Star Wars Show blanketly avoiding any controversy and the official site having buried anything pre-departure. Obviously, they want to be focused, but there’s a disingenuity to it here; while it’s obviously just entertainment, the whole presentation is like a totalitarian regime: Lord and Miller are Snowball, Lucasfilm Napoleon.
And, ultimately, they can’t avoid that Howard by all measures reshot around 80% of the film, meaning the majority of Lord and Miller’s work will remain unseen. That’s a big change up and, putting associated existential panic aside, we need to address how serious that really is.
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