Much has been made about Solo: A Star Wars Story's soft opening, only months after Justice League saw a similarly disappointing launch, but it's not fair to compare the two. One of the most attention-grabbing talking points is to compare Solo with Justice League, thereby equating Star Wars with the same precarious position in which the DCEU finds itself after the financial woes seen by Batman v Superman and Justice League.
At a glance, the comparison doesn't seem so far-fetched: both were grand franchise films with out-of-control budgets, both infamously replaced their directors deep into production, and both experienced box office openings which were far below expectations. As usual, however, the truth is far more nuanced than that. At best, comparisons between the two films are well-intentioned but misinformed. At worst, they're sensationalist and downright irresponsible. Either way, Comparing Solo To Justice League Isn't Fair To Either Franchise.
- This Page: The Director Situation Was Totally Different
- Page 2: Solo and Justice League Had Totally Different Objectives
The Director Situations Were Totally Different
Both Justice League and Solo had final reported budgets in the range of $300 million. The paths the films took to get to that point both involved replacing their directors and engaging in extensive reshoots, but other than that, they couldn't be more different.
Justice League was plagued from the start with issues between director Zack Snyder and studio Warner Brothers. Back when the film was first envisioned, Snyder's grand vision for his take on the DC mythology was to reach its apex in Justice League: Part 1. Following the death of Kal-El in the climactic battle at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this film was to explore the ramifications of "a world without Superman."
Unfortunately for Snyder, critics were not receptive to the tone of BvS, and Warner Brothers balked at the prospect of going even further in that direction for the sequel. Additionally, BvS was deemed way too long for WB's tastes, so Snyder was mandated to keep the runtime down for the follow-up.
Then, following a family tragedy, Snyder dropped out of Justice League altogether, although some reports indicate Snyder was actually fired. Snyder had completed 100 percent of principal photography and was well underway with post-production, but Warner Bros still brought on Joss Whedon to conduct massive reshoots, which have been reported to encompass around 20% of the film.
Unfortunately, the final Justice League product is a dissonant mess being pulled in different directions by an auteuristic director, a nervous studio, and a contracted filmmaker hired to complete the impossible task of changing the film away from it's original story and tone in post. As a result of all this behind-the-scenes drama, the film cost over $300 million to produce, and the final product was considered a financial failure, thanks in no small part to its weak critical reception.
For Solo, the firing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller was no less surprising, but also significantly less dramatic. They were hired on the recommendation of screenwriter (and Star Wars veteran) Lawrence Kasdan, who thought their comedic style would be a good match for the script he and his son Jon had written. Unlike Snyder, they didn't write the script and didn't adhere to a strict vision, ultimately, going too far with their improvisation, ballooning the budget and straying too far from Kasdan's script.
For the sake of the story and the integrity of the character of Han Solo and the Star Wars brand, Kennedy fired Lord & Miller (though they were allowed to bow out gracefully under the tried-and-true pretense of "creative differences"), and swiftly brought on Ron Howard to finish the film.
Initially budgeted at a modest $125-150 million, Solo was aiming to be the least expensive Star Wars film since Revenge of the Sith. If Disney and Lucasfilm wanted to, they could have had Howard finish the shoot (which was said to only require a few more weeks of filming), conduct some band-aid reshoots, and then edit together a final cut of potentially dubious quality. Instead, Lucasfilm made the bold decision to allow Howard to reshoot what has been reported as up to 80% of the entire film. Creatively, this was the right choice, and Solo feels like a Ron Howard joint from start to finish. Of course, it also went from being the cheapest Star Wars film to the most expensive, with some reports placing the film's budget in line with Justice League at around $300 million.
In all fairness, it would have been impossible for Warner Brothers to do what Lucasfilm did. Solo was originally a mid-budget blockbuster. $125 million is a lot of money, but it's a far cry from The Last Jedi, which was said to have a budget of $217 million. On the other hand, Justice League was never going to have a budget lower than $200 million. If Joss Whedon had been allowed to reshoot 80% of the movie to avoid releasing a tonally dissonant mess, the budget could have skyrocketed to well over $400 million. Either way, despite all the behind-the-scenes drama, Solo emerged as a critical success, while Justice League went down as one of the worst films of 2017.
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