Ron Howard did an admirable job getting Solo: A Star Wars Story across the finish line amidst its troubled production, but the last-minute director change wasn't enough to completely save the project. When Lucasfilm first officially announced the spinoff, Phil Lord & Chris Miller were set to call the shots, riding high off the success of The LEGO Movie and 22 Jump Street. In one of the most bizarre developments in recent memory, the two were fired four months into production due to creative differences. Howard came on board just a couple days later, and he was asked to do much more than round out the last few weeks of filming. He oversaw extensive reshoots that encompassed as much as 80 percent of the movie.
It goes without saying that Solo (probably more so than any other Star Wars film besides the original) was hell to complete, but was it ultimately worth all the trouble it went through? The answer to that question is more complex than one might think. From a certain point of view, Howard benefitted the spinoff - but that doesn't tell the entire story.
Ron Howard Made A Good Star Wars Movie
While the full story concerning Lord & Miller's departure may never be revealed, key details (heavy improvisation, inefficiency on-set, a Guardians of the Galaxy tone) have been well-documented by now. It's clear the Solo they wanted to make is not the one Lucasfilm had envisioned. This is why they brought in Howard, a veteran who has a rich history with Star Wars (he's been a fan from the beginning) and the studio. While he never worked with a budget of this scale before, the helmsman came in with laser-sharp focus and quickly made his way through the scenes. Lucasfilm was so impressed with Howard's approach, they kept giving more to do and extended production to October 2017.
Lord & Miller are known for their bursting creativity and slick subversions of pop culture, so the fear was bringing in an old hand like Howard would negatively impact Solo from an artistic perspective. However, the finished film is proof Howard was the right fit. Coming into Solo with the mindset of emulating the original trilogy in terms of tone and style, he ended up delivering an entertaining complement to those classic movies that feels very much like it's a part of that universe. In the aftermath of toxic Last Jedi debates, Solo is exactly the type of palate cleanser the franchise needed. And even if Howard's Solo is less risky than what Lord & Miller were aiming for, it still made some bold creative choices, opened up new possibilities for the series, and wowed audiences with thrilling set pieces that are some of the best in Star Wars. Solo is well-crafted entertainment designed to be a crowdpleaser.
There's also the matter of Alden Ehrenreich, who had the daunting task of stepping into Harrison Ford's shoes. At the time of the director change, there were rumblings Lucasfilm was unhappy with the actor's performance and brought in an acting coach to help Ehrenreich along. Details about Lord & Miller's vision give some context to that. If they were going for Guardians of the Star Wars, then it's reasonable to think Ehrenreich's Han was similar to Star-Lord (which is odd because Han Solo influenced Star-Lord). And though this is a younger, more idealistic Han, he still has to resemble the scoundrel we grew to love in the original trilogy. Under Howard's watch, Ehrenreich emerged as one of the greatest things in Solo, making the role his own without doing an impression of Ford. He captured the spirit of Han in his performance, and like the rest of the cast, delivered a strong turn that silenced naysayers. The shift in dynamic to bring Solo more towards the original trilogy likely helped in this area.
Solo ultimately scored the worst reviews of Disney's four Star Wars movies to date, but it still stands at a robust 70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which is better than most would have expected beforehand. Though the film isn't particularly challenging, it's still highly entertaining and is different in the sense it mixes things up by not focusing on a Rebel/Empire conflict. Howard did a very good job bringing this story to life, but for all of Solo's merits, it does have the rather ignominious position of being the first Star Wars movie to disappoint at the box office. And this is why Howard's work wasn't enough to completely save Solo.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019