Never in the history of the franchise has a movie been treated with as much trepidation as Solo: A Star Wars Story. But it doesn't deserve the hate; whether you tell him them or not, Han can beat the odds.
The Last Jedi was perhaps the most divisive Star Wars movie to date, but surprisingly there's one thing fans are agreed on: Solo will be a disappointment. When Screen Junkies put together their "Honest Trailer" for The Last Jedi, they celebrated its divisiveness with a "certain point of view" - two Star Wars fans who were poles apart in their opinion on Episode VIII. And yet, when the video came to a close, they both shared the same opinion on what's next: "Shall we do this again for Solo? Nah, I'm not gonna see that cr*p." That's a pretty staggering assessment, given that - at the time - only one trailer for Solo had even been released.
Star Wars fandom has seemed almost united in this view ever since Lucasfilm first announced Solo. This particular anthology film was always viewed as unnecessary; do we really need to know how Han became a cynical smuggler? Every detail seems to have reinforced the general attitude of skepticism with which Solo has been greeted. The casting of Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han proved particularly divisive, given he has some very big shoes to fill. Recasting Harrison Ford with anybody but YouTube imitator (but definitely not actor) Anthony Ingruber has been sniffed at, although that misses that Ehrenreich has displayed real acting chops in a lot of productions, ranging from Hail, Caesar! to the under-appreciated Beautiful Creatures.
The narrative seems to have become fixed: Solo is the latest misstep from Lucasfilm. But that narrative needs to be questioned, especially given the fact it's so pervasive. After all, just as there's more to The Last Jedi's backlash than a Rotten Tomatoes percentage suggested, this isn't just a story of a needless story ruined by a disasterous production.
THIS PAGE: THE SOLO BACKLASH IS UNFAIR
Solo's Director Change Isn't Necessarily A Bad Thing
Partway through production, Solo was rocked by a further controversy; directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller parted ways with Lucasfilm. They issued a brief statement stressing that "our vision and process weren't aligned with our partners on this project," and the narrative of chaos on Solo became fixed. Lord and Miller had built up a strong fanbase after 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie, so many immediately took their side. Solo, commentators believed, had joined the ranks of films that could have actually been good had studios not intervened. It stood alongside other troubled productions, like Fantastic Four, Suicide Squad, and the recent Justice League.
But that's too simplistic a view. The full story will probably never be known, but it seems the problems were actually with Lord and Miller (if not their fault); this time around, the studio got it right. The directors were used to a far more freestyle way of filmmaking, one that focused in on improv and "getting it in the edit". They set about creating what's been described as a sort of "screwball comedy," albeit one set in the Star Wars galaxy. StarWarsNewsNet even reported rumors that the directors introduced some sort of continuity error, one that would drive the fans crazy, and wouldn't budge on it.
A recent insider account on Solo's director troubles gave a hint of just how chaotic Lord and Miller's production was. Vulture's source described the two directors as essentially "out of control," asking for between 25 and 30 retakes of a single scene without telling the actors what they wanted to see change. But even that damning report (which, while surely from a verified source, makes some startling and unlikely claims) represents more poor planning on all parties' sides than it does anything truly wrong. Should Lord and Miller have been hired in the first place?
With that in mind, we're left with the impression that Kennedy and Lucasfilm made a bold but necessary decision to redo the film with Ron Howard. It wasn't a studio changing their vision or enforcing last-minute adjustments on a filmmaker. In fact, it was the opposite: an attempt to course correct before it was too late. Whether it is or not is yet to be seen, but it's not a cut-and-dry disaster.
What Alden Ehrenreich's Acting Coach Really Means
Now let's focus on another specific issue: the acting coach. Lucasfilm insiders had continually stressed that Kennedy was delighted with her Solo. Then, in June 2017, the internet was rocked with the news that Lucasfilm had actually hired an acting coach for Ehrenreich. For many Star Wars fans, this was the final straw; they'd cast a Han who couldn't be Han.
But it's important to place this news in the context of an initially-chaotic production. Just what kind of performance were Lord and Miller expecting from Ehrenreich in the first place? One source claimed that they wanted something that was "oddly comparable to Jim Carrey’s... in Ace Ventura at times". Even if it wasn't quite that zany, the fact remains that any actor will lose confidence when going through 30 reshoots. Furthermore, it's entirely possible the acting coach helped Ehrenreich to realize that he wasn't the source of the problem, causing him to raise the issue with Lucasfilm's producers (something that is also rumored). Whatever the case may be, every inside account has stressed that the acting coach transformed Ehrenreich's performance.
It's generally believed that Ron Howard reshot nearly all of Solo, for twice the budget. If that's the case, the bulk of Solo's footage was filmed after Ehrenreich's time with the acting coach. Like with the directors, any performance issues should be well and truly resolved.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019