The Trailers Should Have Led With Han
Many Star Wars fans who saw Solo were surprised at how much they enjoyed the film in part because their expectations were so low. Before the production problems even began on Solo, there was already concern that no one could fill Harrison Ford's shoes as the smuggler who would go on to be a hero to the Rebellion. News of Alden Ehrenreich's casting had long been overshadowed by issues with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and the relatively unknown actor did not bring the name recognition to appease fan's worries.
These low expectations were further fueled by the content of the trailers leading up the film. The Solo trailers did not try to address any concerns that fans had about the recasting of Solo. If anything, they were reserved and teasing, assuming that audiences were already excited and anticipating the film. "I might be the only person who knows what you really are," Qi'ra muses in the trailer. Han responds, "What's that?" but no answer is given. Instead, the initial trailers flashed a number of shots of different characters, planets, and alien species, but didn't give much of a sense of the plot of the film or the identity of its main character. The audience hears Ehrenreich deliver lines about his past, but there are only a few shots of his face, much less any scenes that would showcase Han's chemistry with Chewbacca or Lando Calrissian.
Later television spots and April trailer improved slightly, including short but fun interactions between Han, Chewie, and Lando, but by that time, the narrative was already written: Solo never really stood a chance against the snowballing negativity.
Instead, Solo should have led with its leading man from the beginning. Alden Ehrenreich beat out literally thousands of other actors to play the role of Han Solo, and in the film, audiences can see why. Alden Ehrenreich's Han Solo is both a compelling performance and a distinct variation on Harrison Ford's older version of the character. Fans can see how Ehrenreich's Solo will one day grow up to be Ford's, while still giving a youthful arrogance and energy to the role.
But Ehrenreich's Han was still a mystery to fans until Solo came to theaters, and if the marketing had focused on promoting his characterization (after all, he is the title character), perhaps theater-goers would have been more likely to come out to see the film. Obviously, trailers and promotional material don't want to give too much of the film's plot away, but Han could have been introduced in such a way that highlighted Ehrenreich's charisma, humor, and chemistry as the film's eponymous lead.
Additionally, Solo contains more references to the Star Wars expanded universe and Star Wars Legends than any other Star Wars film to date. Unfortunately, this attention to detail was nowhere to be seen in the trailers, where a simple reference, such as the fact that Beckett killed Aurra Sing, would have certainly generated buzz among fans for the film.
Solo: A Star Wars Story marketing did not do enough to combat the pessimism around the film, both in terms of the change in directors and in terms of skepticism around recasting the role of Han Solo. If marketing had actively tried to address these concerns head-on, rather than going about business as usual, then fans would have had more confidence in Solo and would have turned out to support the film in greater numbers. There is so much to love about Solo, but unfortunately, the trailers and the marketing didn't show that to potential audiences.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019