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Star Wars Stories: Comparing Solo to Rogue One

How does Solo: A Star Wars Story compare to Rogue One? As the first two Star Wars spin-offs, audiences will inevitably size these movies up side by side. Conceptually, these two films are the first Star Wars spinoff movies, a whole new type of adventure set in the beloved Galaxy Far, Far Away. Rogue One explored an untold chapter in Star Wars history, revealing the heroes who made Luke's Death Star run possible; Solo, in contrast, has finally revealed the true backstory of the galaxy's favorite scoundrel, Han Solo.

There's a sense in which Solo: A Star Wars Story is cursed by the success of Rogue One. That film broke $1 billion at the global box office, cementing the idea that a successful Star Wars movie should break one billion. No studio was ever going to be able to live up to that, but sadly this remarkable success makes Solo's initial box office performance all the more painfully noticeable. Solo has currently delivered an estimated $83.3 million opening weekend against Rogue One's $155 million. Given the sheer scale of Solo's reshoots, it's actually possible the film's box office won't recoup its costs.

But comparisons between Rogue One and Solo have the potential to be far more instructive than just tossing out figures from the box office. These two Star Wars spinoffs take a subtly different approach, and as a result they give real insight into just what kind of Star Wars story has the potential to perform well. Meanwhile, both productions were actually remarkably troubled - but in the case of Rogue One, smart marketing prevented tales of the reshoots dominating the conversation. Let's take a look at how these two films compare.

Comparing the Concepts of Rogue One and Solo

Let's start with the high-level concepts. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012, the House of Mouse had to make a difficult decision; would they retain the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, with its complex web of continuity, or would they erase it? Disney chose the later, reducing the official canon down to the already-extant films and animated shows. Rogue One and Solo both illustrate the wisdom of this decision; both are essentially big-screen versions of concepts the EU had explored a long time ago.

But that's not to say the high-level concepts are the same. Rogue One director Gareth Edwards pitched the film to Lucasfilm as a Vietnam War movie. He literally photoshopped rebel helmets on the tops of photos from conflicts in the Middle East and World War II, and used those as part of his pitch to the studio. Edwards knew that George Lucas had been influenced by the Vietnam War back when he first created Star Wars, and this film was an attempt to return to those roots. It gave Rogue One a unique style, and caused the film to end in a bittersweet fashion, with the deaths of the protagonists. The first Rogues had triumphed, but at a terrible cost.

Related: Solo Reuses Footage From Rogue One's Marketing

In contrast, Solo's high-level pitch is a simple one; it's Han Solo's origin story. Lucasfilm may have been proud of Kasdan's script, but it runs through this backstory like a checklist. Given the film focuses most of it's runtime on just a few days, it compresses all the major events in Han's life into a remarkably short period of time. Within (what seems like) less than a week, Han has become a smuggler, won the Falcon from Lando, earned a copilot in Chewie, and even pulled off the Kessel Run. The stylistic overtones of a heist movie logically flow from the plot, rather than the themes and ideas dictating it as in the case of Rogue One.

Both of these films are essentially tangential to the Original Trilogy. In the strictest sense, neither is actually "necessary" in order to make sense of the main Star Wars Saga; while they subtly reinterpret some scenes from Lucas's original films, it's all done so carefully and reverentially. As a result, both movies had to justify their existence in order to succeed. They both pull it off - but Solo's weaker marketing meant audiences didn't actually know the film pulled it off beforehand.

The Troubled Productions of the Star Wars Spinoffs

Curiously enough, both Rogue One and Solo had significant behind-the-scenes productions issues. In May 2016, there were reports that Lucasfilm was unhappy with Gareth Edwards's cut of Rogue One, with discussion of extensive reshoots - including claims that up to 40% of the film would need to be reworked. Tony Gilroy, who was brought in to write the reshoots, recently gave a sense of the behind-the-scenes problems. "They were in such a swamp," he explained. "They were in so much terrible, terrible trouble that all you could do was improve their position." Gilroy reworked the entire narrative, recognizing that the script had lost its tight focus. The ending was compressed, explaining why a lot of footage from the trailer wasn't in the final cut, and Gilroy insisted that the heroes should actually die. "It's a movie about sacrifice," he explained, and that meant there had to be sacrifices.

The scale of these changes was mostly kept under wraps until the film's release. Then it became obvious because entire sequences from the trailers were missing. Jyn facing down a TIE Fighter, flashback sequences featuring a younger Saw Gerrera, and of course Jyn's "I rebel" speech. The Internet swiftly became fascinated with discussing the reshoots, but there's a sense in which it didn't matter; they hadn't really dominated the online narrative until after the movie's release, meaning their impact on the film's reputation was muted.

Related: Solo: A Star Wars Story Reshoots: What's Lord & Miller And What's Ron Howard?

Solo's issues were even more severe, and became the movie's main talking point. The announcement of Solo had been greeted with more than a little skepticism, but Lucasfilm had dealt with that by making a surprising choice as to the film's directors; they chose Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Unfortunately, late in the day the "creative differences" between Lord and Miller and Lucasfilm became irreconcilable. The directors were fired, and a thousand rumors swirled online as to the reason. Lucasfilm hired Ron Howard, a "safe pair of hands," to fix the film; he reportedly reshot nearly all of it, at almost twice the budget. Where the scale of Rogue One's production issues had been kept mostly under wraps, Solo's were public knowledge, damaging the film's reputation before the marketing campaign had even begun to kick into gear. That meant marketing for Solo was always be a tricky proposition.

Page 2 of 2: The Marketing and Critical Response to the Star Wars Spinoffs

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Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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