solo

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by Jason F. Koenigsberg

Did your mother ever tell you the age old saying “too much of a good thing is bad”? I know growing up my mom sure would remind me whenever I came home from school and ate the same snack, or watched the same movie or episode of a TV show I loved, or listened to the same song over and over again. That saying applies perfectly to Solo and those prognosticators attempting to explain its soft landing at the box office over this highly anticipated Memorial Day Weekend. This is usually one of the biggest weekends of the year for event movies, and a Star Wars movie should certainly qualify as an event. However, Solo underperforming during its opening holiday weekend is a clear sign to the studio heads. Audiences have reached their capacity for Star Wars. What was a special once every three years event movie, has now reached the point of over saturation. 

Audiences just saw a Star Wars movie five months ago with The Last Jedi (2017) and it was a huge hit. It divided audiences especially the franchises most ardent supporters. But it was still an event movie that lived up to the hype whether it upset the fanbase or not. The same can be said for the much derided prequel trilogy. Each film was released three years apart and whether people liked the last film or not, they could not wait to see what was next. In fact the first prequel film Phantom Menace (1999) came out a whopping 16 years after the previous film Return of the Jedi (1983). That is something unfathomable to audiences today and regardless of how poorly Solo was received by tepid ticket sales this weekend, the Star Wars franchise will never lay dormant for that long ever again. 

The problem is not with the movie itself, critics and audiences slammed the prequel films and even found fault with the newer films Episodes VII and VIII. Plus, if you go back and check out the reviews for Return of the Jedi, they were not exactly glowing. But all of those movies felt special. They were event movies that lived up to the hype even though they had their flaws. Attack of the Clones (2002) was the first Star Wars movie released that did not end up being the highest grossing film of the year. It came in second to the original Spider-Man movie which was a sign of things to come. Marvel now dominates pop culture and multiplexes in ways that Star Wars did for decades. Now audiences have become accustomed to knowing they will get a Star Wars movie once a year. Star Wars fatigue has finally settled in, something that seemed unimaginable at one time even when the prequel trilogy was underwhelming audience expectations but still earning millions in profit. Even the Marvel movies and DC films are suffering from audience fatigue. With the exception of Avengers: Infinity War several big tentpole titles had underperformed in recent years. Deadpool 2 did good business but did not outperform the original. Audiences keep complaining that they want more original films but as long as these mega franchises keep making money, the sequels, reboots and remakes are not going to stop anytime soon. Solo may be the first big sign that this over saturation of a huge beloved property will not sell to the masses as easily as previous attempts have. 

The DC Universe films have underperformed even worse than Solo and some of the lackluster Marvel movies. Batman vs. Superman (2016) was poorly received and Justice League (2017) did not have any of the bravado that a Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman team up film should have had. Christopher Nolan, who certainly knows a thing or two about comic book adaptations said the reason the newer DC movies have underperformed are not because of the quality or sullen and dark mood that they contain, but because they are being released too rapidly onto audiences. He has a point. In between each of his Batman pictures he made another movie for Warner Bros. that had nothing to do with Gotham City. After Batman Begins (2005) audiences wanted nothing more than another Christopher Nolan directed Batman movie, but he took the time to direct The Prestige (2006) instead, and then focused on The Dark Knight (2008). After the huge success of The Dark Knight Nolan still took his time and made audiences wait four years until the conclusion of his trilogy with Inception (2010) wowing critics and audiences in between and then finally delivering The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. That kind of wait time seems unimaginable in todays blockbuster cluttered landscape. But it was less than a decade ago when Nolan made his Batman movies and it seems as if a lot has changed thanks to Marvel, DC, Star Wars and other major moneymaking properties. 

Plus, let’s face it. Was anyone out there clamoring for a Han Solo origin movie? Was this something audiences and fans were begging for? Han was perfect as he was in the original trilogy because he was the only mortal “everyman” character caught up in the Skywalker family drama and the battle over good and evil and the fate of the galaxy. He was a perfect character audiences could relate to in the original trilogy because he had no special powers and was not a droid or an alien creature. He was one of us, and was in it for the money. Audiences have been asking for a solo movie about Obi-Wan Kenobi and the bounty hunter Boba Fett. I for one would love to see an origin movie about Yoda that goes back centuries before Luke and Annakin Skywalker, and how the force and the council of the Jedi was created and evolved into what it was at the time of the prequels. Nobody vehemently requested a movie about Han Solo meeting Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca, but we got it and considering that, Solo performed about as well as one should expect. The Star Wars stamp did not do anything to help this entry since it was a story nobody was dying to see. 

Also, considering that Solo made $83 million dollars its opening weekend should not be something to cry about. It certainly was way less than predicted and significantly lower than Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2, but most movies would love to be able to earn that much on their opening weekend, it is just a low opening for a Star Wars picture. Anyone reading up about the making of Solo knows it was a troubled production. Actress Emilia Clarke declared director Ron Howard a “hero” and that he saved a messy production into making a decent film. So obviously there were problems that not even a talented, veteran blockbuster director could not salvage. 

In the end, Solo will be viewed as a footnote in the Star Wars legacy. It will have its fans that defend it, and its detractors that dislike it but will probably not hinder the saga and its longtime dominance of the box office. However, Solo should be a lesson, one that the studio executives mothers should have taught them a long time ago, in a galaxy not so far from LA… too much of a good thing is bad, and good things come to those who wait. Making audiences wait for Star Wars, makes the movies themselves an event. They do not need to hype it up, The Star Wars brand creates its own media hype and sells itself. 

This trailer for the re-release of Star Wars for it’s 20th anniversary was when Star Wars returned to our pop culture for good.

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