Five Ways to Fix the Star Wars Spinoffs
After early predictions had Solo: A Star Wars Story grossing anywhere from $130 to $150 million over the Memorial Day weekend, the Star Wars spinoff limped to the end of the Kessel Run with just $103 million over the four days. (By way of comparison: Star Wars: The Force Awakens made $113 million on the Friday of its opening weekend alone.) There is no try in the Star Wars universe. But I imagine there are some people involved with Solo who would like to try a couple of things about it differently.
On the one hand, I’ve spoken with a fair number of people who enjoyed Solo, along with a few who think it’s among the best of the four Star Wars Disney has made since they acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. But there are others out there [waves both hands frantically] who were deeply disappointed by Solo and are worried about the direction of the so-called “anthology” Star Wars films, which take place separate from the main “saga” movies like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Rogue One turned out okay, but it was dogged by rumors of a troubled production and extensive reshoots. Solo had more than just rumors; it had major problems. So major, in fact, I’m not sure original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller could have fixed them all if Lucasfilm hadn’t let them go midway through production. And the ideas rumored for future anthology films (a Boba Fett prequel and an Obi-Wan solo story) make me nervous that the folks involved may not learn from their mistakes.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the notion of stories outside the main Star Wars saga should be scrapped. Decades of Star Wars comics, novels, and video games suggest there’s tons of potential in that great galaxy far, far away, just waiting for someone to tap into it and put it up on the silver screen. With that in mind, here are five very reasonable, extremely doable ways to improve the Star Wars spinoff movies.
1. Stop making such prequel-y prequels.
If you want to make movies about established Star Wars characters like Han Solo, Obi-Wan, or Boba Fett, go for it. These are great characters and there are surely more stories you could tell about them (well maybe not Boba Fett, but he looks neat anyway). But those stories don’t have to be so focused on irrelevant, meaningless backstory. Solo is so busy revealing stuff we didn’t even need or want to know in the first place, that it barely feels like a movie until the Kessel Run (which is a prequel-y reveal too!) kicks into gear about halfway through the film. It’s kind of nuts that after all the gripes about the Lucas prequels for this exact reason, Lucasfilm went and made another prequel just like that. All the “revelations” in these movies was deliberately excluded from the original trilogy in favor of exciting adventures. Give us a Star Wars movie that captures that feeling.
2. Bring in new voices, and empower them to make bold choices.
The more I’ve sat with Solo, the more I’ve come to feel that Lucasfilm hired Phil Lord and Chris Miller, guys with a track record of subversive, cliche-busting blockbusters, to make the kind of movie that Lord and Miller typically make fun of. At the very least, the version Ron Howard directed is so middle-of-the-road and predictable that it’s hard to see much of Lord and Miller’s voice in it, even if 30 percent of their footage remains in the final cut.
So why hire them in the first place? It’s a good question, one that Lucasfilm needs to think about as they find people to make these rumored spinoffs. Currently, James Mangold is reportedly working on Boba Fett and Stephen Daldry is on Obi-Wan. Nothing against those guys, but Lucasfilm might want to take a page from their corporate siblings over at Marvel, who’ve found younger talents to direct their movies (Taika Waititi on Thor: Ragnarok, Ryan Coogler on Black Panther). The’ve produced smart, fresher films with bold ideas. Star Wars needs to find their Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler, and needs to let him (or her) think outside the box.
3. Start making movies that truly feel apart from the main Star Wars Saga
In the two anthology films so far — movies that are supposedly set outside the main saga — we’ve seen the most famous location from the main saga (the Death Star) and several of the most famous characters from the main saga (Han and Chewbacca). These movies seem torn between a desire to really expand the boundaries of what a “Star Wars movie” can be, and a fear that if they truly do that, audiences will rebel because their expectations haven’t been met. Solo shows that hedging your bets won’t always work. It’s time to take a bigger swing. Otherwise, all you’re offering are watered-down versions of the “important“ Star Wars movies. And at that point, why pay $15 for a ticket?
4. Please, no Solo sequel.
The end of Solo strongly teases a potential sequel, following Han, Chewbacca, and the other surviving characters on a new adventure prior to the events of A New Hope. There’s even a major cameo that is meant to whet your appetite for more of this cast. With respect to Donald Glover and his awesome Lando Calrissian, I think this would be a very poor idea. Not that Glover’s Lando couldn’t pop up somewhere else, but a straight Solo 2 would please no one but the actors’ management teams. We don’t need to learn any more stuff about Han’s backstory, and the longer this storyline goes, and the older Alden Ehrenreich gets, the more glaringly obvious it becomes that he is never turning into Harrison Ford. It’s was a decent attempt, but it’s like the old expression says: Don’t throw good credits after bad.
5. Bring back the opening crawl.
I already wrote a whole piece about this but it bears repeating: Removing the crawls from the spinoff Star Wars movies was a mistake. Star Wars films that look and feel different are very welcome; the crawl and John Williams’ music could be the one of the few key things that tie them all together. And if Disney is going to ditch the crawl for the anthology movies, then they should ditch any kind of onscreen text at the start of spinoffs. Solo having bland blue text instead of a crawl makes its absence stand out even more.
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