Walt Disney Studios and Lucasfilm understand the art of the franchise. They were sitting on a pot of gold prior to the 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a title that would itch the nostalgia scratch while delivering a picture that was suited to the 21st Century. With that installment enjoying a record-breaking $2.068b at the box office, there was no turning back for a slate of movies that would go above and beyond for spectacle.
The upcoming spinoff that is geared towards Han Solo is said to track the rogue smuggler’s life prior to his introduction for Star Wars: Episode IV. Already in possession of the Millennium Falcon and partnered with Chewbacca, this blockbuster will showcase how Harrison Ford’s space cowboy came to be the hero we knew and loved from as earlier as 1977.
But the production has been anything other than smooth sailing. Where Rogue One: A Star Wars Story succeeded by portraying a confined, stand-alone narrative that filled the gaps of the Rebellion’s access to the Death Star plans, this Han Solo project has failed – spectacularly. In between two directors being fired, a timeline that appears arbitrary to the main event, and a lead actor who requires a coach to ease him through his job, there are warning signs plastered all over the place.
Ron Howard’s recruitment to pick up the pieces and salvage a film that will have billions of dollars riding on it is a plus. The Academy award winner is a proven commodity in this business, but he cannot override all of the errors of judgment that have preceded his involvement.
When Star Wars: The Last Jedi plots a course towards an epic finale this December, the yet-to-be-titled Han Solo feature will take the audience on an interesting voyage in 2018. Given what has occurred, it could be anything from a smash hit to an absolute bomb.
Here are 8 reasons why the spinoff will suck and 7 why it will be worth watching.
15. Will Suck – Timeline
Just how many movies exactly are supposed to take place just before 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV? We already had the unfortunate prequel series that concluded with 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. That intended to bring the audience up to speed on how Darth Vader came to be, why Obi-Wan Kenobi went rogue, why the Rebellion formed and numerous other subplots that created the original series.
Then 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ventured further in time to pre-date the events that led to Episode IV’s exact opening. As soon as Vader boarded the Rebel command ship, the viewer was having immediate flashbacks to that time they were introduced to the franchise. Throw in a cool fighting sequence to jazz up the action a little bit, and it is virtually a carve and copy of what occurred 39-years previous.
The endless need by Disney and Lucasfilm to go back in time and see what happened prior to Episode IV is beginning to get tiresome. Sometimes filmmakers need to understand that less is more as a famous legacy begins to diminish in importance.
14. Won’t Suck – Donald Glover
Playing Lando Calrissian takes more than a little bit class and confidence to completely pull off the character. For someone to give him the treatment that Billy Dee Williams so beautifully captured during Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the studio needed to cast a well-rounded talent who could offer a bit of sex appeal, swagger and vulnerability to the rogue Star Wars figure. They found that when Disney put pen to paper with 33-year-old Donald Glover.
The versatile performer would shoot to stardom with his role in the hit NBC sitcom Community, all before releasing three studio albums under his alias Childish Gambino. The California native would go onto appear in titles like Magic Mike XXL, The Martian, and Spider-Man: Homecoming prior to creating the series Atlanta on FX.
13. Will Suck – Overshadowed By Episodes Juggernaut
Make no mistake; this Han Solo adventure is merely a big budget appetizer to Star Wars: Episode IX for their 2019 debut. The original arm of the series has raked in a small fortune for the filmmakers and studio executives, using that revenue to expand the pie that little bit more courtesy of a couple of spinoffs. Disney and Lucasfilm saw the money that could be made from copying the Marvel and DC model, branching out to make a “universe” of their very own. Franchises are all the rage these days after all.
So needless to say, any genuine interest in this Han Solo romp should only reside with the diehards, or those desiring to see a Star Wars property venture out of the neat formatted box to see something a little different. They will be disappointed on that count as Howard fulfills Kathleen Kennedy’s formula, leaving many to ponder why this should distract from the main attraction. 20th Century Fox never considered making a breakaway film to examine the origins of the Ewoks, Yoda or Jabba the Hutt in the 1980s, and it never affected the enjoyment of the series. So why start now?
12. Won’t Suck – Michael K. Williams And Emilia Clarke
One of the tangible benefits of this “golden age of television” is the unearthing of actors who might have ordinarily been overlooked for more established names in motion pictures. Thanks to the likes of HBO, AMC and other networks that broadcast quality content, we get to see the best of the best strut their stuff on the big screen. This is what is taking place with the additions of Michael K. Williams and Emilia Clarke respectively for this Han Solo production.
Williams became a global star with his portrayal of Omar Little on The Wire, portraying a Baltimore gangster who lives and dies by his own moral code. The 50-year-old would go on to features in 12 Years a Slave, The Road, Triple 9 and Assassin’s Creed among other titles.
For Clarke, it is impossible to look past her work as the King of Dragons in HBO’s Game of Thrones, taking on the part of Daenerys Targaryen with acclaim. The Londoner might not have much to sing about in relation to her movie career to date, but anything will be an improvement from Terminator Genisys.
11. Will Suck – Spin-Off Sickness
Spinoffs are not an entirely new phenomenon. They can be dated back to the 1980s and beyond, with the likes of Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure to Wartime and 1992’s Wayne’s World all having origins in other productions. But now it is a legitimate method of expanding a universe as studios carefully plot out a series of features that branch off from the original narrative. Take The Scorpion King, Evan Almighty, Beauty Shop, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Get Him to the Greek, Puss in Boots and Annabelle as case in points.
In some of those examples, the filmmakers were able to showcase a movie that told us something we did not already know before, introduce new and interesting characters to the scene and did it all in a fashion that it could have been made as a standalone entity. Yet those are fairly few and far between. Venturing into Han Solo territory is dangerous because the character has been on screen for decades. Spinning off into prequel territory will have to answer some key themes and questions that have not been discovered before.
10. Won’t Suck – Chewbacca
Chewie is one of the most beloved fictional characters ever created. Arriving from the planet Kashyyyk, the big hairy Wookiee would be a fierce, loyal sidekick to Solo as the pair would go on a string of adventures together. It would be one of the first on screen bromances that endured. Englishman Peter Mayhew would portray Chewie over the course of the first three movies, using his infamy in the franchise to make a string of appearances on skit shows as well as children’s hospitals. While he never had to do much outside of wearing the suit, Chewbacca become a part of Mayhew’s identity.
That is now the position 30-year-old Finnish basketball player Joonas Suotamo finds himself in, reprising the character he played in The Force Awakens. It is obvious that the character does not require any acting prowess to pull off the role with acclaim, yet his very presence in the franchise is comforting to the audience who want to be reminded about all that is good in Star Wars.
9. Will Suck – Promotional Lull
The D23 Expo from Disney in July this year has been an extravaganza of activity for the geeks and movie buffs alike to absorb. Marvel are ensuring their partnership with the studio elevates their brand to the next level, showcasing many of the Avengers: Infinity War stars together on the one stage. From Robert Downey Jr. to Benedict Cumberbatch, Josh Brolin, Tom Holland, Mark Ruffalo and more – the content continues to amp up excitement and expectation ahead of their box office premiere date.
While that title could very well break records for a cinematic release, Han Solo stories and interviews have been buried. The same can be said at the San Diego Comic-Con, seeing Rian Johnson and company out on the promotional circuit for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It might appear like a small detail, but for a production the size and scope of a Disney-Lucasfilm feature to be forgotten in this context speaks to a lack of confidence.
8. Won’t Suck – Budget
Facts and figures can be twisted to suit any sort of agenda, yet those emanating from Disney in relation to this franchise tells a story. The filmmakers under this banner have the flexibility and arsenal to create something truly special, with a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars. With The Force Awakens utilizing no less than $306m gross for J.J. Abrams to play with for CGI specialists, principal photographers, sound engineers, costume design and set design, there is no limit for the spectacle that can be achieved.
Even for the spinoff series to take flight, Gareth Edwards enjoyed a gross budget of $265m for Rogue One before he would see his instalment bring home $1b in theaters. If that is any guide, Ron Howard should have a similarly sizeable chunk of coin to spend on his inclusion to the franchise. Directors fight tooth and nail to have that freedom and for the veteran filmmaker, no expense should be spared.
7. Will Suck – No Harrison Ford
Due to his character’s death in The Force Awakens and the prequel script turning the timeline on its head, there was never a threat that Harrison Ford would emerge for this title. The 75-year-old has long past his peak as an action star, although he continues to be a presence for franchises that have dated well – including Indiana Jones (bar the fourth feature) and Blade Runner, as the Chicago native gears up for a reprisal as Rick Deckard for 2017’s Blade Runner 2049.
Yet it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get past his absence in this picture with Ford becoming the pure embodiment of the cocksure rogue who shoots first and asks questions later. His successor Alden Ehrenreich has the unenviable task of filling those shoes, a challenge that would be beyond almost anyone in Hollywood right now. The fact remains that a Han Solo movie without Harrison Ford is not a prospect that bodes well for the studio or the fans.
6. Won’t Suck – Screenwriters
Any film ever made will live and die by the quality of the story. Those who are tasked with creating the screenplay have to ensure that the spectacle is delivered with a clear and coherent structure so that the audience does not lose attention. This is what has been thrown the way of veteran scribe Lawrence Kasdan, an experienced writer who has been paired with his son and relative newcomer Jon Kasdan.
Perhaps there is an element of nepotism involved as Disney hope to have a screenwriter who can learn from the master. But Jon’s fresh perspective on the subject material will allow him to challenge his father Lawrence to make the narrative fit the demands of 2018. His CV might only include some work on Freaks and Geeks and Dawson’s Creek, yet that will make Kasdan eager to prove his worth as a potential long-term deal sits on the table.
5. Will Suck – Phil Lord/Christopher Miller Sackings
Four-and-a-half months. That was the official tenure of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller on the set of the untitled blockbuster before Kathleen Kennedy wielded the axe and sent the pair packing. The directing duo has been a proven partnership dating back to the late 1990s before they were given full control of the series Clone High.
That opportunity saw them helm The Lego Movie and 22 Jump Street prior to the Han Solo instalment. All was said to be going well until the bombshell dropped and what was supposed to be their coming of age experience quickly became a nightmare scenario for all parties. Lord and Miller would issue a statement to cite creative differences to intimate that the decision was mutual, while Kennedy would later explain that they were simply let go over the friction.
Such an occurrence does not bode well. Decisions were made that could not be reversed as the cast spent the best part of 18 weeks performing in the image that Lord and Miller wanted. It is a significant shakeup and any issues that will be found with tone, plot structure or general enjoyment could be laid at the moment Kennedy picked up the phone.
4. Won’t Suck – Ron Howard
To some younger movie buffs out there, Ron Howard is that scruffy looking, baseball cap-wearing director who occasionally pops up for red carpet events. But his CV speaks volumes about his eye for talent. The former Happy Days star appeared destined to be behind the camera since the early 1980s. Helming the 1982 title Night Shift, Howard would go onto direct Backdraft, Apollo 13, Ransom and EDtv prior to winning an Academy Award for 2001’s A Beautiful Mind.
Combined with a mixture of producing and screenwriting credits to his name, the 63-year-old is a proven quantity in this business. Although the manner of his introduction has been far short of ideal, Ron Howard knows how to create a masterpiece. Science-fiction adventure titles have also been part of his wheelhouse before, working on the likes of Cowboys & Aliens, Willow and 2017’s upcoming Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.
3. Will Suck – Lucasfilm Oversight
Kathleen Kennedy can walk the talk when it comes to making executive decisions. The producer’s involvement to date has garnered a total of $11b at the box office and 120 Academy Award nominations over the course of 60 films. This has placed the 64-year-old in a very powerful position at Lucasfilm where Kennedy can oversee the entire apparatus from her vantage point and either sit back or interject wherever she feels is necessary.
Yet the acquisition of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as co-directors was her executive decision, wanting to offer the duo a chance to make their mark in the franchise. In-depth talks and negotiations would have been held over the narrative, the tone of the movie and any creative choice that they were attempting to showcase. By firing them after they had worked on the movie for so long, especially a movie with so much riding on it is remarkable.
So rarely does a choice this bold pay off, even with Howard brought into repair the damage. A certain degree of oversight can be healthy to keep the filmmakers on their toes, but Kennedy’s ruthless axing illustrates that any director hired from here on out has to conform to their vision 100% with little to no leeway.
2. Won’t Suck – Woody Harrelson
How could Woody Harrelson suck at anything, ever? As the 55-year-old gears up to play Han’s mentor Beckett, Harrelson has been front and center of one of 2017’s best movies to date – War for the Planet of the Apes. The actor has an uncanny ability to play some of the most vicious and dark characters, yet do so in a charming and quirky fashion that makes them almost empathetic.
Since his starring role in the 1992 comedy White Men Can’t Jump, Harrelson has gone on to be an outstanding performer across a range of genres. The filmography is staggering – from Natural Born Killers to The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Thin Red Line, A Scanner Darkly, No Country for Old Men, Zombieland, The Hunger Games, Triple 9 and the bold 2017 live project Lost in London – Harrelson has done it all. What makes his CV all the more remarkable is that he has never been typecast or known for one role over any other. He is just our beloved Woody who always makes a movie better for his involvement.
1. Will Suck – Alden Ehrenreich
There would have been actors before in major productions who required acting coaches, only for the press to never get hold of that information. In that respect, Alden Ehrenreich has been given a bad hand, yet it is unnerving to consider that the man replacing Han Solo cannot convince those who have offered the 27-year-old every resource possible to make this a success.
Appearing in an episode of Supernatural in 2005, the New York native would have a smattering of appearances in titles like Tetro, Twixt, Beautiful Creatures and Blue Jasmine before earning critical acclaim for his part in 2016’s Hail, Caesar! Clearing seeing some currency in the emerging talent, the studio saw fit to give him the keys to the Millennium Falcon and fill Harrison Ford’s shoes.
There is no sugarcoating the fact this choice has been an unmitigated disaster. The filmmakers are having doubts, the directors would end up being discarded as thrown under the bus, and additional help has had to be brought in from outside. Heaven help us.
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