After the box office let down of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, it is difficult to not talk about what Lucasfilm should do going forward. Personally, I never think about the quality of a film depending on its box office success because many of my favorite films were considered huge flops during their initial release. The difference for such blockbuster movies is that they’re supposed to be mainstream media phenomenons, making sure theres a ROI at the box office. For ‘Solo’ to have a return of investment from merchandise and digital sales takes much more time compared to the cinema.
But this isn’t the end of Star Wars, as many articles suggest in the web. This is just a misstep, a huge one, that happened because of several components that Lucasfilm should take care of.
Whats good is that they can learn from a partner, as we might say. It is inevitable to compare Star Wars to Marvel, as they work on a similar film schedule and it creates a whole storytelling universe. Kevin Feige has had its bad moments with Marvel on films like The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Thor 2. With 18 movies under his belt in less than 10 years, he could be considered that has the same experience as Kathleen Kennedy. Here are some things that Lucasfilm could learn from the mighty superheroes.
With two to three movies being released almost every year from Marvel Studios, it is difficult to think the days when they started released one movie per year.
Back when Disney purchased Marvel, Kevin Feige was releasing two movies the same year and see how they turned out: Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. In that same year, he released one of the best movies Marvel has ever done and the worst movie in the whole history of the franchise.
How was Marvel able to recover? They retreated and went back to a yearly schedule for the next 2 years. Why?
First, they had to work more slowly paced to learn from the filmmaking process. Second, they just haven’t earned the right to release more films per year. They had to let the audience give them permission to release more Marvel films.
And so they went back to a yearly schedule until the audience in 2012 asked them for more Marvel films with the first Avengers movie. Only then was Marvel fully committed to a more expansive set of films released yearly, up to three movies per year. They understood that they were able to explore more unknown characters for different audiences.
Embrace The Filmmakers
Of the four Star Wars films that have been released under the Disney era, two have had major problems with its directors. Even though Rogue One gives credit to Gareth Edwards as its director, it is known that Tony Gilroy was the actual director during the reshoots after his process for rewriting the final act of the film as well as many other scenes. The most known of all these controversies happened with Solo, when Kathleen Kennedy fired Christopher Miller and Phil Lord as the directors of the movie, being replaced by Ron Howard. Compared to Rogue One, this was a noticeable announcement that created a lot of bad press for the film.
Lets take a look at Marvel.
Never had a movie had any directorial shift, at least known to the public. The Marvel Studios is very tight to their chest, having a clear production focused process that sometimes didn’t let directors fully do what they want with the films. This happened until most movies started looking fairly the same. People started feeling some superhero fatigue and Marvel had to do something about it.
Enter Peter Gunn and Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Kevin Feige knew that if he let other directors explore lesser known superheroes, he could be able to have a new style of movies. He has mentioned that he doesn’t believe in the superhero genre, but on stories with clear character that you can relate with. Guardians Of The Galaxy showed the world that they were able to have movies were the director were able to do their own thing.
Which is what Lucasfilm should do.
Kathleen was able to give Rian Johnson free reign over The Last Jedi, creating one of the most divisive movie ever in the franchise. Say whatever you say, but if the movie is as divisive, it means that Rian was able to do many things that turned the tables. What would happen it they would let Miller and Lord to direct Solo?
Lucasfilm should think of giving more life to their directors, giving them opportunities to expand on the Star Wars franchise.
Keep Your Mouth Shut
Have you heard about a Marvel producer, director, screenwriter, or actor, debating with fans about a movie? No. You know why? Because it is a recipe for disaster.
Marvel knows this, but Lucasfilm doesn’t.
Rian Johnson, Mark Hamill, Chuck Wendig, and other talents related to Star Wars have been vocal about the films and their fans. From Hamill saying he doesn’t like Luke in Episode 8, to Rian just trying to explain The Last Jedi to fans, each moment has affected the franchise. These are ambassadors, like it or not. Yes, they may be able to comment on things, but why going straightforward?
Also, Lucasfilm hasn’t been able to make true statements to the fans, also affecting the perception. You see Kevin Feige doing open interviews all the time, and Kathleen should do it every once in a while. It is healthy for the fandom and it allows Lucasfilm to explain some things without apologizing.
Respect The Fandom
Marvel knows that they are handling characters that people have loved for decades. This isn’t a reason to don’t experiment, but they fully respect their legacy and fans that have followed the comics for so many years. This is why the Marvel Cinematic Universe has worked so well; they are able to take risks while keeping the heart and soul of each comic.
Only ten years after the launch of the MCU they are willing to take some big risks. But the fans are OK with it. They fully invest themselves into the MCU and after ten years of great movies, they know they are in good hands.
But just two years after relaunching Star Wars, The Last Jedi is being released with some significant plot twists for the fans. And these are fans that have followed the saga for 45 years.
Besides this, the creators have been pretty vocal about it. I’ve never seen a Marvel director or screenwriter defend The Incredible Hulk or Thor. Even Avengers: Infinity War hasn’t been fully explained because the creators don’t need to give explanations to the fans.
The fans have their reasons to be upset, and you need to respect that.
Yes, Lucasfilm should be able to deal with the toxic area of fandom, but they should also understand it. Even though Marvel has its own path, one thing they truly do is that they listen to the fans. These people have been reading comics for decades, and they know these characters from top to bottom. Shouldn’t they be at least heard?
Even though we are at the early stages of Star Wars, the best course of action to show respect to the fans is to reflect it in the upcoming projects. They shouldn’t be chained to the fans, but they should at least show that they care about this franchise (Hint: they obviously do!) and show it with the upcoming projects. Only this way can the fans embrace the direction of Lucasfilm.
Im sure there are Marvel fans somewhere that truly hate how the MCU is being handled, but the people who like it far surpasses them. Let’s all remember that Marvel has a new generation of kids that grew up watching their films, thus having more solid ground than Star Wars. But with new films and series, Star Wars will be able to gain some new ground from the smaller generations that are also growing up with the sequel trilogy.
Lucasfilm is in a tough position from fans, critics, and news reporters. They need to be able to recover from the bad press of Solo and they haven’t been able to do that. They are just receiving the punches. Is this a conscious thing or does the PR team doesn’t even know how to handle it?
What I believe is that Lucasfilm knew that Solo would be their first major box office disappointment. They knew it the moment they fired directors and when they saw how many movies they were competing with. This was just a move to see how strong is the brand. As we see, it isn’t as strong compared with the mighty Thanos and Deadpool.
A minor change in leadership could go a long way. Not replacing Kathleen Kennedy, who is a veteran filmmaker, but adding a Chief Creative Officer of sorts like someone from the Lucasfilm StoryGroup. This should be able to keep the fans sure that everything is fine. The other major thing is that the Lucasfilm team should be able to speak about their upcoming projects just like Marvel. Kevin Feige constantly talks that they have movies lined up until 2025, showing a strong belief in the brand and showing the fans that they have a road map to make everything logical in the storyline. Star Wars is failing in this aspect, without a clear road map to show the audience.
These small touches, as well as the many mentioned in this article, will be the ones that will make Lucasfilm rise up from this complicated time and move on. If George Lucas did it after the prequel trilogy, then Lucasfilm could do it after this Solo incident.