With the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League set to become a reality next year, it’s become clear that online fan campaigns can actually work – and some Star Wars fans are now trying to start their own movement, using the two-year anniversary of spin-off movie Solo to drum up support for a sequel.
— Everything Star Wars (@EverythingSW66) May 25, 2020
Personally, would I like to see more of Alden Ehrenreich’s take on Harrison Ford’s smuggler? Do I think Disney and Lucasfilm should #MakeSolo2Happen? Well, maybe not – I thought Solo was fun enough but not especially diverting, and it was a big enough box office failure to make its return very unlikely anyway – but I do wonder whether Disney and LucasFilm pulled the plug too quickly on their anthology Star Wars stories.
Following The Force Awakens, the release of spin-off prequel Rogue One in 2016 was supposed to usher in a new era of Star Wars, alternating mainstream “episodic” films like the numbered Skywalker saga with standalone adventures delving into other eras in a galaxy far, far away.
With Rogue One’s financial and critical success, it seemed like the model was working – but then Solo came along with a troubled production history and a too-short gap away from The Last Jedi (instead of the usual year, there were only five months between the films as LucasFilm tried to shift Star Wars to a summer release).
As we now know, Solo was not a success – and for LucasFilm’s planning it was apparently an abject disaster, leading them to scrap the whole “Star Wars Story” anthology drive. A planned Obi-Wan Kenobi movie has been punted to Disney+ as a series instead (where it’s continued to have some production issues), a rumoured Tattooine-set story was scrapped entirely, and LucasFilm refocused so much attention on the newly-minted “Skywalker Saga” in recent months that Rogue One and Solo stood out like sore thumbs.
Clearly, an attempt for a Marvel-style system of releasing multiple movies a year wasn’t necessarily the way to go for Star Wars. But did Disney throw the Baby Yoda out with the bathwater?
Personally, I feel like Solo was a unique case, hampered by a not-particularly-interesting premise (the younger years of a character who emerges fully formed in the original 1977 Star Wars), the spring release date when fans were getting used to Christmas Star Wars movies and the loss of original writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (#ReleaseTheLordMillerCut, anyone?).
It wasn’t the basic idea of exploring the franchise’s history that fans objected to – they weren’t saying “Oh, we’re sick of these Star Wars stories”. They just didn’t respond to one movie. And as someone keen to see into more corners of the Star Wars universe, I can’t help but feel a bit robbed.
The beauty of Star Wars is that there’s a vast, unexplored universe spinning out in every direction outside the films we’ve seen, and these anthology movies seemed to understand that. The success of The Mandalorian on Disney+ also shows that there’s still an appetite to dip into smaller, standalone stories that don’t overtly cross over with the Skywalker saga, just as the huge box office of Rogue One did.
So will Disney and LucasFilm dip their toes back into these uncertain waters? Well, I hope so. News of Taika Waititi’s solo Star Wars movie gives me hope that we could be about to delve into some weird and wonderful stories, or fill in some gaps in the style of Rogue One. Meanwhile, Disney+ continues to add new prequels and spin-offs exploring Star Wars “history” (even if I would rather these sort of stories became films instead).
So for now, I have my fingers crossed that going forward the struggles of one spin-off don’t hamper the future of interesting Star Wars stories. Hans down, it’s my biggest worry for the franchise.
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