Alright Disney, Enough’s Enough: What’s Happening With SOLO?

A name change in China, a rumored release date move, and still no poster or trailer. What gives?

The title kind of says it all, but let's go back a bit. 

June 20th, 2017: Lord & Miller depart their Han Solo spin-off film (then known only as Young Han Solo) for Disney, mere weeks from wrapping principal photography. 

June 22nd, 2017: Ron Howard settles into the director's chair, replacing Lord & Miller. 

October 17th, 2017: Production wraps on Howard's film, and it officially receives the title Solo: A Star Wars Story

October 31st, 2017: Reports surface suggesting that Howard re-shot upwards of 80% of Solo, and that the majority of Lord & Miller's footage - including Michael K. Williams - is either cut or replaced (in the case of Williams, with Paul Bettany). 

December 20th, 2017: Howard states that his Solo will be a "gangster movie"

January 2nd, 2017: John Williams confirmed to be writing the theme for Solo (while animation mainstay John Powell will remain on primary score duties). 

Apologies for going all Jim Garrison on you, but the seven month timeline of Solo's tumultuous journey to the screen has become one of the more intriguing stories in our current producer-driven Hollywood. Reports indicate that Kathleen Kennedy & Co. were displeased with the overall tone of Lord & Miller's Young Han Solo footage, so the directors and studio parted ways, resulting in Howard taking over.

Howard re-shooting upwards of 80% of the film is a rather sizable task, especially considering the picture is supposed to open on May 25th, 2018, less than a full calendar year from when he took over the chair and basically started from scratch. Even if a notable amount of the movie is pre-visualized (in terms of action set pieces), there still has to be some fine-tuning/tweaking by ILM's rather talented crew to perfect a movie of this scale's aesthetic and sell its reality. Take four months away from that - with Howard wrapping photography at the end of October - and that SFX crew now needs to triple-time it to make May 25th. 

The replacement of the actors is also a key indicator of how much Howard has changed from Lord & Miller's original vision - which, legend has it, was more comedic and based around at least some improv'd comedy, leading to a fundamental disagreement executive producer/co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan had with The LEGO Movie boys' methods. Howard was re-tooling the picture from supporting cast on up, and his comments about it being a "gangster movie" (he also called Solo "caper" in the same breath) seem like an active pivot away from the perception that this latest Star Wars installment could be a straight comedy. His leaking of used Empire iconography on Instagram points to a certain amount of fan-service being perpetrated on this alleged origin picture as well. 

Williams penning the theme demonstrates that Solo is coming down the post-production homestretch, and that we should be receiving a trailer any day now. One would assume that it'd probably drop on Super Bowl Sunday, though a recent Deadline rundown on the ads notes that Disney has never released a spot during the big game since taking over the franchise (though they did drop Trailer #2 for Rogue One during the '16 Summer Olympics). The next tentpole release for the studio to premiere their first trailer in front of would be Black Panther; a logical decision given that insider tracking puts that movie at a potential $150 million opening weekend. 

Now, Solo is undergoing a title change in China (where it will drop the Star Wars franchise association entirely), but not because the movie's bad or hurts the brand in any way. No, Ranger Solo (as the Chinese will know it) simply exists because George Lucas' brainchild isn't actually a huge name in that territory. As The Playlist points out

There is one country in the world where the words Star Wars don’t mean much — China. The first film in the original trilogy only had its official premiere in the country in 2015, and that was part of the push to promote Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The marketing stunt worked, as J.J. Abrams‘ franchise relaunch earned $124 million in the country, but it has been diminishing returns ever since. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story only managed $69 million, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi has done even worse with $41 million. 

Still, knowing how these large-budgeted American studio releases are now manufactured primarily with a global audience in mind, the name change shows they're trying to milk every dollar out of this calamitous production that they can, through any means possible. It also helps explain why we haven't seen a single frame of footage from Solo thus far: Disney wants to make sure it's totally sound and going to appease both general audiences (who gave TLJ an 'A' CinemaScore) and the core fanbase (especially after the blowback that Disney and Rian Johnson received on The Last Jedi). Some folks are more than likely going to be sharpening their knives for this one, and the producers know they're gonna need their guns loaded with great footage to combat that. There's also a solid chance that critics take the chance to unload some of their storied "franchise fatigue" on Solo, as the BTS strife is viewed by some as the negative byproduct of our current producer-driven IP model of brand filmmaking. 

Yet while Disney fine-tunes this first promo, the fact still remains: Solo is now supposed to come out in five months. There have been rumors circulating that the date might move (easy way to tell: if this initial spot includes a number at the end), which might be wise considering the precarious position Star Wars is currently in (The Last Jedi being a critically lauded, financially successful sequel still viewed as a franchise black eye thanks to an overly vocal minority). But the longer Disney holds off on showing anyone actual footage from Ron Howard's product, the more it'll lead to (mostly baseless) speculation. Is Solo in trouble? Does Disney have a bad film on their hands? Do they not like either version of the movie, regardless of the director? The simple fact is: they're turning a tentpole around in less than a year, so when that first glimpse of Solo footage does drop, it's going to be when the studio is good and ready. The deck's already stacked against this one in a few ways, and that initial trailer will arguably go a long, long way toward combatting that, if cut correctly. 

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