Typically, one would not complain about an opening weekend north of $100 million, but the $101 million fetched by the latest installment in the Star Wars universe over the entire Memorial Day weekend is, indeed, hugely disappointing. The three-day weekend totals for Solo: A Star Wars Story ($83 million) are not only coming in more than $160 to $140 million less than the opening weekends of A Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, respectively, but the four-day total is in over $50 million less than the three-day opening weekend total for Rogue One ($155 million), and it’s doing so with a movie featuring arguably the universe’s most popular character.
Therein, however, may lie part of the problem: Han Solo is as popular as he is because he has always been played by the irascibly charming Harrison Ford, and for a lot of fans, Alden Ehrenreich just doesn’t cut it. To be fair to Ehrenreich, following Harrison Ford is next to impossible for anyone, especially after 40 years of history tied up in Ford. But Disney may have also misfired in hiring a relative unknown rather than someone like Donald Glover, who already comes in with an established reputation. It may simply be, however, that moviegoers wouldn’t have accepted anyone else in the role of Solo.
Ehrenreich, however, is only one of many smaller problems that may have hurt the showing of Solo. It also underwent a high-profile director change, after Ron Howard took over from Phil Lord and Chris Miller; the marketing for the film hasn’t been all that exciting; the reviews haven’t been as strong as the previous three outings; and it’s the first Star Wars film under the Disney banner to come in with less than an “A” Cinemascore (it scored an A-).
Most detrimental, however, may be Star Wars fatigue. Disney had a good thing going releasing these films a year apart in December, but with Solo, it jumped ahead to May, separating itself from the previous Star Wars entry by only 5 months, hardly allowing anticipation for the next outing to build up. May is also a far more competitive release date, what with Deadpool 2 and Infinity War still soaking up a lot of box-office dollars.
It probably doesn’t help, either, that it feels like we’re beginning to be overwhelmed by Star Wars, with a Jon Favreau TV series coming, a Boba Fett movie, and a new Star Wars trilogy coming right after the existing one is finished, plus another separate series of films from David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.
That’s too much Star Wars, which has the effect of taking away the “event” mystique. There’s less urgency to see every Star Wars film if they start coming out multiple times in a year. Probably the best thing going for the Star Wars franchise right now is that there’s not another one due until December 2019.
At any rate, the $101 million is doubly disappointing considering how poorly the Star Wars flicks play in China, which Disney cannot rely upon to bail the latest installment out. In fact, there’s a chance — with a $300 million cost — that Solo fails to eke out a profit, which may of course also mean no more Ehrenreich films. That is probably for the best, and I say that as someone who generally liked Solo (and would absolutely not object to a Lando film).