Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Weirdest Moments from the Production and Promotion of 'Solo'

Based on the reactions and reviews we've seen so far, Solo: A Star Wars Story will be a very fun Star Wars movie, and maybe even a truly excellent one. But no matter what, it will go down as one of the most infamous movie productions in history, with an offbeat and often frustrating marketing campaign to follow it. 
Before it hits theaters in a few days, we're taking a look back at the most awkward and just plain weird moments from Solo's rocky path to theaters, ranging from facepalm-worthy missteps to at least one actual legal offense. 

When the first cast pic looked like a still from Get Out
Date: February 21, 2017

Solo announced the start of its principal photography with a picture of its main cast with the then-directors. Thandie Newton apparently wasn't available at the moment, and Michael Kenneth Williams hadn't been officially cast yet, so it ended up looking like a weirdly-uncomfortable Donald Glover in a room full of (predominantly young) white people. And the Internet took notice.
It didn't help that Williams later had to drop out of the film due to scheduling conflicts and be replaced by Paul Bettany, leaving Glover and Newton as the sole people of color in the cast. So compared to The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, Solo is a step backward in terms of diversity, a massive flaw that will always haunt this movie no matter how good it is.

When they lost their directors five months into filming
Date: June 20, 2017

Ah, yes. Who could ever forget the shock of learning that Phil Lord and Chris Miller had left the "untitled Han Solo film" when they had already been filming for five months. Though more details wouldn't be revealed until later, this was one of the worst movie trainwrecks in history.
Of course, this wasn't all Lucasfilm's fault. And they made an equally impressive turnaround less than 48 hours later when veteran Hollywood director Ron Howard was announced as their replacement for the remaining three and a half weeks of principal photography and five weeks of reshoots. But failing to initially recognize that Lord and Miller were the wrong men for the job, and waiting so long to act on it? That's on Lucasfilm. 

When they finally announced the name of the movie, and it wasn't worth the wait
Date: October 17, 2017

Yep, those reshoots turned out to be a lot longer than expected. Only when the film finally wrapped production did Howard reveal its title. And it was...kinda basic. Like, definitely not something that required a lot of thought or that had to be kept secret throughout the entire production.
When promo art leaked and they claimed it was fake, but it definitely wasn't
Date: December 27, 2017

About two weeks after The Last Jedi hit theaters, we got a leaked promotional image of Han, Chewie, Lando, and Qi'ra with the Millennium Falcon. It was met with a mixed reception, and Disney was quick to tell news outlets that it was fake. Except, it really wasn't; it ended up appearing on the official toy packaging for the movie. Maybe they thought they could get away with blatantly lying to everyone?
When they made us wait a month and a half for the trailer
Date: Late December 2017 to early February 2018

Now, this has more to do with unreasonable fan expectations than an actual misstep in the marketing, but...we had to wait a while for that first trailer. And it wasn't just waiting for the Super Bowl, it was spending a solid month not knowing when the trailer would drop, or – for the more pessimistic fans – if this movie was even happening or not.
Sure, they eventually came through with lots of Solo content in early February, but would it have been so bad to release an image or two from the film? Or at the very, very least, confirm that promo art was legit, so we'd have some material from the film to dissect?

When the Super Bowl spot and teaser trailer were drastically different
Date: February 4-5, 2018

Unveiling the film for the first time at the Super Bowl was bold and unprecedented, and not necessarily in a bad way. But the weird part was that the 45-second TV ad and 90-second trailer, despite being released barely 12 hours apart, weren't that similar at all. The Super Bowl spot focused on Han's entry to the Empire, while the trailer was more about Beckett building a team for a heist.

The real shame is that the Super Bowl spot would have made an excellent initial teaser for the movie if it were released several months earlier. But thanks to the prolonged reshoots, The Last Jedi's own promotional campaign (which Solo didn't dare overshadow), and the famously high cost of Super Bowl ads, this awkward TV spot/trailer combo ended up being the marketing kickoff for the film. 

When their posters got accused of plagiarism
Date: March 3, 2018

Now we've reached the more serious offenses. Artist  Hachim Bahous accused the first Solo character posters of plagiarizing his album covers, posting the below image comparing them. Disney claimed they weren't personally responsible for these posters, but they'd look into it. Bahous' Facebook post was eventually deleted and Disney kept on using these posters. (SNL even used the same style when Glover hosted in May.)
If this sounds a little fishy on Disney's part, that's because it is. They probably thought they could sweep this under the rug by convincing Bahous (maybe with a monetary incentive) to shut up and not take any public legal action. Well, sorry Disney, but you just made yourself look even more guilty, and I'm not forgetting about it anytime soon. 

When they ended the second trailer with the threat of Chewie's death
Date: April 8, 2018

The second trailer was mostly satisfying and well-edited, but its climactic moment just...didn't work. They employed the classic "This likable character is about to die!" strategy for the last shot of the trailer, but they tried to do it with Chewbacca—the only character who we know is still alive in The Last Jedi, more than 40 years after the events of Solo. (At least Rogue One followed through on this kind of tease by killing off its main characters.)

In the past, Star Wars trailers have found great success by ending with more subtle and emotional notes instead of exhilarating ones—"Chewie, we're home," Jyn in the lit hallway, Kylo extending his hand to Rey, etc. This trailer would have been much better off using this technique again instead of trying to convince us for even a second that Chewbacca could possibly die.

When they kept on using the same character poses in all the posters
Date: February to April 2018

Nope, the poster campaign for Solo was not exactly smooth sailing. Throughout all of their teaser posters and character posters, Lucasfilm continually reused the same poses of Han, Chewie, Lando, and Qi'ra. And it got annoying. Like, they could only digitally create one unique pose for the main character in the movie?
When they couldn't decide Enfys Nest's gender
Date: April 2018

Enfys Nest's gender was unconfirmed but assumed to be male when we first saw them in the Super Bowl spot. But a French trading card used female pronouns with Nest, corroborating Star Wars News Net's report that they were actually female. Then Star Wars Insider indicated that Nest was a male, creating all kinds of confusion about his/her gender. 
There's nothing wrong with maintaining a level of secrecy about this villain (assuming their identity is indeed a major plot point), but the inconsistency with the information Lucasfilm put in French merchandise and what they told Insider is just sloppy. If Nest is actually supposed to be non-binary (which would be groundbreaking in Star Wars), they should have used "they" pronouns in all the marketing. And if they're just trying to confuse us on purpose, then, well, we have reason to be annoyed.

When they didn't put Joonas Suotamo's name on his own poster
Date: April 23, 2018

Again with the posters! The official, final batch of US character posters introduced each actor with the name of their character, but Joonas Suotamo received no credit as Chewbacca, despite his prominent role in the film (and his work on The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, too). Meanwhile, Jon Favreau, who has a much smaller voice role and wasn't even billed at the bottom of the theatrical poster (Suotamo was), got his name on Rio Durant's character poster.
When they got sued for using "sabacc" in their marketing
Date: December 2017 to May 2018

There's a lot of complicated legal jargon in here, but the short story is that Lucasfilm is in a legal battle with Ren Ventures over the use of the name "Sabacc," the card game that Han and Lando famously play over control of the Falcon. Ren is suing Lucasfilm for mentioning the word in their marketing (as well as Denny's and Collider for publishing a TV ad involving Sabacc). Lucasfilm fired back a few days ago, asking the court to toss the counterclaims.
Is this an actual problem that could have serious legal ramifications for Lucasfilm? No. But it was objectively reckless for them to use the word in the film's promotion when their trademark lawsuit to obtain rights to it (reported in late December) was still pending. No wonder Hasbro decided to just call it "Han Solo Card Game" and leave it at that. 

Again, none of this means that Solo will be bad. There's certainly a list that could be made of all the great and reassuring moments in the movie's production and promotional campaign, too. And every film has its share of screw-ups like these; Rogue One was also a mess at one point during its production and had huge inconsistencies in its marketing. But hopefully this is the first and last time a Star Wars film will have quite so many. 

What's your favorite weird moment from Solo's path to theaters? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Qi'ra and Vos Part Ways in 'Lieutenant' TV Spot

The Solo content just won't stop coming. Following the slew of clips released over the past two days and ahead of tonight's premiere, they've dropped another TV spot—and it might be the best one yet. 
There's a lot of cool new footage here (maybe they had been saving it for later in the marketing campaign?) and we're breaking it all down:
  • Dryden Vos introduces Qi'ra as his "top lieutenant"...and then we see her sliding to the floor in a supermodel pose as she blocks his vibro-weapon with some kind of forked sword. This could be a friendly training session, but there's broken glass on the ground and we know Vos attacks Han with the same weapon, so it looks like she's jumped in to save her man and betray Vos.
  • "Alright people, do not improvise," Beckett says. "What's the plan?" Val asks in a trench on Mimban. It sure took a while but they're finally putting her in the TV spots and treating her like a real character. It looks like her and Beckett's heist (which Han has joined) has been disrupted by some kind of firefight.
  • Val whips out a blaster pistol and opens fire while holding on to the Conveyex's rail structure. An unofficial clip from yesterday showed her planting charges on the rail and then warning Beckett of the Cloud-Riders' arrival, so she must be shooting at them. Unfortunately, we've seen no footage of her later in the movie (during the battle on Kessel or the Kessel Run itself), so she may not survive this...
  • Han, Lando, and Beckett fight together on Kessel. Lando's pose really makes them look like a boy band. Beckett's armor and cape must be part of his disguise; we've already seen evidence that their caper involves Qi'ra dressing in her own cape and Han and Chewie in chains with Lando posing as their captor with his Return of the Jedi Jabba's Palace armor on.
  • "When have I ever steered you wrong?" Han asks Qi'ra. Chewie growls disapprovingly, but Han tells her not to listen to him. What's really interesting is that even though we're all assuming a romantic attraction between them, there's very little hard proof they're linked in that way. This supports a crazy theory that Qi'ra is actually his sister.
What did you think of this TV spot? What would be the name of the Kessel Run's (the canonical name of Han, Lando, and Beckett's boy band) first single? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

New 'Solo' Clip Debunks Major Enfys Nest Theory

Alden Ehrenreich appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night and brought with him a clip of his sandy standoff with Enfys Nest, a scene that's been teased in a lot of the trailers and TV spots. Han threatens to summon "30 hired guns" from the Falcon to surround Nest and her Cloud-Riders, but the ship's pilot – probably Lando – takes off instead. 
But the most interesting part of this clip is a smaller detail: for the first time, Qi'ra and Nest are visible in the same frame, meaning we can forget that theory about them being the same person. Yes, it's possible Qi'ra's using a body double to fool them – that's exactly what Padmé did in The Phantom Menace – but when you add this to Star Wars News Net's prior debunking, it seems like this theory is dead. 

However, Nest's identity is still very much a mystery. Her voice is clearly being modified by her helmet, and the way Lucasfilm has avoided describing her gender suggests that her femininity is a major plot point. A short clip from a Thandie Newton interview yesterday had Val seemingly describing Nest with male pronouns, confirming that the characters think she's a man (and that Val isn't Nest, either). 
And we can't rule out Qi'ra being a villain either. All the promotion for the movie has described her as smart, dangerous, secretive, and just complicated overall. One of the clips from yesterday even confirmed that she's working for Dryden Vos, who's being promoted as the movie's primary villain.

As someone who's been (semi-ironically) pushing this theory on Twitter for over a month now, this is a bit of a letdown. But hey, Fallon also has a new clip of droid rights icon L3-37 telling Han to move his "presumptuous ass" and mocking Lando for flirting with him, so maybe things aren't so bad after all. 

UPDATE: Star Wars on YouTube released an official HD version of the Enfys Nest clip with an extended portion at the beginning. There's no new dialogue but the soundtrack sounds inspired by Middle-Eastern music and it's phenomenal. 

Who do you think is Enfys Nest? L3 is gonna steal this whole movie, right? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Four 'Solo' Clips Released

Solo's premiere is tomorrow (with social media reactions available at 12:30 AM EST on Friday and full reviews at 5 PM on May 15) and the press tour has kicked into high gear. A total of four clips were released today on different platforms.

First, Woody Harrelson appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night and debuted a clip of Tobias Beckett and Thandie Newton's Val meeting Han Solo...and they're not exactly happy to make his acquaintance.

This clip does a great job of showing how Alden Ehrenreich has captured Han's charm and confidence. It's also a showcase for Val, who's had a frustratingly limited presence in the marketing so far (despite Newton's ongoing starring role in Westworld and the fact that she's the first major visible black woman in a Star Wars movie). The databank teased she is not someone to mess with, and this clip confirms that homicide is second nature to her.

Val mentions a pilot and when they turn around to face Han, in the upper left corner you can spot the same E-shaped ship we've seen Han flying during the Conveyex train heist on Vandor. It seems like their mission is to hijack this ship because it's crucial to stealing the Conveyex's cargo, whatever that may be. 

The Star Wars YouTube channel dropped two clips, the first one being Han and Lando's first encounter at the sabacc table. We've seen quite a bit of this already, but one new bit is Han acknowledging that Lando pronounces his name wrong—a questions fans have been having for decades.
The second one is a clip of Beckett and Chewie playing holochess. There's a funny bit with Chewie getting angry at the board, but the interesting part comes in Beckett's advice to him and Han: "All you gotta do is think a few moves ahead, anticipate your opponent. There's a lesson to be learned here." It definitely seems like this lesson will come in use later in the movie. Maybe Han will end up thwarting Beckett's attempt to betray him and spitting these words back in his face...

The fourth clip is one of the most intriguing ones, revealed by Breakfast Television Toronto. In Dryden Vos' bustling lair, he introduces himself to Han and describes Qi'ra as his "top lieutenant." We knew she was involved with him somehow, but this confirms that she's his right hand woman—a job title that apparently involves lots of flirty touching.
Obviously there's a good chance that Qi'ra will turn on him at some point. We've already seen glimpses of Vos attacking Han with vibroblade brass knuckles and a TV spot on Monday revealed Qi'ra brandishing a sword in the same room, so it looks like some kind of small action sequence will occur here.

What do you think of these clips? What do you think will happen on Mimban? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Please, Lucasfilm, Don't Make 'Solo' Sequels

Solo: A Star Wars Story is only three weeks away at this point (with its Cannes premiere on May 15), but the talk of sequels has already begun. In an interview with Esquire, Alden Ehrenreich confirmed that he's signed on for two more movies as Han Solo; director Ron Howard told Fandango that sequels are a possibility if the movie is a hit; and Star Wars News Net has reported multiple times that more Solo movies are on the table.
The consensus is that if the movie is a critical and commercial success, Lucasfilm is ready to make sequels. Over the past few days, it's become clear that at least half of that goal will be met. Variety and THR both estimated that Solo is tracking for a record-breaking, Rogue One-beating, $160 million-plus opening weekend, and its advanced ticket sales doubled Black Panther's and were the second highest of 2018, behind Avengers: Infinity War.

How audiences respond to the movie is a whole other issue, but if it really is a huge financial success, the opinion of fans won't matter as much when Lucasfilm decides whether to greenlight a sequel. (Just look at the Avatar 2, 3, 4, and 5.) And by the tradition of Star Wars trilogies, that one sequel would turn into two, meaning that Lucasfilm would spend the next four years or so making Han Solo movies.
Yes, Solo looks fun, and there are certainly more stories that could be told with its characters. But the inherent problem with making sequels is that since Solo wasn't originally conceived as the first in a trilogy, it must already give Han a conclusive arc that lines up with his introduction in A New Hope. Whatever arc the sequels gave him would just end in the same place; there's no need for them to continue his story and add more to his character.
The entire message of The Last Jedi was to stop focusing on the past – specifically, old characters – and accept the new generation of heroes. It's weird enough to immediately follow that with Solo, but to make a whole trilogy about that, when the same resources could instead be devoted to new stories about new characters? 

Perhaps the only exception to this would be a Lando spinoff. Donald Glover's portrayal is indisputably the most anticipated part of the movie, and since the Sequel Trilogy has given him no attention whatsoever, there's quite a bit more to learn about him. More importantly, this would also be the first Star Wars movie led by a person of color—the first ever character of color in Star Wars, no less. 
Again, none of this is to say that Solo will be bad, or even that its sequels would be bad. But the beauty of the Star Wars trilogies is that they're envisioned from the start as a three-part story; making a standalone movie and then deciding to make two sequels because it made a lot of money and/or people liked it is not the way Star Wars should work.

As lovable as these characters are, the future of Star Wars should not be Han and Chewie. It should be Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren – the stars of Episode IX, who prove that new characters can be just as adored as old ones – as well as new faces in new corners of the galaxy that Rian Johnson, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (ugh), and other filmmakers create. 
And yes, obviously Lucasfilm can make Solo sequels and new stories at the same time – they already did that with The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, and Solo – but they need to stop relying on familiar faces, especially ones that have already received so much attention. We don't love Star Wars just for the characters, we love it for the wonder and the epic scale, and Han and Chewie in the Falcon is by no means the only way to reach that.

Do you think there should be Solo sequels? How big of a hit do you think the movie will be? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.