‘Solo’ is worth a shot

Published 9:40 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The latest entry in the Star Wars saga is better that I expected it to be, which makes its lackluster box office performance all the more intriguing.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” was a solid origin story for Han Solo with an equally solid, if not fantastic, take by lead actor Alden Ehrenreich that was elevated immensely by his stellar supporting cast. Actors Emelia Clarke and Woody Harrelson delivered great, charismatic performances. Donald Glover continued his meteoric rise as fan-favorite Lando with an awesome co-pilot voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who’s snarky droid was the movie’s surprising revelation for me.

The movie is easily better than the box office numbers suggest. “Solo” brought in $103 million over Memorial Day weekend, according to Boxofficemojo.com, while Disney originally estimated a performance somewhere between $130 million to $150 million for the four-day timeframe.

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It’s the worst debut for a Star Wars movie since Disney bought the franchise in 2012. It’s less than half of what “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” grossed domestically in their opening weekends and was also outpaced by the first weekend of “Rogue One.” That was the first attempt at a stand-alone Star Wars movie and had a nearly complete cast of original characters.

Theories on reasons for the struggles of “Solo” vary, starting with its summer release. The three more successful Star Wars movies in the Disney era were released in mid-December, “The Last Jedi” having come out on Dec. 15.

The franchise typically waits at least a year between releases but “Solo” debuted on Friday, less than six months to breathe and build hype after “The Last Jedi.” The May 25 release was timed to coincide with the 41st anniversary of the release of “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

Then there were the on-set controversies that plagued the production and generated concerns for fans. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the original duo hired to direct “Solo,” were fired from the project after creative friction with Disney. Their comedic background seen in “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie” likely didn’t work with Disney’s house style, which is a shame, because that’s what got me excited about the movie in the first place.

Director Ron Howard joined less than a year ago to finish the film, and Lord and Miller remained with executive producer credits. I’ll admit that there is some jarring dissonance in the movie because of the change, but it’s not enough to sink it.

Many fans were simply turned off from seeing “Solo” after their frustrations with the “The Last Jedi.” Personally, I loved the creative decisions in that movie and how they were willing to push things in new directions, but numerous others are still embittered and are staying away from the theater because of that.

I won’t convince entrenched naysayers, but for everyone else considering “Solo,” go see it in the theaters. The movie is meant to be seen on the big screen, and Glover’s Lando is worth the ticket price by himself.