Last night, I watched Solo: A Star Wars Story on Netflix. After the horrid mess of a film that was Last Jedi. I wasn’t going to go see Solo in the theater. It turns out that Solo was a good film. Ron Howard was called in because the suits didn’t like what was going on with the original director and he did a great job. They had Larry Kasdan working on the script for this one. He wrote Empire Strikes Back. Solo got beat to hell in the box office because the fans were pissed about Last Jedi. That’s a shame because Solo turned out to be a very good film. It was definitely a Star Wars film that a fan would expect. I’m not deep into the lore of Star Wars so it may well have some inconsistencies with some of the earlier movies that only the hardcore fans would be able to point out. It was a solid and enjoyable film with the mythic/heroic themes underlying the original films.
The Last Jedi is what made Solo a dog at the box office. People were pissed because Last Jedi was poorly conceived, poorly written and just didn’t fit with Star Wars. It took place in the Star Wars universe and it had the Star Wars characters but it wasn’t a Star Wars movie in the way that the fans expected it to be. Rian Johnson wanted to tell his story. He gets to write it. He gets to direct it. It belongs to him now. And from a contractual standpoint, He’s right. It’s his. He can do what he wants as long as the suits sign off on it.
Except. It doesn’t. It belongs to the fans. It belongs to the culture. Rian Johnson could have done some fresh things and still made a great Star Wars movie but there are a variety of things that he messed with that just pissed people off. Never have we seen Leia using the force and suddenly she can fly through the vacuum of space without a space suit on. That was completely unnecessary. The Kylo Ren back story is just bad. It’s completely out of character for Luke and its a story that doesn’t feel like it came out of a natural conflict between two different personalities with their own needs and points of view. It feels like a story that was made up because Johnson needed to give Kylo Ren a reason for being.
You can’t write a Batman story where he decides, “Alfred, I was thinking. I have all this money. I have access to all this great tech. How about I just get some really big guns and kill this scumbag Joker.” That wouldn’t work. That wouldn’t be Batman. The fans would revolt and Batman would be dead as a franchise.
I probably won’t see another Rian Johnson Star Wars movie in the theater. My two favorite Stars Wars movies since the originals have been Rogue One and Solo. Maybe its because they refer back to the originals and have felt more like Star Wars to me. I think it was because the writers and directors respected the original work and the fans and knew it doesn’t belong to them. They have the great honor of being allowed to contribute to something that is far more than “a franchise” it’s a cultural touchstone. It’s an important myth in our culture. It’s about hope. It’s about doing the right thing even when you can make a bunch of money and nobody will blame you for doing that. It’s about sticking with your friends.