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Most film executives would be thrilled if their movie brought in nearly $400 million at the box office unless, say, they needed to pull in nearly $500 million to break even. Then they're not so thrilled.
That was the reality for 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story, which didn't do as well as pretty much every other official entity with the name Star Wars attached to it does. In fact, the movie's disappointing box office return caused Lucasfilm to chill on the spin-offs until a better plan is put into place.
After Solo's subpar showing, some theories were put forward to attempt to explain the underwhelming mainstream support. While Mark Hamill considered whether or not audiences may have "Star Wars fatigue," the movie's director (Ron Howard) thinks that the poor showing could be explained, at least in part, by a seemingly endless stream of relentless internet trolls who may have had an influence on an unsuspecting public.
Howard aired these thoughts on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, amidst a few other musings on why things just didn't work out.
“I feel very good about the way it turned out. I love the way it played to audiences, which I witnessed and was a part of," Howard said at first. "So all of that I’m able to feel good about. Sure, I wish it would’ve done [better] and lived up to the box office and so forth, so that’s disappointing. Why? Maybe it’s the release. Maybe it’s the idea that it’s sort of too nostalgic, going back and revisiting an origin story for a beloved character may not be what the fans were looking for."
He also said that the movie got support from Star Wars' infamously passionate fan base, but that the mainstream remained unconvinced.
"It kind of seemed to me, looking at it, the opening — which was big, not as big as the others, it was probably my biggest opening, personally, it was still disappointing to them — I think those are the hardcore fans," Howard reasoned. "It sort of tells you how many people are tagalongs who need to wait to see what people think and whether it’s essential, if it’s a zeitgeist movie or not, and whether it’s just ‘I love Star Wars and I want to see what’s next.'”
Because of this audiences who weren't already going thanks to their ingrained Star Wars fandom were probably more influenced by word-of-mouth and audience reaction before parting with their dough. And Howard thinks that rigged reactions from fans who didn't like Star Wars: The Last Jedi surpassed interest from more casual viewers taking a wait-and-see approach.
“Whatever millions [Solo] made worldwide, those were the core fans, but it didn’t hit that zeitgeist point, for whatever reason," he said. "Timing, young Han Solo, pushback from the previous movie, which I kept hearing was maybe something. And some trolling, definitely some trolling. Some actual aggressive… It was pretty interesting.
"Not so much, a little bit the Twitter feed, yes, but it was especially noticeable prior to the release of the movie. Several of the algorithms, whether it was Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, there was an inordinate push down on the ‘want to see’ and on the fan voting. And when you look at it, it’s like 3, 4, 5 — or whatever the rating is, I forget what the rating is on Rotten Tomatoes, whether it’s a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 — but pretty high, and then a series of 0s or .5s or 1s.”
Whatever negative buzz Solo may have had when it was released last May doesn't seem to have survived to the present day. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a relatively respectable audience score of 64 percent, and an average of 3.44 out of 5. Compared that with the 70 percent from official critics, and it's actually not that far off. Not that that matters at this point.