The case of Solo: A Star Wars Story is an interesting one. It’s not a film that the majority of fans asked for, throw that in with the film’s troubled production, along with the known backlash against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and well, it appears as if we have something of a situation on our hands. So…
Why is Solo: A Star Wars Story doing so poorly at the box-office?
Solo pulled in $84 million over its domestic opening weekend, which is around 47 percent less than the previous anthology film, Rogue One. Which is too bad, because I enjoyed Solo and it seems as if it is being punished for the actions of Lucasfilm. In correlation with Solo’s bad performance, The Last Jedi suffered roughly a 36 percent drop in revenue at the end of its box-office run compared to The Force Awakens.
The word around the news world is franchise fatigue, and every other factor except the boycott, but I find that hard to believe. All one has to do is simply look to Marvel’s success. While Marvel and Lucasfilm are both under the same Disney umbrella, the studios’ mode of operations are vastly different. Marvel has no problems giving fans frequent installments into their shared universe and released two films this year, both absolutely took the box-office by storm, so fatigue isn’t really working for me.
So what is the problem? Allow me to point to the much-talked-about Solo boycott.
I am in several large Star Wars groups on Facebook, and I am afraid the boycott is quite operational. It may not be the size of a planet-destroying space station, but I would say it has at least made its presence known. I’ve even heard of fans who are buying tickets to other movies (which is not something I agree with or would participate in), and then sneaking into watch Solo. There is still a desire for Star Wars films. Fans still want to watch the Solo, they just don’t want to give any more of their money to Lucasfilm.
The boycott factor cannot be ignored, how influential it is, I am not exactly sure, but at least part of the Star Wars fan base seems to be sending a message to Lucasfilm. Is the fan base so toxic that it would boycott simply because of a bad film? Not so much.
So why the backlash?
It could have something to do with the way Lucasfilm has responded to fans who didn’t like The Last Jedi as well as their treatment of the fanbase in general.
Kathleen Kennedy has alienated male fans (which have always made up a large portion of the fanbase), by saying she has no obligation to cater to them, and while I would agree with her, she then makes statements such as the one she made to the New York Times, that follows below.
“I have a responsibility to the company that I work with. I don’t feel that I have a responsibility to cater in some way. I would never just seize on saying, ‘Well, this is a franchise that’s appealed primarily to men for many, many years, and therefore I owe men something.'”
To me, and many fans, this quote sounds like a roundabout way of saying, “Star Wars is no longer for you.” Not only does this anger fans, but it seems like bad business not to aim at a target audience that, as Kennedy said herself, has already proven to have decades of interest in your product.
J.J. Abrams has also taken a turn at implying certain things toward fans. Abrams said that fans who didn’t like The Last Jedi are simply threatened by women. Insulting fans is never a good idea, but calling them bigots because they didn’t like your product makes things even worse. Here is what Abrams said in an interview with Indiewire.
“‘Star Wars’ is a big galaxy, and you can sort of find almost anything you want to in ‘Star Wars. If you are someone who feels threatened by women and needs to lash out against them, you can probably find an enemy in ‘Star Wars.’ You can probably look at the first movie that George [Lucas] did [‘Star Wars: A New Hope’] and say that Leia was too outspoken, or she was too tough. Anyone who wants to find a problem with anything can find the problem. The internet seems to be made for that.”
What enrages fans is Abrams implying that the only reason to be upset with The Last Jedi is that you hate women or are threatened by them. This is nonsense and I am glad he brought up Leia, because she is one of the more beloved and badass Star Wars characters ever, and always has been.
It is this sort of attitude coming from Lucasfilm that has fans outraged and has them refusing to go watch a film from a franchise they have loved for decades.
I am sure some fans out there don’t like the idea of a female lead, but the majority of fans with legitimate gripes about The Last Jedi aren’t sexists. Nerds never seemed to have a problem with Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise, the Bride from Kill Bill, or Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones. I also loved the character of Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. These are all examples of great female characters loved by fans, both female and male. So this statement by Abrams is infuriating as well as condescending.
Of course, there is not any hard data to support the boycott being a large reason for Solo‘s low box-office numbers, and I will admit that I may be a victim of my own Star Wars echo chamber, I am simply telling you what I see, hear and read from my perspective as someone who understands why some fans feel the need to boycott.
Now I am not saying the boycott is the only reason for Solo underperforming at the box office, or even that it is even the biggest factor, I just think it is a bigger factor than anyone expected, and bigger than Disney and Lucasfilm want to admit.