If all goes according to plan, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t, Solo: A Star Wars Story will make the Walt Disney Corporation an almost comical amount of money. The box office will be massive, but that will only be the start. Star Wars has always been about the merch. There are the t-shirts and the action figures and the LEGOs the theme parks. To young fans, this might feel organic and natural — a commercial expression of enthusiasm for beloved characters. But parents confronted by the desires of their kids and all that Star Wars-themed stuff know better. It’s easy to become cynical when you’re picking up the check.
But here’s the thing: Solo is a good movie. It’s not perfect. It’s not profound. It’s not unimpeachable. However, it’s fun. And the fact that the core of the universe’s biggest IP merchandising operation remains pretty awesome is worthy of note. It is, in a sense and in light of the sequels, a pleasant surprise. There may never be a bad Star Wars movie. The franchise is so lucrative that there doesn’t need to be. Disney never needs to make do. Ever.
Anyone old enough to have seen the original Star Wars films in the theater knows that the franchise got pulled out of the dunk tank by Mickey Mouse. Given that, it’s easy to feel like the whole thing is a profit grab. And it is. In this case, that just happens to be in the best interest of the fans. Star Wars is such a successful profit grab that the Star Wars Universe is effectively protected from mediocrity. Money doesn’t guarantee excellence, but, wielded smartly (and Disney execs are smart) it mitigates the likelihood of “meh.”
And it’s clear that Disney is willing to do almost anything to make the films good. The production of Solo itself had rumors of troubles from the start. The co-chairman of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, who is also known for her work on Jurassic Park and E.T., fired the two original directors of the film, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, citing issues with their style of directing on set. The directors were well into the film and much of it had to be re-shot. She replaced them with one of the most expensive directors in Hollywood: Ron Howard.
That choice seems to have paid off. The movie is entertaining. The design is impeccable. The cast is stellar. Donald Glover is great. The fact that fans didn’t see this as inevitable — it has become clear — says more about them than Disney.
When the seventh Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, debuted, there was reason to doubt. It was good, but that could have been a fluke. Four movies in, there’s really no reason left to not believe in the franchise. Manifest destiny is in full effect and every time a parent buy a Star Wars-branded candy bar, they bolster the odds of the next heavily-financed flick kicking even more ass. Resent the marketing if you must, but we’re not talking about minions here.