Recently, Walt Disney Studios head Alan Horn did an interview with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about a number of films and projects for Disney.
Among other things, Horn said that he recently returned from a trip to the U.K. to visit the set of Episode IX and spend time with J.J. Abrams and Kathy Kennedy, and Horn says the movie is “going to be terrific.” He also revealed that it was Kennedy and Lucasfilm who came up with the idea for The Mandalorian for Disney+, not Disney.
But perhaps most interestingly, Horn also brought up Solo: A Star Wars Story unprompted when asked about how the studio manages expectations with so many massive blockbusters coming this year. Here was Horn’s response:
“It’s always a challenge because — and I say this with love and respect for media — the thing about these big movies is they get a lot of attention, whether positive or negative. So when they don’t work, like Solo, the media says it’s a failure. I think it was a pretty good movie. It didn’t resonate as much as we’d hoped it would, but the press writes it up in a more negative way than I would. These are very high-profile movies. If Aladdin, which I happen to think is a terrific film, doesn’t work somehow, that’s big news and much bigger news than if a movie somewhere else, like The Kid Who Would Be King [at Fox,] doesn’t work.”
Horn is absolutely right about all of that, and it’s hard to disagree with any of it: there is going to be a ton of media attention given, both good and bad, to these Disney films, and it’s because there’s so much interest and hype about them. In particular, though, I find it interesting that he brought up Solo unprompted to explain what he meant.
I’m sure you’ve obviously heard by now, because it was impossible to miss it with the barrage of media coverage, that Solo didn’t do all that well at the box office. It was the first Star Wars film to ever be considered a box office disappointment or letdown. The film grossed just under $400 million at the global box office. But what Horn pointed out is something that is consistent with what the reaction seems to be: the movie underperformed at the box office yet exceeded expectations about the film itself. Many people thoroughly enjoyed the film and thought it was very well-done, and there are many people who would like to see future stories with these characters and actors. So what Horn says is that he thinks it was a good movie, but that it was portrayed as a failure by the media – something far harsher than it is viewed internally.
I think that’s consistent with the feelings of Star Wars fans too. While that vocal segment of fans that loves to hate Star Wars was surely happy to see a Disney-era Star Wars film “fail,” the majority of actual Star Wars fans seem to have really enjoyed what Solo brought to the table. Alden Ehrenreich was terrific as a younger Han Solo, Donald Glover is obviously great as Lando Calrissian, and Emilia Clarke brought an elegance and intrigue to the new character of Qi’ra. Seeing Han and Chewie’s developing friendship was a major thrill, as was seeing the Kessel Run on-screen for the first time ever! The characters were great, the story was good, the music was brilliant – plus, there was that major cameo appearance by Maul! All in all, it was a very enjoyable movie. It’s pretty ludicrous, then, to hold such a binary view of a film that automatically portrays a disappointing box office film as a failure.
So I’m glad to hear Alan Horn express those sentiments, and I’m glad that it seems Disney has a better view of Solo internally than many in the media do, and I find Disney’s view warranted. They’re not going to pretend that Solo performed better than it actually did, but they do think that it was a better movie than it got credit for – because it was buried in the negative press about the box office.
Will this have any implications on future decisions? I have no idea. I would absolutely love to get future stories with this cast and crew, but I think the box office performance of Solo might make it harder to see those hopes realized. With so much moving toward Disney+, though (Horn described it as Bob Iger’s top focus right now), I think a series exploring the further adventures of Han, Chewie, Qi’ra, and/or Lando would be a great idea. And while there’s nothing in Horn’s comments to think that such a thing is surely coming, I think seeing that Disney has a bit more favorable view of the film certainly can’t hurt the chances.