A few weeks ago, I got a surprising text from a friend of mine who is definitely not “up to date” on the Star Wars™ Expanded Universe. “What are people saying about Donald Glover’s Star Wars movie? Bad right?”
A complicated question to get from someone who I would never expect to be interested in pre-Cannes buzz. But I knew where she was coming from. For whatever reasons, the media storm leading up to the premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story has been mixed at best. Early coverage was marred by director shake ups, reports of Alden Ehrenreich getting an acting coach (which I feel like shouldn’t be stigmatized? But I digress), and general palpable stress from the Kathleen Kennedy lead production team, surely not helped by the unexpected polarizing reception of The Last Jedi.
I responded to my friend some variation of, “There was some drama behind the scenes, but since no one has seen the movie yet, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. Plus, sometimes you’ll like a movie that some critics don’t, try not to let any of it cloud your opinions.” A level-headed response that practically screams, “Do as I say, not as I do”. Let’s face it, we’ve all been burned before. “Everyone is saying Batman v. Superman is bad, but I am going in with an open mind and giving it a shot!” Maybe it would have been better to save 3 hours of my life and ten pre-MoviePass dollars.
With time, it seems the Rotten Tomatoes-style conclusions of a movie’s quality are coming earlier and earlier. We all just want to know- Fresh or Rotten? Good or bad? Worth my time or not? Like I said, the movie hadn’t even been seen yet, and everyone online had decided the only good aspect of this would be Donald Glover’s Lando. They may be right. Donald Glover is fire right now. But why are we letting so much of this wild speculation seep into our individual perception? I am sure it can all be tied back to overexposure. I check Twitter hourly, I’m not exactly trying to close myself off from the firehose of opinions leading up to seminal pop culture moments. I mean, this week I ended up listening to five podcast episodes on Westworld alone. It seems that nowadays if you want to be “in touch” with whatever is in the entertainment zeitgeist, this barrage of content is virtually inescapable.
Let’s take a moment away from blaming everything on the internet. Of course, the pre-movie analysis is strong in this franchise. I am not so naïve to think that we could all just step back and calmly let the chips fall where they may. At this point, every movie to come out of this property is essentially 40 years in the making. People LOVE these characters; they’re precious, they feel like they belong to us. We as fans have emotional stock in how they are used and what happens to them. We want to protect them and ourselves. Especially after the famously disappointing prequels. We are quick to put our guards up if we need to, hoping to avoid that heartbreak again.
And yet, at least in this franchise, there doesn’t seem to be proof that any of this hysteria ends up being indicative of the finished product. Before TLJ, we kept hearing about how the studio was loving Trevorrow’s vision. Hype builds. It’s announced that he is shooting some things for the 9th installment, solidifying Lucasfilm’s belief in him. More hype. After initial screenings of The Last Jedi, critics were saying it could be the best Star Wars ever. However, upon release, social media was overrun with immediate criticism. Articles started popping up everywhere about the dichotomy between critics and “fans”.
So, is the endless commotion leading up to these movies just a symptom of an increasingly overactive film media? Of a cautiously cynical fan base? Something else entirely? Am I only adding to the issue by continuing to talk about it? Probably. Now that the film is getting positive reviews after a few showings, personally, I am breathing a little easier. But I still can’t completely silence that voice in the back of my head, whispering skeptical Reddit comments and questioning the quality of past Ron Howard movies. I should probably, “try not to let any of it cloud my opinions,” but why start now?