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Even though I didn’t put Solo: A Star Wars Story on my list of most anticipated films last year (and for good reason, I would argue), the film’s first trailer release was certainly something I was eager to see happen. The fact that we had to wait until nearly three and a half months until the film hit theaters was just a tad bit strange, and the notoriously rough production only further increased my curiosity. Just what the hell would Solo end up being? The answer we can best get from this Solo: A Star Wars Story trailer is, honestly, not as exciting as the question around it.

Because, if the first full-length trailer is any indication, Solo looks to be…a very boring looking Star Wars movie, one that leaves me once again asking the question I’ve been asking since the very moment this project became a thing: why the hell do we need this? A great, exciting, distinct trailer could have easily answered that question. But this trailer is absolutely none of those things. It’s disappointingly bland, which exactly is what I feared this film would end up becoming after what went down behind the scenes.

Which, I know, I know — is always unfair to do with a movie. We shouldn’t judge a movie by how it was made, because plenty of great movies had rough production cycles (see: Star Wars.) But when a movie so embodies all the problems that a bad production would present, it’s kind of hard not to bring it up. The extremely delayed advertising, the dark and visually bland footage, the vague plot — I’ve seen this all too many times. I saw it with The Dark Tower last year, with Ghostbusters the year before that, and with the Fantastic Four reboot the year before that, and now I can’t help but see it here with Solo.

Maybe I’m just being obnoxiously pessimistic here, but this trailer really did do nothing for me, in the worst way possible. Rather than fill me with excitement, it only supplied me with even more reservations. Like: why is everything so dark and dreary here? This is a fucking Han Solo movie — it should be colorful and vibrant, at least matching that of the original film. Instead, every shot looks like it was thrown through the Rogue One darkness filter, for no reason whatsoever.

Why is Han Solo a non-entity in his own teaser trailer? I honestly started to get worried about this last night during the Super Bowl spot, but I can’t help but feel like Disney is trying to hide the obvious here: Alden Ehrenreich bares absolutely zero resemblance to Harrison Ford. He doesn’t particularly look like him and, even worse, he doesn’t really sound like him — the illusion of him being a “young Han Solo” is completely broken, because there’s little here that seems particularly “Han Solo-ish.” If I showed this trailer to a casual Star Wars viewer (like my mother, for instance), I am 100% sure they wouldn’t put together he was young Han Solo at all. I started to get worried about what we were getting from the whole “they had to hire an acting coach” thing, but I can’t say the little we see here shows much promise for Ehrenreich in the role. 

And why does it look so tonally flat too? Returning to my initial point: this is fucking Han Solo. Have some fun with it! The man should be cracking jokes and making quipts, but there’s no humor or flair to speak of in this trailer. I don’t know if other fans agree with me on this (I honestly haven’t checked), but I really believe the tone here should be closer to a Guardians of the Galaxy than the aforementioned Rogue One. And even though I far from loved that movie either, at least it had an ethos! It was a “dark war movie” and, from the trailers, you got that impression immediately. That is so important for a film’s trailer to do, and something that Guardians of the Galaxy did so damn well — that initial “what a bunch of a-holes” teaser sold exactly what the film would be: a funny, offbeat sci-fi adventure. I would argue that Solo: A Star War Story should have aimed for something similar. But, apparently, Lucasfilm disagreed with me, to the point they fired the two guys who would have probably made something like that to begin with.

BUT, once again, I know I’m being unfair to the film here. To name another virtue I can’t live up to, we shouldn’t judge a film by what we want it to be — it should just be viewed as what it is. So what exactly is Solo: A Star Wars Story? Well, that’s the problem — this first trailer doesn’t present ANYTHING about what the movie is trying to be. And for a movie that I am very much iffy on, that’s like priority number one.

There’s still time for my opinion to sway on Solo‘s marketing efforts (it did for Rogue One, for what it’s worth), but I hope Disney brings it’s A-game next trailer round. I know it isn’t impossible with this movie — I mean, look at these character posters! They are great, and sell exactly the kind of vibrant and unique Star Wars film I was looking for. But how they match up with the washed-out, murky looking blandness presented in the trailer is beyond me.

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Yeah, the fact that the movie posters have more color and style than the actual film? I am so worried about this movie, you guys. But since I’ve been a massive negative nancy this entire post, I will say one positive about the trailer: the background music is pretty great! And I’m still here for Donald Glover’s Lando — always, and hopefully forever.

Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theater on May 25, 2018. God, I hope it doesn’t suck.


Also published on Medium.

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)

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Marvel Is Playing The Hype Game Beautifully With The #ThanosDemandsYourSilence Infinity War Letter

Is #ThanosDemandsYourSilence a sincere request, or just a cog in the marketing strategy for the biggest film of the summer? It’s both, and that’s part of the fun.

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You wouldn’t think there would be much that Marvel had to do in order to get butts in seats for Avengers: Infinity War. It’s the culmination of everything that Marvel has been building up to in the last decade and, with the brand standing as the unarguable king of all modern franchises, convincing general audiences to give a damn about that is far from a challenging task. Infinity War would make a billion with ZERO marketing…but the Hollywood machine does what the Hollywood machine does, which means that we are going to be inundated with trailers, TV spots, posters, product tie-ins, interviews, clever social media posts that go “viral,” and literally dozens of other forms of publicity as the film prepares for its grand debut at the end of the month.

But as my Introduction to Public Relations course I took in college taught me, journalism is dying and the only way to possibly make a living with the degree is by selling out to the corporations around you and taking in that sweet, sweet public relations coin however way you can. No, wait, the other thing, sorry. What I meant to write was that any public relations plan needs a simple mission statement, and the marketing for a film is no different. So when the marketing powers that be began brainstorming just what they wanted to accomplish with the advertising blitz for the film, what exactly was their approach? Well, the last few months of PR makes that pretty damn clear, at least from my perspective.

With Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel isn’t just trying to sell a blockbuster superhero movie — they are trying to sell THE blockbuster superhero movie. Through every trailer, every new piece of information revealed, and, yes, even every post to social media, Marvel and Disney are setting up Infinity War to be the mother of all event movies. You know that whole “culmination of everything” spiel I wrote about in the first paragraph? The only reason I’m seeing Infinity War like that is because Marvel WANTS me to see Infinity War like that, and have built up a pretty effective public relations campaign to do just that.

Which makes the latest bit of big publicity for the film rather inspiring, at least compared to the deluge of behind the scenes interview quotes from the producers, actors talking the film up on Access Hollywood, and the like. Posted on Twitter earlier today by The Russo Brothers (a.k.a the directors of this massive beast) was an open letter to all Marvel fans about spoiler content when it comes to the launch of the film. If you haven’t yet, check it out for yourself below:

Essentially, the brunt of the letter is this: don’t spoil the film if you happen to see it early (looking at you, fellow bloggers), because that’s not a cool thing to do. But the subtext of the letter in my mind (and what makes it such clever publicity overall) is that Infinity War is a movie that shouldn’t be spoiled to begin with. That the events of the picture are so huge and groundbreaking and game-changing for the MCU that the directors have to write a letter about it, making sure people know the release of the film is huge and groundbreaking and game-changing (it’s a marketer’s job to be repetitious. Their job! Their job is to be repetitious!) And even adding a little fun to the proceedings (a Marvel trademark!) is the hashtag “#ThanosDemandsYourSilence,” which of course has been trending all day, since Marvel/Disney know exactly what they are doing here. Hell, they even got Tom Holland involved in the mix, who as Marvel’s Resident Young Person™ has a big social media presence, and is quick to poke fun at himself in a way that delights all, causes retweets, increases brand awareness, etc.

Now, let me make things clear: while I believe this to 100% be publicity for the film, I don’t necessarily think it’s not a sincere gesture from The Russo Brothers. Of course they don’t want their movie spoiled before most get to see it, and I’m sure there is a lot of big events in the film they would rather people keep their lips shut on for the foreseeable future. But the #ThanosDemandsYourSilence thing is, more importantly, another way for Marvel to build up the grand event nature of the film, not just to get people to see the film, but to feel like they have to see the film as soon as humanly possible. Pushing the film up and making it a near simultaneous global release was one big aspect of that strategy (“Now everyone in the world can feel like they are the first ones to see it, and can experience the film free of spoilers!”), and this letter is just the icing on that publicity cake.

But I want to stress that I’m not railing against this letter — it’s a fun way to build up hype for the opening weekend, and it only does more to increase my personal anticipation for the film’s release. Which, once again, was the entire point. So purely on that level…game gotta respect game here. Bravo Marvel.

…Now give me Inifinity War, plz.


Also published on Medium.

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Disney Celebrates International Women’s Day By Giving Its Favorite Man, Jon Favreau, A Live-Action Star Wars TV Show

Deserved or not…THE OPTICS, DISNEY. THE OPTICS!!

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It’s no big secret that Disney is going in gung-ho on bringing new people into the Star Wars franchise. In the last year, we have seen over half a dozen people be given new movies and projects set within the series, as Lucasfilm slowly starts to build up what the future of this franchise will be following next year’s Star Wars: Episode IX. But while I say “people”, I probably should be more clear — white men. Disney has given the keys to the franchise solely to a bunch of middle-aged, white men.

Is this in and of itself some type of hiring sin? Eh, no, not really. And I don’t even blame Disney/Lucasfilm entirely for the situation — it’s clear that Kennedy and her cohorts are running scared a bit here, with a string of high profile, low experience collaborators causing headaches behind the scenes (Josh Trank, Gareth Edwards, and Lord & Miller.) For that reason, they have been turning to experienced “sure things” to take the reigns of Star Wars, namely in the form of J.J. Abrams (who already did it in The Force Awakens!) Rian Johnson (who already did it in The Last Jedi!), Stephen Daldry (a prestige journeyman with twenty years of experience!), and Weiss/Benioff (they show-ran the most complicated series ever made, THEY ARE PROS!) And you know what the paradox is here? All the filmmakers with decades of experience and a reputation of being professionals are almost entirely — you guessed it! — white dudes.

Enter Jon Favreau. Disney is clearly a fan of the man ever since he gave them the first Iron Man (which in and of itself was a bit of a risky decision to give to him at the time…but I digress), and has worked with him again on massive hits like The Jungle Book and future GARGANTUAN hit The Lion King. They appear to like him, he appears to like them, and there are billions of dollars that prove the relationship works. So now Favreau is being given a pretty big role in Disney’s current crown jewel franchise — Star Wars.

Not the Star Wars project you might think, though. Rather than diving head first into the crowded realm of future Star Wars movies (occupied by at least one more saga film, two competing trilogies, and a whole bunch of individual “story” films), Favreau will apparently be helming the previously announced live-action TV series on Disney’s forthcoming streaming service. This was announced just earlier today on StarWars.com, alongside the expected statement from Kathleen Kennedy:

“I couldn’t be more excited about Jon coming on board to produce and write for the new direct-to-consumer platform. Jon brings the perfect mix of producing and writing talent, combined with a fluency in the Star Wars universe. This series will allow Jon the chance to work with a diverse group of writers and directors and give Lucasfilm the opportunity to build a robust talent base.”

And the expected outburst of excitement from Favreau:

“If you told me at 11 years old that I would be getting to tell stories in the Star Wars universe, I wouldn’t have believed you. I can’t wait to embark upon this exciting adventure.”

Putting aside the pure exhaustion I have to new Star Wars projects right now (TOO MANY), who the fucks idea was it to announce this news today of all days? It’s no big secret that the critical community at large (or Film Twitter, at the very least) has been giving Lucasfilm crap for their seeming dismissal of having more diverse voices behind the scenes. Warranted or not, the complaints about the lack of anyone but straight men being a creative force of the series is extremely prevalent. And if you’re facing backlash over not hiring women to do things…adding yet another man to your company on the damn day of appreciatiating woman just reads as a back slap at worse, and tone deaf at best. READ THE FUCKING ROOM, LUCASFILM.

Ignoring the exact date of the hiring, though, Favreau being announced for this is…fine, I guess. I am not nearly as enthusiastic on the guy’s filmography as some (or Disney, especially) seem to be, but his films are usually pretty good at least (unless they are Iron Man 2.) So this certainly isn’t the worst pick for a Star Wars project. That being said, choosing a guy with zero experience writing a TV series to write a TV series of this scale is a bit disappointing. There are plenty of fine, experienced showrunners out there — why give Jon Favreau, who has already cultivated success in his career a dozen times, yet another big project? Hiring Jon Favreau to do this Star Wars series is ignoring TV showrunners who are perhaps more suitable for the part, which puts his hiring as a “double whammy” of ignoring potentially better candidates, if you ask me.

Anyways, whatever — I’m just hoping that the next announcement of someone getting a Star Wars project is a little more unique, a little more interesting, and a little more diverse. Or, second option…don’t announce another Star Wars project for a while. I think we have plenty to mull around already, Lucasfilm.


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Why Marvel Moved Up The Avengers: Infinity War Release Date

It was a win-win-win-win decision for the company, really.

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The first weekend of May is considered the “start” of the summer movie season…but, in recent years, that has pretty much evolved to become the “Marvel movie” slot. Barring one exception in 2009 (the only year Marvel didn’t release a movie in the past decade), every year since 2007 has given us the release of a new film featuring a Marvel superhero in the first weekend of May. It’s become something of a tradition, one that wasn’t entirely surprising to see Marvel keep intact as it approached its tenth anniversary as a film studio. And with Avengers: Infinity War by far representing their largest and grandest project, the Marvel May slot seemed perfect for the film to have its grand debut. And for years, we’ve all been working off that assumption. Disney set a May 4, 2018 release date for the film some time ago, and there was no way they were going to change that.

Well, they just changed that.

But unlike most sudden release date changes, this one is A) minor and B) mostly a good thing. Instead of launching on May 4, Avengers: Infinity War will now hit theaters everywhere on April 27, abandoning the May month completely. Two months before the film’s release, it’s a bit of a shocking development, although Marvel had fun with it on Twitter, by way of (who else?) Robert Downey Jr.

Now obviously this was planned (Robert Downey Jr. didn’t just push Marvel to massively move the release date of its biggest film out of the blue — come on now), but what was the reasoning for Disney’s decision here? Well, a few things.

Number one? The film was already going to release on April 27 overseas, which is typical for a Marvel release (they almost always open internationally before coming to the States). So moving the release date for America only puts the film in line with the rest of the world, which is ultimately pretty smart: now Marvel and Disney can brag on April 30 about how the film made approximately $67 billion worldwide in its first weekend of release. It will look great, vanity wise.

And this also moves Infinity War away from Disney’s own Solo: A Star Wars Story, opening at the end of May. That’s not even to mention the recently moved Deadpool 2 on May 18, which was a surprisingly big threat to Infinity War’s legs. With a three week gap between the two, however, Infinity War is now in the clear in terms of maximum, immediate revenue (all that really matters in Hollywood in this day and age.)

And as for first-weekend competetion, neither weekend poised much of a threat: nothing was playing on May 4, sure, but the only thing on April 27 was a Paula Patton thriller entitled Traffik, a horror movie called Bad Samaritan starring David Tennant, and comedy I Feel Pretty from Amy Schumer. The latter film already moved back a week to April 20, and neither of the others will make much of a dent on pop culture, so Marvel had nothing to fear with placing Infinity War against them.

Finally, the move will also cut off the threat of spoilers reaching America before the majority of the country gets to see the film. That hasn’t been too much of a threat for other Marvel releases like Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok (both opened overseas a week earlier)…but Infinity War is different. It’s rumored to make some massive changes to the state of the MCU and the characters in it, and I’m sure Kevin Feige would prefer people witnessed such developments in the theater, rather than on Twitter.

Ultimately, there’s nothing all that fishy here about the move. It’s only a week, but it could end up helping the film quite a bit in the long run. And if it means we get to see this movie seven days earlier than expected, I’m sure I’m not the only one who will take this offering with little reservations.


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