Why “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Lucasfilm)

Well here’s a bit of weird news – apparently “Solo: A Star Wars Story” has been selected for the Cannes Film Festival.

This is an odd choice to say the least – typically, Cannes rejects frivolous (or, in other words, enjoyable) popcorn flicks in favor of moody dramas and quirky, experimental films that no sane person would ever actually enjoy.

Cannes has made a big deal of banning Netflix movies solely because you don’t have to sit in a snooty arthouse movie theater in order to see them. It’s weird that “Solo” is getting star treatment from a festival committee that thought “Okja” was too mainstream.

So what’s happened here? Why has a frivolous “Star Wars” prequel with a famously troubled development period made it to Cannes?

Solo Movie
Source: Lucasfilm

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s happened here – someone at Disney has lobbied hard behind closed doors to get “Solo” its place at Cannes.

It shouldn’t technically be possible to buy a place at a fancy film festival, just as it shouldn’t be possible to buy an Oscar. There are, though, a lot of things that a movie studio with enough money can do to help the process.

Schmooze with the right people, put on gala screenings, throw up enough billboards, and promise favors to a few film trusts in need of exposure, and boom! You’ve earned some award nominations that you really didn’t deserve.

How else could “Boss Baby” earn an Oscar nomination?

This being the case, it’s completely logical that Disney could, if they wanted to, push for “Solo” to make it to Cannes. The question is, why would they want to?

“Solo” is, to put it lightly, not exactly enjoying a positive reputation from fans. Following all the drama surrounding the movie’s production and the loss of its original directors, people are wary to say the least.

Solo Movie with Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Source: Lucasfilm

Trailers haven’t helped – Alden Ehrenreich, bless him, simply doesn’t feel right as the lead role. It’s not like anybody asked for this movie in the first place, but the fact that the lead actor seems so out of character as Han Solo isn’t going to work in this movie’s favor.

With all of this counting against the movie, Disney needs a way of convincing audiences that no, seriously, “Solo” is worth going to theaters for.

This is especially difficult considering that “The Last Jedi” only came out five months ago. There are a lot of lay “Star Wars” fans who are going to baulk at the idea of seeing another of these movies so soon, no matter how many ten-year-olds and die-hard fans will be lining up on opening day.

So, the solution seems to be, get “Solo” some high praise from Cannes. The little leafy Official Selection logo carries a lot of weight, with its implicit claim that a movie must be worthwhile and genuinely enjoyable.

Besides, while “The Last Jedi” proved divisive among fans, professional reviewers by and large loved the movie. Disney could well be hoping that the critic-heavy environment at Cannes will be perfect for spreading good word-of-mouth for this movie.

How well this plan will work remains to be seen. In order to succeed in this environment, “Solo” will have to compare favorably against a series of indie darlings and masterpiece cinematic creations.

If the aim of the game is simply to convince audiences that “Solo” isn’t terrible, though, this might just work out.

The odds are against Disney on this one, but then, we all know what Han Solo thinks about odds.