As of today, we’re less than four months away from the next Star Wars movie. But you’d never know it from the marketing campaign – or, rather, the total lack thereof.
To date, we’ve seen next to nothing from Solo: no trailer, no teaser, no poster, not even an official image, unless you count that behind-the-scenes promo pic from the first week of shooting.
That’s freaking weird, any way you slice it – but whether that’s bad is another question entirely. For one thing, Disney may have their own reasons for holding off on promoting Solo, which we’ll get to in a second. For another, a clumsy marketing campaign doesn’t always signal a terrible movie, just as a strong marketing campaign doesn’t always deliver a great one.
Solo‘s first teaser is coming soon. Probably
Where Solo falls should become apparent sooner rather than later. According to everyone from Making Star Wars to The Hollywood Reporter, the first teaser for Solo will drop sometime during the Super Bowl on Sunday. Ron Howard himself may or may not be hinting at it as well.
Assuming that pans out, one of two things will happen. If the footage is disappointing, it’ll send fans into a panic, and add fuel to the speculation that Disney has been hiding the movie because it was embarrassed or uncertain.
If (as seems more likely) the teaser is amazing, it’ll shut up all but the biggest skeptics. It’ll build hype so immense that it’ll make Disney’s decision to wait look, in retrospect, like marketing masterstroke, rather than a cause for concern.
Sure, we’ll remember somewhere, deep down, that a great ad can be cut together from a so-so film. But we’ll be too busy obsessing over all the new details to care.
Why it’s strange that there’s no trailer yet
It may seem nitpicky to worry about the absence of a teaser for a film that won’t open for another several months. And, fine, it probably it is. But in our defense, it is extremely unusual for a film like Solo to have such a limited marketing presence this close to its release. Not so unusual that we’re panicking, but unusual enough to raise some eyebrows.
Typically, a film like Solo – i.e., a big-budget blockbuster franchise entry from a major studio – will roll out teasers five months to a year before its release. In a lot of those cases, those ads come after weeks or months of other promotion, such as posters, photos, behind-the-scenes featurettes, or convention panels.
To put Solo‘s timeline into context, Rogue One and Last Jedi each dropped a teaser about eight months before release, while Force Awakens unveiled its first footage over a year before its opening.
Typically, a big blockbuster like Solo rolls out its first teaser five months to a year before its release.
Comparable Disney titles like Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, The Incredibles 2, and Avengers: Infinity War have had five to eight months between their teasers and their release dates. This schedule isn’t unique to Disney. Every major blockbuster opening within a month of Solo has a teaser, including Deadpool 2 (May 18) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (June 22).
Heck, as of this week, even Ant-Man and the Wasp has a teaser, and that opens six weeks after Solo. Its teaser-to-release window is only about five months – but it had a strong showing at Comic-Con last July, showing off footage to Hall H attendees and distributing posters to fans.
Granted, it’s not unheard of for a studio to delay marketing to drum up hype. In 2016, Paramount dropped a 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer with zero warning, less than two months before the film’s theatrical debut. It worked: the surprise reveal got Cloverfield fans buzzing, and the film went on to become a commercial and critical smash.
But 10 Cloverfield was a $15 million movie. Paramount could afford to take a risk. That’s very much not the case with Solo, which is the kind of movie that needs to do huge numbers just to be considered adequate.
What is Disney waiting for?
The most pessimistic read of the situation is that Disney’s been reluctant to promote Solo because they have no faith in the film. It’s a theory bolstered by Solo‘s troubled production process – the film lost original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller mid-shoot over “creative differences,” and Ron Howard stepped into finish the job.
However, I’m not convinced this explanation holds up under scrutiny. Solo is going to open to lots of attention, whether or not it’s any good. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Disney to carry on as if it were great, hoping that they could hype this thing up to a mammoth opening weekend?
Another, less alarming possibility is that Disney is thinking of changing the release date – maybe to December, where the three previous Star Wars movies have opened to incredible success. Any delay at all would also give the Solo team more time to polish what’s clearly been a challenging project.
If that’s the case, well, then, it makes perfect sense for Disney to hold off on a teaser. The footage is coming later than expected because the film itself is coming later than expected.
Or maybe the teaser is coming late for reasons that have nothing to do with Solo‘s quality or timing. The Hollywood Reporter suggests that Disney may have wanted to wait until Last Jedi was out of theaters to start pushing Solo – perhaps to avoid confusion or franchise fatigue.
Disney has successfully run simultaneous marketing campaigns for a single franchise before. They’re doing it right now, in fact, with Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp. But those are distinct enough that they feel like three separate brands. That’s not necessarily the case with Star Wars, even if the Solo and Last Jedi plotlines are unrelated. Remember how often non-fans asked if Rogue One was a sequel to The Force Awakens?
None of these explanations are perfectly satisfying, we know. Which just brings us back to our original point: Yes, it’s weird that there’s no Solo teaser yet. And the heat is on Disney now to show us that everything’s perfectly all right now, everything’s fine, we’re all fine here, now, thank you – and make us look like we were the weird ones for worrying to begin with.
When it comes to marketing, Disney is second to none. Every Marvel or Star Wars trailer feels like an event unto itself, every cast member oozes charm, every goofy stunt or ostentatious presentation wins the internet. They know how to build hype and sustain it over months, and how to dial it up a notch at just the right time to get fans freaking out all over again.
We have all the faith in the world that once the Solo show does get going, it’ll every bit as spectacular as the campaigns for Force Awakens or Rogue One or Last Jedi were. We look forward to poring over every tiny detail in the photos, and swooning over Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover.
We just need it to, you know, get going. C’mon, Disney. We’ve been patient. We’re begging you now to give us a show worth the wait.