Here’s What ‘Rogue One’ and ‘The Mandalorian’ Can Teach ‘Star Wars’ About Good Spin-Offs

It’s rather obvious just how big of a franchise Star Wars is. Between decades of movies, beloved characters, and several spin-offs in TV and movie-form, the Force is strong with the franchise. However, not all the spin-offs outside of the Skywalker saga have done well. In fact, there’s one example in particular that some might deem as a failure. However, there’s a lesson to be learned by one not-so-loved movie, among a vast majority of well-received content. 

Felicity Jones at a screening of 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,' December 13, 2016.
Felicity Jones at a screening of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,’ December 13, 2016 | Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

‘Solo’ was the first failed ‘Star Wars’ film

So, the movie in question that didn’t do as well as Lucasfilm and Disney might have hoped is Solo: A Star Wars Story. Vanity Fair wrote in June 2018 that, “This might be the first Star Wars movie to officially flop.” Solo: A Star Wars Story premiered at the end of May, a week before they wrote that, and already the movie had dropped 65% in revenue since it premiered, according to the outlet. 

Director Ron Howard blamed internet trolling. “It was pretty interesting,” he said on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, The Guardian reported on June 4, 2019. “It was especially noticeable prior to the release of the movie. Several of the algorithms, whether it was Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, there was an inordinate push down on the ‘Want to see’ [score on Rotten Tomatoes] and on the fan voting.” It’s possible that could affect some people, however, that’s not enough to hurt a Star Wars movie like this that. Plus, Star Wars and trolling go hand-in-hand and it hasn’t made a dent before. 

Maybe there were too many movies, too fast

One major factor as to why Solo did poorly is that it came too soon following The Last Jedi. And Disney CEO knows that. “I have said publicly that I think we made and released too many Star Wars films over a short period of time,” he told BBC Radio, according to Slashfilm. “I have not said that they were disappointing in any way. I’ve not said that I’m disappointed in their performance. I just think that there’s something so special about a Star Wars film, and less is more.”

Studios like Marvel can do that with their movies — they released three major movies (Captain Marvel, Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home) over the span of four months in 2019 — and still make billions of dollar. Those movies all intertwine and are connected; they bank on you needing to watch them all in order to understand what happens next. It’s not the same for stories that you don’t need to follow, like Solo. It’s about Han Solo, a man whose past was mysterious and should have probably stayed that way.

Unexplored characters and experiences reel viewers in

On that note, there’s another problem Solo had. It focused on a character so well-known in the franchise, played in such an iconic way by Harrison Ford, that it was set up for failure from the start. Fans love a strong, dynamic film lead, but if you want to have a successful spin-off, Rogue One proved it should be an original one. 

Jynn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, did a remarkable job of bringing a new face to the franchise and telling a story none of us even knew we wanted. It retconned the whole Death Star weak-spot plot point and it deepened the lore around A New Hope. Rogue One made $1 billion at the box office and is the third-highest-grossing film in the whole franchise. And it didn’t rely on a Skywalker or other familiar character to help it (although Vader does appear in it, that wasn’t widely advertised). 

And now the newest spin-off, The Mandalorian, follows that same “rule.” It introduced a brand new character, in a familiar setting and an intriguing backstory about his culture. Of course, they have Baby Yoda, and that might help a bit too. 

Moving forward, the Star Wars films that follow The Rise of Skywalker should be original, open new doors, and explore new ways to tell a story in this galaxy. The two exceptions are the Cassian Andor series and the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, but those are being reprised by the same actors who played them initially, which can only help. But, considering just how popular Star Wars is, the studio shouldn’t worry too much.