Franchise fatigue: All the ways Disney is destroying the ‘Star Wars’ legacy
Solo: A Star Wars Story is out and the space opera fandom has been subsequently losing its shit over whether Alden Ehrenreich stepping into Harrison Ford’s bland nerf-herding shoes is a concept anyone wanted or needed. “Wait, we get to find out where Han came from!? What a great choice for a Disney Star Wars spinoff,” said literally no one ever. With critics citing it to be “the worst Star Wars movie since Attack of the Clones,” Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers added, “Somehow Han Solo — the roguish Star Wars hellion famous for breaking all the rules — finds himself in a feel-good movie that doesn’t break any.” Elsewhere, The NYTimes’s A.O. Scott wrote, “Solo: A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard, is a curiously low-stakes blockbuster, in effect a filmed Wikipedia page.”
Yikes! Question is, who’s to blame for this franchise fatigue? While the finger points to Disney (Star Wars: The Last Jedi was received with equal disdain), it’s hardly surprising the mega-conglomerate is cashing in on the gimmicks the Star Wars franchise so readily gives. Back in January, Quartz reported how in just five years, the three Disney Star Wars films – The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi – had brought in nearly $4.2 billion worldwide, the same price Disney acquired Lucasfilm for. No doubt the big-eared mouse is chuckling away to himself at the millions Solo has raked in so far.
But where does that leave the audiences? As it stands, the outlook is bleak and we can’t help but question Disney’s strategy for the franchise. With diehard fans claiming the media megahouse has destroyed the legacy of Star Wars (yes, even more than The Phantom Menace), we’re here to look at the ways in which it keeps screwing up the films. So without further ado, here’s why Disney is destroying Star Wars.
One of the greatest things about the original Star Wars movies is that they were daring, unique, and not afraid to task risks. The world-building of the franchise offers endless opportunities for its creators to push the boundaries and ignite the fans’ imaginations. However, the anthology films of late seem to be doing quite the opposite. As io9 pointed out, Lucasfilm and Disney are so tied to quality control that they’ve become totally risk-averse. “So the subjects of the anthology films are things everyone already knows about, while the ‘episode’ movies themselves aren’t allowed to deviate too far from the standard action-adventure tone of the original Star Wars.”
Now might be a good time to refer back to Scott’s review that described Solo as if it were a moving motion Wiki page, simply retelling a tired story that fans could’ve predicted themselves. Meanwhile, it’s well known that The Force Awakens echoes every character and plot point from the original trilogy. There are so many options and different ways the new stories could be explored, but instead we’re spoon fed the same characters and stories, playing on the tropes of the original films in a hope that Disney can (and quite evidently does) cash-in on the audience’s sense of nostalgia.
Disney’s made its plan with the franchise clear – to release a Star Wars movie every single year until it stops being profitable to do so. “The ‘saga’ films will be ‘episodes’ continuing the main Skywalker family story, and they’ll alternate release dates with ‘anthology’ films, which will be standalone stories set all over the Star Wars universe,” noted io9. The plan is like the movie equivalent of a hot dog factory churning out the same tasteless meat sticks in order to cater to market demand. We ask, they produce en masse. But eventually those gristlely hot dogs are going to start tasting bad and in the case of Star Wars, the flavor is already fading.
Nevertheless, we eat it up like the hungry megafans we are because it’s there in front of us. When will this set up end? Back in the early days of filmmaking, the idea of producing a movie every year before even deciding what it’s about would’ve been utter madness. Yet Disney has been loud and clear about its strategy and there’s nothing the fandom can do aside from continue spending $20 each year to go and watch two hours of fluff. As Cracked pointed out, the script for A New Hope took three years and four drafts to complete, and yet Rogue One was so rushed that the team was writing pivotal scenes during post-production. “So if you’re wondering why these new films seem to borrow so much from the originals, it’s because who has time to think of something new? . . . This is the kind of dumb idea that forces you to panic and fire your directors five months into filming,” a la Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Does Star Wars need to carry on?
As said, we can’t really blame Disney for its Star Wars mill. After all, rebooting, rehashing, and refucking every classic movie and TV show is a Hollywide problem and one that has continued in traction in recent years as the studios slowly become even more unsure of themselves. The changing nature in which we consume content has completely shifted and the theaters are losing box office sales by the second, meaning the studios need to pump out films that they know are going to get butts in the seats. They can’t afford to take risks.
The old Star Wars universe had some truly low moments that are a thing of the past and as Disney continues to pump out the films on its annual basis, the overall quality of the Star Wars films is somewhat better. Every movie is at its worst just the low end of average. However, as io9 outlined, “it also means that the highs aren’t as high, and the result is the Star Wars universe isn’t as much fun. Even the worst old EU book felt like it was trying to do something new.” Star Wars feels small now, which is a bummer since there’s an entire universe to get lost within.
The first films were great because they worked as a trilogy, telling a story of the entire universe being saved from destruction. The prequels – those dreaded lows we were talking about – were at least original in that they didn’t even try to match the old story. “But these new sequels seem unable to do much save repackage the same threats from the original films,” noted Cracked, “They had a Star Destroyer? Well, we have a Mega Star Destroyer! You thought the last Death Star was big? Well, ours is even DEATH-IER!”
While we’re not saying Star Wars is completely dead and there are no fun moments to be found in each of Disney’s episodes, perhaps it’s time we accepted that the most important stories in the universe have already been told. The Force has gone and all that’s left of this tired franchise is a Star Wars lightsaber toy that cost you $50, crackling and flashing in your hands as the batteries slowly lose power.