Monday, May 1, 2017

EDITORIAL: Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Over-creating

“There are a few significant things that happen in Han Solo’s life, like acquiring a certain vehicle and meeting a certain Wookiee that will happen in this film. But you will also discover how he got his name.” 
—Bob Iger, Disney CEO on the new Han Solo Movie

There are questions you'd probably rather never know the answers to. Since Disney’s 2012 purchase of Lucasfilm, we have seen a push for new films, toys, games, and other sellable items (hello Star Wars CoffeeMate Coffee Creamer). At first, admittedly, I was incredibly excited. A chance for new Star Wars movies? Perhaps an Indiana Jones movie if we are lucky? New video games and clothes? Even a Star Wars Universe at Disney World?! Hell yes. However, with this new parent company looking to make a return on their $4 billion investment, we are seeing some things that I think could taint the Star Wars universe, just like what has happened with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

When Iron Man came out, followed by phase one of the MCU, I was ecstatic. Comic books were cool again and I was able to see some of my favorite characters on the screen. Since then—and wow does Iron Man’s release in 2008 feel like a lifetime ago?—we have been stormed with a ton of movies, and not all of them have been great. The over-saturation of MCU movies has made me not care about what’s coming out next. I didn’t care to see Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, or Guardians of the Galaxy until nearly a year after each had come out (ok, so GOTG was really good, but the other two weren’t). Age of Ultron was so meh that I recommended to friends to just wait until it’s inevitable release on Netflix to watch it. Civil War was ok but was overall just a little too try hard for my taste. And, do we need to talk about how the Thor franchise has gone? I’m so sick of these movies that I really don’t even care about Spider-Man: Homecoming this summer (and I love Spidey so much that I wore a costume under my normal people clothes from the ages of four to six)! 

Could this be what Star Wars is headed for? I’ve been told that we can expect a Star Wars release every December for the “foreseeable future.” Isn’t there something intrinsically wrong about that? Wasn’t part of the beauty of Star Wars in the unknown? We got six movies in 38 years. Now we are going to have six new movies in six years. The above Bob Iger quote about Han Solo is precisely what I’m concerned about. I love Han, but I’m happy with his story as it is. I’m ok knowing that he somehow got the Falcon from Lando, that he and Chewie are pals, and that his name is Han. I don’t need to know more.

I began to notice this trend after Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I realized how sad I was learning that the Death Star was purposefully designed to blow. I enjoyed the mystery of asking that question as a child. I’d seen Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope probably over 60 times since I was about five years old and I thought about why the Death Star was designed the way it was for most of those years. It was a sad moment for me to realize that there was a definitive answer and that I’d never be able to wonder about it or have a debate about it with someone. 

I also feel like the Star Wars universe is going to dilute itself and stop telling good stories. Disney and Lucasfilm are teaming up to make new stories, but they are clearly fan pandering stories. Look, I am as much or more of a critic of the prequels than most, but why are the new films so clearly organized to distance themselves from them? Say what you will about George Lucas and the prequels (they are pretty low quality movies) but he made them because he wanted to, not to make a return on investment. Why are they only going back to the original trilogy? Why are we not making more efforts towards the expanded universe like the Old Republic? Ultimately, this is going to lead to more origin stories and sequels, nothing new that can really pique our interests. Even Rogue One, the Star Wars franchise's supposed first stand alone film, was really just more of the same. We saw cameos of neat things (BLUE MILK ANYBODY?) and got an answer to a burning question and/or plot hole depending on your view of the Death Star. Ultimately it was story that didn't really add much and didn’t give us dynamic characters. The final trilogy of the Skywalker Saga (Episodes VII-IX) is sort of giving us that, but it’s really just a continuation and it will burn out after IX. 

Ultimately, my fear is that Star Wars is going to spread itself so thin and make so many films that we don’t care about that it will both tarnish its legacy and burn fans out. I never thought there would be a day where I didn’t care about MCU movies coming out, but I don’t care anymore. Here’s to hoping Lucasfilm and Star Wars don’t make the same mistake. 

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