How & Why Disney Will Inevitably Kill Star Wars
So if you aren't on board the Star Wars hype train, you haven't been paying attention because last week the trailer for Episode VIII was released to much fan fervor and a clamoring for tickets that are yet to be released.
Star Wars is the be all and end all of cinematic sci-fi ever since the first film was released in 1977 and it changed pop-culture forever, but now, it is seemingly on a collision course with its own doom despite being the biggest movie franchise going. So, how can I foresee the destruction of a franchise that, in 2015, released the highest grossing film ever made? Well, it's all down to overexposure.
I want to state from the off, I love Star Wars and I hold the original trilogy in high regard, but that doesn't stop me pointing out some painful truths about the series and where I can see it ending up. For one thing, it is not the Shakespearean masterpiece that many will have you believe, it is dumb as heck and designed to sell toys to kids, it always has been and always will be!
The original story of Luke and Leia battling the evil Darth Vader is pure melodrama amped up to 11, and the premise is essentially space wizards fighting over a princess with thinly veiled references to fascism in there as well. A cocky criminal turned-good rocks up to help out in Han Solo, and some bumbling robots are there to provide a little comic relief, great. It's very much a space opera, and anyone looking for something more profound is a fool, it's excellent entertainment, and it plays heavily on pre-existing sci-fi tropes, it is not highly original, but it does combine all of the best bits of the things that came before it.
The sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, is considered one of the very few film sequels that are actually better than the original and this is because it takes the ridiculous melodrama and makes it so gloriously absurd that we have no other option but to completely roll with it.
Bear in mind, we have already had to suspend our disbelief with the whole aforementioned space wizard business so the fact that Darth Vader is Luke's father is totally believable in this universe whilst the wizened toad mentor of Yoda adds greater depth to the space wizard religion Luke has now been indoctrinated into and the burgeoning love/hate relationship between Leia and Han also adds a fun dimension. The fact that all of the groundwork and backstory was laid in the previous movie left more room for bigger action sequences, cooler spaceship battles and whatever else.
The third in the trilogy, Return of The Jedi, is not really as good as the other two with its clearly cynical use of the overtly 'cute' Ewoks solely to sell action figures to kids, whilst even more vehicles and planets are introduced probably for very similar reasons but the resolution of the Luke/Leia/Han love triangle with the twist fact that Leia and Luke are brother and sister was an interesting (if not slightly creepy) surprise, and the final battle between Luke and Vader and then Vader and his shadowy Emperor is pretty darn cool.
Great, a solid trilogy of films that were all good fun and launched a super-sized franchise of books, toys, comics, games and pretty much anything you could imagine Star Wars branding could be slapped onto.
Now, I am not old enough to remember the original releases of any of these films but I was still introduced to these movies through the natural workings of pop culture, and I was the perfect age to become desperately obsessive over the prequel trilogy when they were released some 20 years or so later. Now, I will be the first to admit that, upon reflection, these films were pretty bad compared to what they were born from with no definitive lead character, far too much time devoted to intergalactic politics and some extremely questionable references to real-world politics and race. However, what no one ever talks about is how much everyone still lapped up these films at the time, it wasn't until years later that they were retroactively viewed as awful. Yeah, Jar-Jar Binks was instantly loathed, but he was just another character deliberately designed to sell crap to kids a la the Ewoks but without the cute factor.
But it was an event. It had been 16 years since the last Star Wars film, and a whole new generation of fans had found the movies and were palatably excited to have their own trilogy for them to introduce to their kids, even if they did suck a little bit. Skip forward to 2015 and Disney have bought the rights to Star Wars and are releasing the first of their new trilogy of Star Wars films with new characters meeting old and a storyline that very much resembles that very first one released way back in 1977.
The film goes on to become the highest grossing film of all time, and it is only the first in a trilogy, while Disney also confirms there will be countless spinoffs and a Star Wars film every year until the end of time and this is where it starts to ring alarm bells. Every year? Does this not remove the spectacle of it, does this not make the generational wonder of being part of the population alive during the release of a Star Wars film less magical and more...well, mundane? Now the new trailer has been released and...uh oh, it looks like we are in for more of the same.
Yes, it is perhaps unfair to jump to conclusions from a two-minute trailer for a film that's not even out yet, but it looks so much like The Empire Strikes Back that it just seems, well, super boring.
The whole conflicted parental figure thing with Kylo Ren and Leia, the fact that Finn appears to be captured and needs rescuing seems very Solo-esque, and then there is the Porg; a new adorably irritating character designed with the intention of separating parents from their cash in the form of soft toys, dolls and various other cutesy items. Well, it's all been done before.
In fact, we know darn well that Disney has an aversion to anything new happening since they invested billions in buying the property from creator George Lucas. They have rigorous control over the content and direction of their films, and so anything that is out of the ordinary for them tends to get canned and we've seen this both with the Han Solo spin-off film where it was announced on the 21st of June 2017 that then-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were to leave the project mid-production.
The announcement of their departure came after months of conflict between the pair and the producers of the film which perhaps isn't surprising since the directors are best known for their comedy work such as the remake of 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, and given how hot the Star Wars property is right now and how highly treasured it is by fans and filmmakers alike, any sort of deviation from the norm would have worried producers. This, then, raises the question: Why were they hired in the first place?
Another example is the final film in the upcoming trilogy that also lost its director Colin Trevorrow, so the franchise brought JJ Abrams back in after he directed The Force Awakens. Colin Trevorrow had dropped out of making Star Wars IX after having 'differing visions' with the studio LucasFilm, and so Abrams will be bookending the latest trilogy of films in the franchise in what seems like a largely uninspired move. I know I've spent a good portion of this article slagging off the prequel trilogy and praising The Empire Strikes Back but repeating the same formula over and over again isn't going to be able to last for long as people will get very bored very quickly. They may have been awful, but at least the prequels tried something new.
With a lack of nostalgia or anything special that will come about by churning out a new film every year and a lack of anything new or exciting to come from the franchise as we see origin stories of well-established characters rehashed and pumped down our throats, Star Wars is destined to die a death.
Like all good things, it has to come to an end at some point, and that point was probably 1982, so just let it go now. Let it go and hold onto the memories rather than insisting on making more and more average sci-fi films. It was finished a long time ago...
You can watch the new trailer here... if you really want to.