Is the Star Wars franchise beginning to sink?

Franchise beginning to sink?

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Franchise beginning to sink?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … a new movie in the Star Wars franchise didn’t release every year.

As promised after acquiring the rights to Lucasfilm for over one billion dollars in 2012, Disney has consistently released a new film in the Star Wars franchise once a year since the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. But is the yearly release of these films over-saturating audiences with too much of the popular movie saga?

In terms of box office numbers, the Star Wars saga continues to dominate and shows no signs of slowing down. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) sits as the third highest grossing film of all time accumulating just over two million dollars while its sequel Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) ranks as the ninth highest grossing film of all time collecting around $1.3 billion. Not far behind from this is spin-off film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) which raked in a little over one billion dollars at the box office.

Not only has Disney found a way to capitalize on the long running success of the franchise, but it has done so in a way that revived the franchise to even greater heights than in the past. So what’s the problem? While this may seem to be a great accomplishment, the movies themselves are generally what is stirring up controversy among the millions of fans.

In 1977 one clear cohesive vision of the franchise moving forward was always in sight from director George Lucas. Over 40 years later this pre-existing cohesiveness of the future of the films has been muddled with in the hands of different directors and executives within the largest corporation in the world and their adaption of the newer live action films.  

This rift can specifically be seen when comparing director J.J. Abram’s Episode VII (The Force Awakens) to director Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII (The Last Jedi). In Episode VII, Abrams sets up specific character arcs for new characters including Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. While these same characters are present in Episode VIII, Johnson had a much different interpretation of where he wanted the sequel trilogy to go over J.J.’s vision, changing character arcs and even disregarding plot lines established in the previous film.

Unlike any film in the franchise prior The Last Jedi split fans into two very separate camps both for and against Star Wars and executives at Disney such as Kathleen Kennedy who are in control of the films. In comparison to other entries Episode VIII ranks significantly below many of them in terms of reviews and audience satisfaction scores, showing that not all fans are on board with the current path Disney is taking.  

Following this backlash much controversy surfaced around the newest film in the franchise Solo: A Star Wars Story. After switching directors multiple times and recasting argumentatively the most famous of the Star Wars characters, debate has centered around whether the newer films are necessary since they conflict with George Lucas’s vision. Many also argue that Disney is rushing the newer films with only a five month gap between the latest two entries.

Waiting for Star Wars films in the past is part of what made them so special to many. Years of speculation for films such as Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, and even The Force Awakens is part of what made their theatrical releases so special to fans waiting years for these films. With part of this appeal now taken out with the novelty of a new film every year, it can very easily slip into the trend of oversaturating the movie industry similar to the impact the superhero genre has had on many.  

Undoubtedly Disney and its respective directors have put their best effort forward in making each film “feel” like a Star Wars film visually and appeal to audience nostalgia, but the deeper substance other films carry is beginning to fade. Even though Star Wars was by no means ever “deep” or “moving,” the new films moving forward can’t just ride off of nostalgia in a mass cultural phenomenon that fans depict, critique, and memorize frame by frame.  

Many of the problems the franchise is up against now can be fixed in the future with the slate of multiple movies planned to come. In particular the spin-off trilogy from director Rian Johnson can fix many of these problems moving forward with a fresh take on the universe not directly connected/tied down to any of George Lucas’ original characters and plot lines.

Despite criticism from fans and reviewers, such great potential that Disney has in bringing this property to new levels of engagement and immersion close to the hearts of fans shines as a glimmering light of new hope.

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