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FEATURE: Has Star Wars a bleak future ahead under Disney?

June 27th, 2018 by Paddy Comments

We are experiencing something that seemed impossible just a few years ago. The very first Star Wars film to lose money is upon us. It is a shame too that this unwanted statistic should befall Solo: A Star Wars Story as, on the whole, it is a fine film that might be taking some collateral damage from decisions that were made elsewhere.

Of course it does not help that it had a highly troubled production that was gleefully reported on by the world’s press, but it is very apparent that the final product is anything but the shambles that could have resulted from firing your directors, after the shoot, and ordering extensive reshoots and practically doubling the cost of the film.

Just look at Justice League for an example of how that can go terribly wrong. The real question that has to be asked has the bubble burst for Star Wars?

You go into a toyshop these days and chances are they will not have any new Star Wars merchandise in stock, again there are various reasons for that. Toys ‘R’ Us’ financial problems being one that has led to serious distribution issues.

Many retailers reported they did not even bother stocking Solo figures because they had so many of The Last Jedi figures left in stock that were not shifting off the shelves. For older Star Wars fans this is all starting to sound a little familiar isn’t it?

Remember how the market was flooded with The Phantom Menace figures and merchandise in 1999? Yes, that film was a blockbuster behemoth but was not exactly a darling with the critics. If anything Attack of the Clones compounded the problems with the prequels for many fans and there really was not the appetite for the figures anymore.

It is quite likely that the reason that Star Wars mania has bitten the dust is down to two reasons.

Firstly, the hype surrounding The Force Awakens (TFA) was never going to be matched by subsequent films. After all, TFA featured the return of arguably cinema’s most beloved trio of characters in Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker – not to mention Chewbacca.

It was inevitable that level of expectation would be hard to replicate. Another possible reason for the sudden lack of enthusiasm is fan apathy following a series of creative decisions that were the complete opposite of what the fans had hoped for.

The Last Jedi was a divisive film, there is no doubt about that, but it was by no means a bad one, in many ways it offers much more than the backdoor remake of A New Hope that was The Force Awakens – a film that struggles to hold up on repeat viewings.

But one criticism about the film that is justified is the fact that the third film, in the sequel trilogy, will feature none of the three characters that we were all sold the return of Star Wars on. Carrie Fisher’s absence, of course, cannot be helped.

Kylo Ren is supposedly the strongest villain in the saga but yet he is reduced to bumbling comic villain at times – a feat that seems impossible given that he should be terrifying having murdered Han Solo and Snoke onscreen in cold blood.

So far we have seen him to be a petulant brat who constantly is outshone by Rae in every conflict they have. It is the creative equivalent of making Luke Skywalker emphatically beat the life out of Vader during the climactic confrontation in The Empire Strikes Back and still expect the audience to be feeling jeopardy for Luke when they meet again in Jedi.

Or to step outside the franchise, to have Rocky Balboa knock Clubber Lang out in their first meeting in Rocky III and still have half of the film yet.

Now this could all be a ruse and we could set for unexpected twists and drama in Episode IX but JJ Abrams, as much as we love him, is not the man to shock an audience with the unexpected is he?

All those head-scratching decisions aside there is another problem, one that needs to be addressed sooner or, there will be no, later for the Star Wars films.

Disney are churning them out like McDonald’s burgers and there is a real sense that we are getting too much, too soon. The Marvel movies are obviously the blueprint here but at least there is a feeling with those films we are getting something a little different each time.

If a Star Wars film is veering off-message then people are brought in to bring it back on course. It is the movie equivalent of toeing the party line. Both Rogue One and Solo, the first two spin-off films, hired directors who were either locked out of the editing room or actually fired and replaced by safe and trusted hands in Tony Gilroy and Ron Howard.

To say Lucasfilm has got some grief over this is an understatement. There are reports that Kathleen Kennedy is preparing to step down over it, but if Kathleen Kennedy can’t make Star Wars work… who can?

Maybe it is time to unleash the shackles and let auteur directors give their vision of the Star Wars universe without course corrections if it feels a little too radical? Solo, as I mentioned earlier, was fine film, a perfectly enjoyable experience but equally it cannot be denied that it was something of a box-ticking exercise.

Star Wars fans have never had it so good, but maybe the franchise’s future depends on striving for something a little bit higher than merely fine, okay or good?

Let us know your thoughts below, @NerdFollowing on Twitter or on Facebook

Paddy Ryan, like Buck Rogers, is a man out of time. He's a loose cannon haunted by his past who, when he's not making painful attempts at humour, is busy watching as many geeky films and TV shows as possible. An avid reader, he has vowed one day to start that novel he's been talking about for years. Born in the late 70s, he's an 80s kid at heart who sees nothing wrong with spending hours upon hours watching season three of Robin Of Sherwood. Jason Connery wasn't that bad you know! He's got a million ideas for comic books but thankfully doesn't know anyone with the time to draw them and call his bluff on that one! The Empire Strikes Back is his favourite film, Doctor Who is his TV show of choice and when it comes to books ... well that's a whole other story! I'm Paddy Ryan and you're not...


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