‘Star Wars’ and the dangers of a saturation point
“I want to go to Star Wars and see Darth Vader.” So said my 3-year-old daughter, unprompted (and verbatim) earlier this evening. She learned everything she knows about Star Wars from her Disney-licensed graham crackers.
Earlier today, the first Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer (embedded below) was released. Looks pretty cool. But I figure I would probably say that about any competent-looking feature film bearing the Star Wars name. I’m a fan. The Disney machine guarantees it will be big, high-tech, and marketable. Hopefully it will also be good. I was very much encouraged by The Force Awakens. I only see about four or five movies a year in the theater these days, and I’m about 90 percent sure Rogue One will be one of them for 2016.
But it does makes one wonder: Does the fact that The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars movie in a decade have something to do with fans’ thirst for it? And now, with Disney’s elaborate plans for the franchise — which include not only the sequel trilogy but also three other standalone movies being released on each side of the trilogy releases between now and 2020 — is there a risk of watering down the franchise into a rote, routine series?
I was talking about this with a friend a couple weeks back, and his take on it was that the Star Wars franchise in Disney’s hands is essentially like having a second Marvel franchise. It’s something that, given a large enough stable of directors, writers, and new stories (which in this franchise can jump between time periods), can be milked for years and years to come. After all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no signs of slowing down.
I think he has a point. And after seeing the Rogue One trailer, I can see it even more clearly. Here’s a franchise with a captive audience whose connection may not be limited to the characters at all. As much as The Force Awakens promised to be a continuation of the Skywalker saga, that no longer seems to be the point. It’s the universe itself that will sustain the franchise — something long known to the people (I am not one of them) who have been into the various spinoff animated series, books, and video games. Now this strategy extends into the feature franchise itself. It’s something that Disney’s version of a Lucas-less Lucasfilm can and wants to do, and something Lucas himself could never have done, and didn’t want to. But isn’t there more of a danger now of people actually getting sick of Star Wars?
George Lucas commodified Star Wars. Make absolutely no mistake about that. But Disney is going to do tenfold what Lucas could only have dreamed. They are a machine. Lucas always wanted to be more of an auteur (even if he was a machine-like one).
I’m not sure how I feel about that. Honestly, I think I’m okay with it, so long as the machine cranks out a good product. Of course, the fact that it’s now, even more than before, so nakedly a product might seem a bit sad. But only a little bit.