Anghus Houvouras on the Star Wars franchise…
Sic transit gloria. Glory fades. That’s the first thing that came to mind when I started thinking about how quickly the latest Star Wars movie came and went. It’s been just over a month since The Last Jedi was released and whether you loved the film or loathed it, it’s already gone. After five weeks the most recent and most polarizing Star Wars movie is nothing more than a memory. Take a minute and let that sink in: the eighth installment of the biggest cinematic franchise in history was released in December and by mid-January no one cares.
It’s fairly simple: Star Wars lost its luster by generating too much product. A Star Wars film every year makes it nearly impossible for the property to leave our collective pop culture consciousness. The moment a Star Wars movie hits theaters, you’re no more than 364 days away from another one being released. The annual Star Wars movies are both a blessing and a curse for fans. People who love and devour every Star Wars film get a trip to a galaxy far, far away every year. The curse might not be readily apparent to those still blindly infatuated with the franchise: Gluttony.
I expect that even the most passionate Star Wars fan will begin to feel the effects of over consumption from Disney’s Star Wars all-you-can-eat film franchise feast. It’s one thing to feed your inner child with annual doses of nostalgia. But at this rate, your inner child is going to end up in a diabetic coma and might end up needing to have a limb or two amputated.
The concept of ‘less is more’ aptly describes the current cultural dilemma with Star Wars. When Star Wars movies were few and far between, a fervent fan base was built living in the gaps between installments which fueled the imagination of fans. But Disney took away the pause button and Star Wars continues to play year after year. An endless assembly line of product that exists to fill in the gaps for us. Ever wonder where Han Solo got the Millennium Falcon? Don’t worry, they’re going to make a film that tells the whole story. Disney’s deep dive into the Star Wars universe means that every element of our imagination has been removed in order to generate a continuous revenue stream.
The other major reason for Star Wars losing its luster is the lack of a charted course. There’s a palpable irony that the first new Star Wars movie in 16 years revolved around completing a map to find Luke Skywalker, because Disney’s most glaring error in judgement has been charting no course for this new trilogy.
I’m not sure how other film fans reacted to the revelation that there was no attempt at cohesion between Episode VII, VIII and IX. My reaction was involved a healthy dose of incredulity and the phrase ‘high holy hell’. It seems strange that a multi-billion dollar franchise would involve creators crafting a story for their episode, then hand the baton over to another filmmaker who can declare “I think this part of the story is total shit” and eradicate story threads rather than neatly tie them up. The fact that the current trilogy is uncharted with no planned story arcs feels odd.
Rian Johnson made a bold declaration in The Last Jedi. Rey handing Luke the lightsaber was a nice metaphor for J.J. Abrams handing Rian Johnson the proverbial storytelling baton. And like Luke, Johnson decided to chuck it over his shoulder letting everybody know that he had no interest in carrying it any further. Now J.J. has to pick the baton back up and dust it off after Johnson used it like a stick of dynamite to level the franchise.
Star Wars is no longer this epic piece of our culture. It’s become a thing you talk about for a few weeks after release before moving on to something else. Disney has increased the revenue created by Star Wars but diminished its cultural significance. It reminds me of this exchange from Fight Club:
“Nothing is static. Even the Mona Lisa is falling apart”.