Anghus Houvouras on Disney’s Star Wars…
The Star Wars franchise is FUBAR. A mess that continues to get messier. Like a wedding dress stained with red wine that someone tries to clean using a mop that’s been soaking in a bucket of hot dog water.
I’ve written, at length, about how the Star Wars franchise has found itself in a perilous place. To catch everyone up to speed, here’s a feelings-free recap of what has transpired in a galaxy far, far away.
1. Disney bought the franchise
2. Disney started making Star Wars movies with no planning on story or an overall arc for the first trilogy
3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi sharply divided life-long Star Wars fans
4. Solo: A Star Wars Story was a massive financial disappointment
I said ‘feelings-free’ because this is important. I’m not here to argue whether or not The Last Jedi was any good. Whether you love the movie or hate it, the polarizing reactions seem to indicate that the film was wrong for the franchise. It has not set up Star Wars for future success (though I have no doubt the franchise will achieve success again). The fact that we’re still talking about it seven months after release is a fairly strong indicator of that posit.
One of the biggest problems right now comes not from the filmmakers. Rian Johnson continues to poke the bear by trolling fans on social media. Then, this week Boba Fett filmmaker James Mangold came out and said that fan reactions could lead to the Star Wars films being directed by ‘hacks’. There has also been a lot written lately about how Star Wars fans are taking the franchise way too seriously and could benefit from taking a chill pill and embracing a healthier perspective. This is the nice way of saying ‘Hey assholes, get a life’.
I never cared for the idea of blaming fans when things are going poorly. Yes, there are fans that are absolutely toxic. The ones who harass actors and who scream belligerently about having their childhood raped. These are not people to be taken seriously and do not represent the vast majority of fans who simply didn’t like The Last Jedi and didn’t turn out for Solo.
It’s easy for people to label detractors into that group. Ever since posting my thoughts about how much I disliked The Last Jedi, there have been supporters of the film who want negate my criticisms based on ridiculous assertions of racism, sexism or simply the movie ‘subverting my expectations’. To which I reply ‘horse shit’. I’m just a guy who thought The Last Jedi was a poorly written film with some baffling creative choices.
Hearing filmmakers throw any blame towards the fans makes me cringe. I didn’t think the embarrassment Disney was dealing with could get any more embarrassing. I was wrong.
Fans aren’t to blame for the poor state of the Star Wars franchise. This is a mess created by a studio that planned poorly and executed haphazardly, like with the troubled productions of Rogue One and Solo. The whole thing reminds me of a quote from 30 Rock:
“You made a bad decision and bought something you didn’t understand, like when I bought tickets for Black Swan.”
I’m not sure if Disney fully understood what they had bought. It wasn’t just the franchise but the fans that came with it. The same people who not only see the movie but buy the merchandise. The fans are what help propel these movies to massive box office success. To hear the creative people behind the scenes whine about the fans… it feels like they don’t understand the franchise.
George Lucas has said that he sold Lucasfilm to Disney because making Star Wars movies was “no longer fun”. This was after he made three prequels that ranged from ‘mind-blowingly terrible’ to ‘not awful’. Pardon me if I’m not exactly sympathetic because George lost the will to make painfully mediocre blockbusters.
Basically what Mangold and others are saying is “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it” which feels like the defense of someone who can’t stomach criticism. It’s an obtuse rationale from creators who want fans to buy whatever they’re selling and be feel lucky that it even exists. Like I’m Kevin Bacon in Animal House bent over while getting paddled and all I’m supposed to say is “Thank you sir, may I have another?”
I can’t help but draw parallels between Disney Star Wars and the DC Extended Universe. Another franchise that has found itself dealing with extreme fan polarization after questionable creative choices. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were films met with massive amounts of criticism from fans. There were those who didn’t care for Zack Snyder’s vision of classic characters. Like Solo, Justice League was an absolute disaster of a production with massive reshoots and another director being brought in to try to recalibrate fan expectations. I don’t recall anyone at Warner Bros. lashing out at fans for being part of the problem. The problems were all the product of poor choices by the studio, mostly trying to push things forward too quickly without a plan (sound familiar?).
The fans aren’t the problem and putting any percentage of the blame on them is ridiculous. Disney is still very capable of fixing all this, but they need their creative people to stop talking. Or at least, stop talking about the controversial aspects and have them focus on the cool stuff coming down the pipeline. Disney: keep your creatives focused on the future, not the furor. There’s nothing to be won by analyzing past mistakes and miring in the muck that has been created from poor planning.
I find this ‘blame the fans’ campaign currently being perpetrated by a number of people to be kind of gross and woefully misplaced.
And that, my friends, is disappointing.