Anghus Houvouras on Disney’s Star Wars…
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is finally here and critics have gone ‘knives out’ on the last installment of the most recent Star Wars trilogy (oh sweet irony). The film has officially flopped in China and even the most ardent supporters of the Disney Star Wars saga seem confounded by the messy, exposition heavy fan service.
I said goodbye to Star Wars earlier this year after spending way too much time trying to explain why I thought Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a disaster. Star Wars was no longer a source of fun and excitement. Even George Lucas’ terrible prequels were capable of producing joy, if for no other reason than the discussions surrounding every weird choice and cringe-inducing line.
I hadn’t thought much about Star Wars after deciding I was done with the Skywalker Saga, but I noticed something this week as critics and media outlets began discussing Episode IX:
Everyone seems really, really tired discussing Star Wars. Struggling to find the energy to convey their mixed feelings.
The biggest contribution Disney has made to Star Wars fandom is exhaustion. In the last four years, Disney has released five Star Wars movies. Take a minute. Let that sink in. There are only 11 Star Wars movies, and five of them have been released in the last four years. 45% of the cinematic Star Wars canon has been released in the last 48 months as opposed to the first six which were released over a span of nearly three decades. It’s too much, too soon and none of it feels particularly well-thought-out.
Disney has released so much product in such a short span of time that the franchise has become a wall of noise permeating every moment of pop culture over the last four years. There is no room to breathe when it comes to Disney Star Wars. It’s a brand now and has to help bolster merchandise sales and theme park admissions. Star Wars, cinematically speaking, will no longer have the benefit of patience. Even now, plans are in the works for the next Star Wars film, rumored to be announced in January. There’s no time to step back and review successes and failures. No time for planning. The machine keeps marching forward. Star Wars is just a piece of a massive conglomerate calculating profit/loss with artistry of output as a secondary concern.
For many, Star Wars is no longer a celebration, but an obligation. It’s a movie you have to see because of your personal investment this universe rather than passion. Disney has turned the most revered franchise in the history of cinema into an annual ticket punch as they mine every last ounce of your patience and nostalgia. Star Wars was always a commodity; The movies were at the foundation and provided a strong footing for toys, video games, books, comics and other merchandise. However, Disney has decided to crank up the output and the system feels overloaded. In trying to apply the Marvel Model to Star Wars, they’ve wounded the brand and sucked much of the joy out of this cinematic universe.
There will always be fans excited for whatever comes next from Star Wars, but after the gauntlet of the last four years, it feels like the fever pitch has been reduced to a lukewarm shrug.