By this point, I am going to assume that everyone who would ever peruse this site has watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and if not then you are probably avoiding it on purpose. As of this writing, the film has already surpassed the $1-billion mark worldwide. That means that it crossed that mark faster than any other film, and that it is well on it’s way to surpassing Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time. It has gotten good to great reviews for the most part, and most important of all for a film like this, children love it. This of course means more billions to be made from merchandising tie-ins.
I liked the movie for the most part. It is, as one of my friends pointed out, almost a beat for beat rip-off/ homage to the original Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope for all the chodes out there), but this probably works best for the new generation of fans. I wasn’t bothered by the lack of originality in the film because, let’s face it, the original trilogy is unoriginal as far as the plot goes; it was the details that made the movies so endearing. What bothers me, however, is the notion that with The Force Awakens proving to be successful (as if this was ever really in doubt), there will be an endless deluge of Star Wars branded films for the foreseeable future.
Although many people have worked on Star Wars, up until the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney it had primarily been the vision of George Lucas. In most cases, what starts out as one person’s idea quickly becomes deluded by too many cooks, but Lucas seems to be the exception. Lucas continued to exert more and more control over the franchise, constantly tinkering with the originals and writing and directing all three of the prequels. Star Wars is one of the few examples where taking a series out of the control of the creator is probably a good thing. However, that doesn’t mean that the world needs fifty more films featuring these characters and their descendants. Realistically, I would say that we don’t even need five more.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, which in and of itself is a ridiculous thing to say, is already starting to show signs of rot. All the films have the same plot (hero is cool and funny, some shit happens, EXPLOSIONS, city/world in peril, heroes survive but are battered), the actors are either getting tired of their roles and/or will be too old to play them soon, and they already had their high-water mark critically and commercially (The Avengers). Any which way you cut it, Marvel should prepare for diminishing returns in the next decade, be it sooner or later. The concept that Star Wars will be any different is a bit naive.
The Force Awakens has one HUGE advantage that none of the forthcoming films in the series will have; it is the first film since the prequels. The prequels were so universally panned, even by hardcore Star Wars fans, that it was an almost impossible feat for anyone to make a film that would be loathed with as much vehemence as any of the prequels. The fact that J.J. Abrams, already a nerd favorite due to the Star Trek reboot from 2009 (which, one could argue, was more influenced by Star Wars than the original Star Trek television series), was the director chosen to restart the franchise was the icing on the cake. No director has had a better/worse lead-in since Christopher Nolan made Batman Begins eight years after the abysmal/hilarious Batman and Robin.
The problem is that even the original Star Wars trilogy couldn’t keep the quality up. Most people heap praise on The Empire Strikes Back, but are far less genial when it comes to Return of the Jedi. I have a soft spot for Return of the Jedi, but even I will admit that it lacks the gravity of Empire and the fun of Star Wars. What chance do these new films have of keeping the quality up when Disney is planning on releasing (roughly) one per year? Time will tell, but my guess is not much.
The problem with the dork assembly line that Hollywood has going right now, is that eventually everything runs out of steam. A film with the name Star Wars will (most likely) always make money, but how much money will they be making ten years from now when there are seventeen films instead of seven? Markets for anything eventually become glutted, and in some cases dry up completely. Although I doubt the demand for Star Wars will ever fully go away, there can be too much of a good thing. The general movie-goer might not care too much about what Lando Calrissian did during the Clone Wars is all that I am saying, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally get that long awaited Admiral Ackbar origin story.
Until next time…