Last week it was announced that Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man, The Jungle Book and the upcoming Lion King live-action remake, will be writing and executive producing a live-action TV series set in the Star Wars universe for Disney’s upcoming streaming service.
It’s the latest in a slew of announcements from Lucasfilm and Disney that show a robust and crowded future for the Star Wars universe. In the past five months they’ve announced that Star Wars: The Last Jedi writer and director, Rian Johnson, is going to get his own Star Wars trilogy and that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of the HBO megahit series, Game of Thrones, will be getting their own movie trilogy as well in a galaxy far, far away. Both will be separate from the Skywalker family saga of Episodes I-IX.
Combine those trilogy announcements along with the upcoming Han Solo anthology film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the final installment of the latest trilogy to be released in 2019 (Episode IX) and ANOTHER anthology film that has yet to be revealed but is very much planned (rumors say it’s a Boba Fett film) and that adds up to nine Star Wars movies and a TV series on the horizon.
Nine movies! In the 40 years after Star Wars first hit screens, eight films have followed. Between 1980 and 1998 there were none! And then we got the prequel trilogy, which was so reviled by fans that it’d have been better if they just never existed. For decades, Star Wars fans toiled in a content desert, relying on novels, comic books and video games. Now, Disney has taken over and is handing out trilogies left and right.
It begs the question, is it too much?
Will we ever get to the point where seeing a Star Wars movie will feel like homework? A chore? Will I ever buy a ticket to a Star Wars movie more out of loyalty to the brand than genuine interest? Will there ever be a point where Star Wars movies are stale?
I doubt it. Allow me to explain
Star Wars & Marvel, A Tale of Two Universes
The easiest and most obvious connection to make to Star Wars’ exponential growth as a franchise is Marvel and its Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s the gold standard for creating a cinematic universe for tons of characters to inhabit across movies and decades, all the while making gobbles of money. For god’s sakes, they made an Ant-Man film that killed at the box-office!
But, as the D.C. film universe will tell you, it’s not easy to do what they do. In the process of trying to replicate Marvel’s success, DC comics rushed the process and ended up creating mediocre movies that destroyed beloved characters, alienated fans and is being abandoned after only a few films into it. I mean did anyone care about Justice League? That should have been amazing! It sucked.
When Star Wars fans, like me, see another beloved franchise expanding with incredible ambition, we worry we have another DC catastrophe on our hands. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk. Hell, even the MCU has had its own struggles.
Before this year’s sensational Black Panther, the MCU was getting stale. After 17 films there didn’t seem to be any urgency in its movies anymore. It felt a lot like we were just killing time to get to Avengers: Infinity War, which has been what the MCU has been slowly building to since 2008. Captain America: Civil War? Not bad. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2? Eh. Doctor Strange? I guess.
I and probably millions of other people will see Infinity War this April, but, ugh, it’s starting to feel burdensome, no? Like, I didn’t see Thor: Ragnarok for a long time because why does Thor need three movies? (Thor: Ragnarok was surprisingly good. It sucks we needed to get through two bad Thor movies to finally get a good one.) Black Panther was a breath of fresh air and a massive success, but part of its appeal was that it was unlike any other MCU film.
I very much worry that Star Wars movies will become stale and boring like some MCU films. But, there are a few things that lay my mind at ease.
Point number one being: MORE STAR WARS OH HELL YES.
I can’t imagine any time in my life where I’m not excited as hell for a new Star Wars movie. Even the new Solo film, due out in May, which I’m 80% sure is going to suck, has me psyched! Chewbacca is back! Emilia Clarke in Star Wars! Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian! Take my money!
I grew up a Star Wars fan during the prequels. *Bane voice* I was born in the darkness, molded by it. I’ve seen the worst Star Wars movies that could ever possibly be made. Oh, Alden Ehrenreich isn’t doing a very good Han Solo impression? I lived through Hayden god damn Christensen making the most badass character in cinematic history look like a ginormous loser. Fam, my fandom is bullet-proof.
But, not everyone shares my affinity and loyalty for Star Wars. I get that. Should the more casual fan feel worried? I still say no.
Here’s the difference between Star Wars’ plans and Marvel’s MCU: all the future trilogies for Star Wars movies will be separate from each other. Will there be some crossover and overlap? Probably. The goal, though, is not their equivalent of an Avengers movie where all the characters join forces for one big gimmick movie.
These are all going to be separate stories with different characters and environments. That’s a huge advantage to keeping things feeling fresh and unique. There’s division. I bet Rian Johnson’s vision of a Star Wars story is way different than what Benioff & Weiss have in mind.
Which is another reason why I’m not too worried about Star Wars oversaturation: the creative minds behind it. I will agree with the backlash of Star Wars seeming to only hire white dudes to direct their projects (J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Jon Favreau, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Gareth Edwards before being replaced by Tony Gilroy for reshoots, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller before being replaced by Ron Howard, [geez this list is getting long] Colin Trevorrow before being fired, J.J Abrams again) but it is encouraging to look at the creative minds they’re willing to hand over the keys to. (But seriously, Lucasfilm, hire a director who isn’t a white guy.)
These directors and writers are not beholden to a comic book character that’s been around for 70 years. Essentially, Star Wars is handing out giant hunks of marble to Johnson and Benioff & Weiss and asking them to sculpt something over the course of three movies. They’ve got a blank canvas and a blank checkbook to make it happen. (Let’s be honest, Star Wars prints money at this point.)
Which is exciting! Who knows what kind of stories could come from these undoubtedly brilliant creative minds in such a rich environment like Star Wars? They’ve got three movie (or probably multiple seasons in the case of Favreau’s TV show) to tell a Star Wars story, the possibilities are truly endless.
Hopefully, the writers and directors behind these Star Wars projects will notice that the best comic book films and shows over the past couple years were Logan, Deadpool, Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Legion. They didn’t succeed by adhering to the formula, they broke the mold. Don’t just try to make a Star Wars movie or show that’s like all the others but with different characters and lightsabers. GET WEIRD WITH IT.
If they don’t, the die-hard fans (like myself) may still always show up in the theaters, but the casual fan won’t. At some point, pretty soon, having Star Wars in a movie title won’t be enough. Audiences are smarter than ever and it’s harder than ever to get them into a theater. The same old, same old won’t put butts in the seats.
It’s an exciting future for Star Wars and its fans, but it’s also an anxious one. Please, don’t let us down.