On February 6, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced the company’s newest edition to the Star Wars franchise. Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are developing a new Star Wars trilogy. The good news: Disney is now developing several Star Wars projects. Fans will be able to geek out on a large amount of new content. The bad news: Star Wars fatigue is about to be real.
This Is A First
Until recently, the idea of too much Star Wars was unthinkable. It is one of the most beloved intellectual properties in Hollywood. Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo are timeless. The original special effects created by George Lucas remain legendary. The films are a sacred thing for fans, yet Disney is about to give us too much of a good thing. At least five Star Wars projects will be on their way. Two of them are trilogy series. For the first time we are on the cusp of being bombarded with something that has been enjoyed in moderation.
One factor in this evolving equation is that fans of Star Wars have experienced a limited amount of official, mainstream content. Unlike Batman or Star Trek, most fans were able to relegate their attention to one version of Star Wars for a long period of time. Until 1999, there were only three Star Wars movies. Since then, there have been six with a lot more on the way.
The release of the prequels in 1999 was a big deal. There was a 16-year gap between Return of the Jedi and Phantom Menace. None of the principal actors of the original movies were in the films. It did not matter that the CGI was instantly dated or that Jar Jar Binks was terrible. The three prequels were not up to the standard of Episodes IV-VI, but all grossed a substantial amount of money. Time had created a desire for more Star Wars.
The abuse of Star Wars became inevitable after Disney purchased the franchise from Lucas in 2012. A company does not spend $4.06 billion dollars on something and treat it cautiously. Initially this came in tiny doses. Smaller things like adding Star Wars to Disney theme parks had to be expected. Even the drawing card of the current trilogy gave fans what they wanted. Not only would we be watching new Star Wars movies, but Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford were reprising their roles.
Iger’s recent announcement signals that the franchise will now be something different. At some point Disney’s overindulgence will cause Star Wars fatigue. For the first time ever, Star Wars is about to be on par with Pirates of the Caribbean.
How Many Star Wars Are We About To See?
What makes the addition of Benioff and Weiss to Star Wars so stunning is that it is the second new trilogy that is currently in the Disney queue. Rian Johnson, who directed The Last Jedi, is also working on a new set of films.
This upcoming onslaught of content comes amidst the current glut of Star Wars. The Last Jedi was released in December 2017. Despite polarized reviews, the movie has already grossed over $1.3 billion. On May 25, 2018 the standalone film Solo: A Star Wars Story will hit theaters just six months after The Last Jedi. The final movie of the current triumvirate of Star Wars films is scheduled to be released in 2019. Another standalone flick is slated for 2020.
Disney is also developing non-cinema material. At least one Star Wars television show will be a part of Disney’s new streaming channel. The Disney streaming channel is set to debut in the fall of 2019. In an attempt to compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime, Disney needs new content to gain an audience. This series is meant to be an attraction to draw subscribers.
The Star Wars Gamble
This is a major gamble from Disney. The primary faces of Star Wars will not be in the forthcoming movies. Hamill, Fisher, and Ford were the drawing card for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Episode IX will be an important litmus test in this process. Without any of the original actors in place, the films will be constructed around new characters. Disney will have to rely on its newly-created entities to finish off the current trilogy.
Yet after three movies of wrapping our heads around Rey, Finn, and Poe as the new faces of the galaxy, this cast is going to be abandoned for two different groups of new characters.
If Disney is going to double-down on its bet they will have to develop compelling characters and stories to avoid Star Wars fatigue. To create that amount of good material is a tall order. Benioff and Weiss are interesting choices to generate new stories. In his announcement, Iger praised their abilities to develop new stories. The signature creation for the two men is HBO’s Game of Thrones, a series molded from preexisting novels by George R.R. Martin.
The quality of a Disney-produced entity is undeniable. The company is going to great lengths to ensure that Star Wars retains good production value. The sheer star power behind The Last Jedi and Solo is immense. Laura Dern, Andy Serkis, and Benicio del Toro were in The Last Jedi. Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Donald Glover will be in Solo. Director Ron Howard and Empire Strikes Back co-writer Lawrence Kasdan are also behind the new film.
From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Moana, anything from Disney always look and sound great. Creating the new Han and Leia will be the challenges that lie ahead for Disney. There is only so much star power that Disney will be able to throw into such a large amount of Star Wars material. After a while their investment will grow stale. Only so many people can be so excited about Star Wars for so long.
Star Wars Fatigue Is About To Be Real
The idea of one new canon film or a standalone movie every year is already enough to eventuate some Star Wars fatigue. It would water down the product and make it less special. This new run of projects guarantees that the initial hype of Stars Wars will wane.
New films every six to twelve months and at least one television series is enough to tire even the most ardent fans. There is some value in going away. Less is more.
Something on par with how the Broccoli family curates James Bond is a more advisable approach to Star Wars. Every two or three years a Bond film is released after a story is developed. The producers throw everything into a movie. They consistently create value in their product. A Bond film may feature ideas that are not universally praised, but they never underdeliver in terms of quality and excitement. Disney is capable of creating something like this for Star Wars.
After a year or two away, seeing Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan order a martini has must-see value. You cannot wait to see how Bond foils the bad guy this time. If the Broccolis were to create a simultaneous Bond television series and a “Q” standalone origin story, the level of interest in 007 would collapse.
The Star Wars franchise is about to be something less special. By overwhelming fans with content, it will go down the path of the Marvel and DC universes. In the early 2000s, comic book movies were too big to fail. Now we have a large amount of regular films that are almost indistinguishable from one another. Gal Gadot appeared as Wonder Woman twice in 2017. There have been three different Spider-Men in seven different movies over the last 16 years. Nine Marvel and DC movies will be released in 2018 and 2019. If the relative box-office disappointment of Justice League means anything, comic book movie exhaustion may be upon us.
Like each Spider-Man, Star Wars will always make money. Episode XIII will line Mickey Mouse’s pockets. It will not garner the same buzz as The Force Awakens and Phantom Menace. Seeing all of these Star Wars films will gradually appeal to a more select audience. When new Star Wars is regularly available everywhere, the rush to see the movies on opening weekend will decrease. The threat of Star Wars fatigue is real. Disney would be wise to tap the breaks on some of their projects.