Too Much Force: Have Disney overdone Star Wars?

With ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ flopping at the box office, is Disney simply making too many Star Wars films?

George Lucas’ epic space opera ‘Star Wars’ absolutely thrilled audiences on its 1977 release with its captivating story, charming characters, and groundbreaking special effects. It truly transported viewers to a galaxy far, far away.

Two sequels followed before another three ‘prequels’ 16 years later. And, that was that, as far as George Lucas was concerned. But in 2012, Disney bought the rights to ‘Lucas Arts’ and the Star Wars universe, announcing 3 new films and three spin-offs, with one new film to be released each year.

The latest of which, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ follows Captain Han Solo in his formative years as a swashbuckling space-pirate smuggling goods from one galaxy to another. Despite the youthful injection of Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian and Alden Ehrenreich as Solo himself, the film performed worse than expected on its opening weekend grossing $83 million instead of its projected $130 million. Have Disney saturated their own market with too many Star Wars films?

Photo via Lucasfilm ltd

Too much force

Three years passed between the first Star Wars film in 1977 and the second in 1980, and a further 3 years between the second and third, which was released in 1983. A hefty 16 years separated the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy, which began in 1999 with ‘The Phantom Menace’ and concluded in 2005 with ‘The Revenge of the Sith’.

But since 2015 less than a year passes between each film, and that will be the case until 2020. Is this a necessary ‘modernising’ of the franchise for a Netflix generation content on digesting hundreds of hours of TV series like ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Making a Murderer’?

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is the first Star Wars film to officially ‘flop’. According to Wired, instead of turning record-breaking profits like its predecessors, ‘Solo’ might actually lose money. “Experts are projecting that it’s going to make somewhere around $200 million less globally than Justice League, which itself didn’t exactly do great” wrote Graeme McMillan.

Dave Hollis who is chief of distribution at Disney has said that “We are all over it, and will spend a lot of time digging into why things happened the way they did. We have a year and a half before Episode IX comes out”

“We’ve had so much success. The previous three Star Wars films did $4 billion worth of business at the box office, so it doesn’t feel like saturation is necessarily an issue, but we are still answering all of the questions.”

Photo via Flickr

Inspiring a new generation

Every time a new Star Wars film is released, its most vocal critics tend to be those who grew up with the original trilogy who largely feel the franchise is straying ever further from the magic, beauty and genius of the first three films.

But, ownership over something like Star Wars is a tricky thing. In releasing new films, Disney open up that feeling of anticipation and wonder with each new theatrical release, a culture that Star Wars was in large part responsible for.

Although Disney’s release rate of one film each year seems congested in a traditional sense, in the current climate of online streaming and on-demand services where entire series are released instantaneously, several months between films starts to sound like a long wait.

Back in 2015, just before the release of Disney’s first Star Wars film ‘The Force Awakens’, Adam Rogers wrote a feature about the takeover, saying “If everything works out for Disney, and if you are (like me) old enough to have been conscious for the first Star Wars film, you will probably not live to see the last one. It’s the forever franchise.”

Is this the beauty of the Star Wars universe, that it inevitably will outlive us all, perpetually gifting wonder to each new generation? Disney can make that possible, and despite its minor slip up with ‘Solo’, expect to see millions flocking to theatres for episode IX next year.

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