Why Star Wars Doesn't Need To Slow Down
Disney CEO Bob Iger recently gave a revealing interview in which he talked about everything from the situation regarding James Gunn and Marvel Studios to booze at Disneyland. However, the big boss' most revealing and interesting comment came when he essentially fell on his sword and took the blame for Star Wars becoming too big too fast, and promised a slow down in regards to the franchise. While it's far from surprising to see this kind of reaction, it's the wrong one. Star Wars does need to smarten up, but it doesn't need to slow down.
The catalyst for this decision appears to be the fact that Solo: A Star Wars Story did not perform to the expectations of Disney and Lucasfilm. This despite the fact that Solo is one of the highest grossing movies of the year.
The issue isn't that Solo performed badly, it's that the expectations put on Solo: A Star Wars Story were too high. Star Wars came back in December of 2015 with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and in the three and a half years that the franchise has been active, we've seen four films. For comparison, the Marvel Cinematic Universe released its first five films in barely over three years. The first two films in the franchise, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, came out barely over a month apart. Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger came out during the same summer in 2011.
Three of those first five movies saw a smaller domestic box office, even when adjusted for inflation, than Solo. These movies weren't flops. They were, however, films with smaller budgets than Solo. Part of Solo's exceptionally high budget was due to the behind-the-scenes issues and needing to bring in a new director to handle a much longer than budgeted production. Some if it was the fact that it was a Star Wars movie, and thus the movie is full of an immense amount of both practical and digital effects.
Solo was a movie that had issues, that's to be sure, and while a delay in release might have helped the movie be better, that would have only increased the budget that much more. The issue wasn't that Solo came out six months after Star Wars; The Last Jedi or that it was the fourth movie in less than four years. It was that the movie simply had problems that were next to impossible to overcome.
It's also the case that a Han Solo movie simply was never going to be as "big" as the other Star Wars movies we've seen. It was never going to make The Last Jedi money. That's ok, as long as Disney accepts that it's OK. Ant-Man and the Wasp made a lot less than Avengers: Infinity War. Nobody is telling the MCU to slow down.
Star Wars has been a franchise that has become special in the eyes of many and part of that is due to its rareity. Before 2015 we got two trilogies that came more than two decades apart. Solo: A Star Wars Story was a unique film for Star Wars in many ways, but one of the biggest was it was the first "fourth movie" we ever got from the franchise. When Star Wars: Episode IX comes out next year, we will have nearly doubled the number of Star Wars movies that exist in the world in half a decade.
This, too, is perfectly fine. Star Wars doesn't need to be special. It can just be good. Marvel Studios has shown that making multiple movies that are both "good" and "successful" is possible. There's no reason that Star Wars can't follow suit. But if Lucasfilm thinks every one of them is going to make a billion dollars, then there really will be a problem. If Solo had come out in 2015, it probably would have made insane amounts of money simply by being the first Star Wars movies in years. People are getting used to having Star Wars movies around now. These movies can still be "events," but they can either be "once in a lifetime" level events or they can be "blockbuster tentpole" events. They can't be both.
And I'm fine with them just being blockbuster movies. I love Star Wars, I always have. I don't have a problem with more of it. I want more of it. The movies may cease to feel like the unique things they once were, but they can still be good. They can still be great even. We can get a decade of Marvel movies and still be blown away by Avengers: Infinity War. I want a decade of Star Wars movies and then I want to see what somebody can do then that blows me away.
If Lucasfilm wants every Star Wars movie to be an epic cinema "event," then it needs to slow down. It needs to stop making them entirely and give audiences a break. However, if the goal is to make good movies that make money, that can be done without slowing down... at least not slowing down much. Lucasfilm may need to slow down and figure out exactly how they want to bring the galaxy, far, far away to the screen, but once they do they can hit there ground running and make as many of these movies as the studio wants to make. It's not about the speed, it's about the direction.
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