When you look at what modern Star Wars is, especially recently with The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, one thing that is clear is that fan service is a key component of what Lucasfilm wants to provide. If you haven’t seen The Clone Wars and Rebels then a lot of what is going on with the Disney+ series is just going over your head. Fan service is something of a double edged sword, however, and two guys who were very nearly part of the modern Star Wars universe, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, have a different approach to it.
Whatever you think of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the movie itself will likely never be quite as interesting as the story around its creation. Originally the directing duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller were tapped to make the film, but a significant way through production they were unceremoniously let go and Ron Howard came in to finish the project, reportedly reshooting large portions of it. The movie we ended up getting, while it has its fans, was not warmly embraced by the audience or the critics.
Solo ended up with its share of fan service references and call backs too, but Lord and Miller say they specifically try to avoid fan service, at least in the traditional ways, because they don’t think fans actually want quite what they think they want. As Lord explained to The Business Podcast (via Playlist)…
Phil Lord isn’t the first one to say it, but when you give the audience exactly what they’re expecting, it can lose the power that the moment might otherwise have. The trick is to give them not what they think they want, but what they don’t actually realize they want.
To be fair, Star Wars doesn’t seem to be having much of a problem. While Solo: A Star Wars Story didn’t really work, every time a character from The Clone Wars arrives in a live-action Disney+ series, the fans seem to love it.
Still, all that, as fun as it might be, has the potential to feel soulless. There’s a fine line between “doing it for the fans” and “doing it for the fans because that will help the bottom-line.” Chris Miller seems to feel this latter idea is often where “fan service” comes from and that’s part of why it’s a problem. He explains…
With the success that Star Wars seems to be having with fan service, it probably isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but the words of Lord and Miller here are certainly worth taking into account. With so many franchises looking for success by expanding their universes, making fan service work is a slippery slope.
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