The Star Wars franchise is arguably the most well-known brand in terms of the films, toys, video games, novels, TV series and comic books. Are fans growing tired of the galaxy far, far away? Let’s discuss all things Star Wars.
When George Lucas first brought the epic space opera to the big screen, he literally changed Hollywood and the way films are made. Lucas was a pioneer in terms of science fiction storytelling and visual effects, with his formula often emulated and duplicated over the decades.
The characters introduced in the Original Trilogy like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader, C-3PO and R2-D2 are some of the most recognizable figures in pop culture. Though the trilogy of films, beginning with Episode 4 and ending with Episode 6, ended in 1983, the fandom for the franchise never wavered. Spawned from the films were countless novelizations and other types of media that held fans over until Episode 1 hit theatres in 1999. This new trilogy, focusing on the back story of Anakin Skywalker’s journey from a child to his eventual seduction by the Dark Side, was a seemingly welcome addition to the Star Wars mythos.
However, the backlash from fans of the Original Trilogy left creator George Lucas ready to give up on his baby. Sure, new fans may have loved the new films but older fans despised them. Episode 3 concluded in 2005 and Lucas would go on to sell the rights to Disney in 2012 for a cool $4 billion. The bad taste left in most fans’ collective mouths was left to marinate for 10 more years until the release of Episode 7, which ushered in a new era of the franchise, picking up 30 years after the events of Return of The Jedi. Since that time, new releases including The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Rogue One and Solo have been met with mixed reactions to say the least.
How could such a beloved franchise get to the point it sees itself in today in terms of the “toxic” fandom that now surrounds it? There are certainly many factors that play into this matter, with the age of social media and the internet playing a major role. While there have always been critics and detractors, the medium for communicating one’s feelings have drastically changed over the years. In the past, people would have to read reviews in newspapers and magazines, or physically attend conventions or expos to talk about their likes and dislikes. Today, it’s extremely easy to hop online and start spouting off your thoughts with the click of a button.
Take for instance the backlash of The Last Jedi: if you go to a site like Rotten Tomatoes (and understand how the site actually works) you’ll notice a 46% audience score. While I personally didn’t hate the film, I also didn’t love it the way I loved some of the other films. It’s one thing to critique films based on the film itself, but it’s another thing to compare it to other films, especially within a franchise. Right or wrong, these new films have a certain set of expectations to be met by fans. But the way today’s fans are expressing their disdain for the new films comes from more of a malevolent nature.
There are still people out there that are backwards-thinking individuals who become angered that people of color or females are being given more prominent roles. Take a look at the new heroine of the current trilogy in Rey. The “Mary Sue” argument of her character is a ridiculous concept to behold. Aside from the racist and sexist remarks from people, another factor in the “downfall” of Star Wars seems to be coming from the advent of “prequelitis”.
While a large number of people liked the Prequel Trilogy, possibly a larger number hated it. As Disney is incorporating the A Star Wars Story slate of films in between the episodic films, these additions have been prequels as well. Rogue One told the story of the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance and the theft of the Death Star plans and Solo told the back story of Han Solo and how he met other character like Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian. Though these prequel films are filling in gaps between the episodic films, they’re not giving us anything “new”. Sure, it’s cool to find out about things like how Han made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs or how Darth Vader came to be a Sith Lord, but there’s literally an entire galaxy worth of stories to be told that isn’t being done so, at least in the films.
The various novels, TV series and comics are telling new stories and are now all tied in in terms of “canon” but the films seem to be stuck in a certain place in terms of the characters and stories. Fans may seem to be getting tired of the repetitiveness of what’s being portrayed on-screen. Although the new trilogy is moving the story forward, Disney & LucasFilm are still trying to be faithful to the Original Trilogy by bringing back the classic characters.
Disney and LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy find themselves in quite a predicament with today’s fans. The “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” adage is surely ever-present. Knowing that no matter what is put on screen will always anger a certain percentage of fans is absolutely in the forefront of the minds of the executives, but they need to start doing a better job of listening to the needs and wants of the fans (at least the rational ones).
Solo opened with a mediocre $84 million domestically on its opening weekend and only made $28 million on its second weekend, a stark drop off. The initial announcement of the film was met with mixed reactions and the production was a disaster, as the original directing team of Lord & Miller were fired from the project three weeks before principal photography was set to wrap. Ron Howard had to step in and re-shoot a large percentage of the film, which nearly doubled its production budget. Understanding that fans may not want these kinds of films can help Disney to avoid making these kinds of mistakes and potentially souring Star Wars fans. We don’t need a Boba Fett, Obi Wan or Yoda spinoff film nor do we want one. Some things are better left to the imagination.
There needs to be a give and take with this franchise. Fans need to understand that while one of the biggest goals of making a film is to make something that people love and enjoy, another major goal is to make money. These films have to be something for fans of all walks of life to enjoy in order to make it profitable and worth continuing. The same argument can be made with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans of those films are often divided in terms of comic accuracy and how characters and story lines are depicted on-screen, but those films also have to be for everyone.
So what can be done to remedy the “fatigue” (I hate this term)? The answer is simple: make good films with good stories. Easier said than done, obviously, but that’s all that really can be done. Every fan will never be fully pleased by what comes out, and that’s okay. But in terms of fan reactions, they need to stop being such sniveling cry-babies. They need to keep in mind that at the end of the day, these are JUST MOVIES! Nothing depicted in any of these films will literally have a direct impact on your everyday lives. Stop the racism, stop the sexism, stop the toxicity that is polluting the fan base. Have civil discussions. Stop creating the petitions to get directors fired. What was once a great fan base is being ruined by keyboard warriors and internet trolls. Let’s hope JJ Abrams and Episode 9 can bring us all back together. May the Force be with you.