‘Star Wars’: Why Disney Needs to Slow Down

George Lucas has a playful lightsaber duel with Jedi Mickey Mouse

George Lucas has a playful lightsaber duel with Jedi Mickey Mouse | Todd Anderson/Disney via Getty Images

The “galaxy far, far away” moved in with Mickey Mouse back in 2012 when The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm. That move certainly makes smart business sense, given the widespread love for all things Star Wars. However, Disney has already made a few questionable decisions with the franchise so far, even if Star Wars: The Force Awakens currently stands as the highest-grossing domestic release of all time with an astounding $936 million.

Yet, it’s not Disney’s ability to make great movies that is in question. From Pixar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the Mouse House has proven its forethought in assembling the right creative teams to tell the stories fans want to see. What could potentially be troubling is the rate at which Disney is expanding out the Star Wars franchise and ramping up production of media projects set in the George Lucas-created universe.

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver in Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Lucasfilm

 

When the announcement came that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm, the studio acknowledged that the deal meant that each year would bring a separate Star Wars film to theaters, alternating between the traditional episodes and standalone stories like this year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the upcoming Han Solo film. Between marketing campaigns and all that films of this scope entail, that leaves precious little time for fans to build up anticipation for the next installment in between theatrical releases.

Sure, right now the novelty of having a new Star Wars film every calendar year seems like a dream come true, but extrapolate that out over the next decade. Part of what made the original trilogy — and, to a lesser extent, the prequels — so popular was the three years of build-up that came between each film. For three years fans had to speculate, dissect, and imagine what our heroes would be up against the next time that famous crawl began. Without that time to let each adventure marinate, it’s possible that casual moviegoers in particular will tire of this endless cycle of stories.

Luke Skywalker at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Luke Skywalker at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Lucasfilm

Even if hardcore Star Wars fans keep coming back for each new film, the long-term effect that annual releases — and that’s assuming Disney won’t eventually ramp that up, as they’ve done with Marvel — could have on the franchise’s appeal remains unknown. Quite possibly, many moviegoers who once relished the chance to see a new Star Wars film may turn away in favor of something fresher. In truth, such an approach could ultimately do more harm than good to the series and its legacy.

It’s precisely the same issue that Marvel and DC are facing with their shared universes. The former is still reigning in the box office receipts, but whenever a new film hits theaters, there is an undercurrent of simmering resentment for the perpetual sameness of the MCU formula. Even the best films in the bunch still feel the need to set up and leave audiences lingering until they come back in a few months for the next episode, almost as if an announcer is coming in with a tease about Captain America or Iron Man’s fate.

Felicity Jones in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Felicity Jones in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story | Lucasfilm

Over at DC, the same can apply … but even more so. While the quality of those films to date has been far more divisive among fans and critics, the franchise’s long-term stability remains in question because general audiences (not those who worship the comics and their characters, mind you) seem to lose interest in them pretty fast. If Disney isn’t careful in how it handles the future of the Star Wars franchise, this is a fate that could easily befall the series.

Considering how much of a return to form The Force Awakens was, it would be a shame if its release marked the beginning of the end for the Star Wars legacy. The saga has already lost much of its audience goodwill with the divisive prequels, but there is also too much of a good thing.

Star Wars Rebels Season 3

Star Wars: Rebels Season 3 | Disney XD

Pumping up so much Star Wars content — including Star Wars Rebels, comics, novels, etc. — runs the risk of over-saturating the thirst for more among consumers. Perhaps scaling back might be worth considering if Disney truly hopes to keep the franchise from backsliding and cement its status as one of the most popular film series of all time.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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