Monday, June 23, 2014

Concerning Disney, Star Wars, and A Lot of Unhatched Chickens

This is not a review. But, amid the reviews, I'm looking at trying to introduce shorter pieces. One part for the sake of practice, and one part so I can vent this, cause something like Twitter just doesn't cut it for these thoughts.

Anyway, it's weird realizing only two years ago Disney bought up the entire rights to Star Wars lock, stock, and barrel from George Lucas. The day it happened, the responses were a mix of enthusiasm, relief, and apprehension.

The two years that followed have only added to those feelings on all fronts, with decisions ranging anywhere from the decision to entrust Episode VII to J.J. Abrams to the mass culling of the Expanded Universe. Personally, I'll miss the Thrawn installments, but I won't shed any tears for Waru, the dimension-hopping space tumor (Yes, this was a thing - look it up if you don't believe me.)

In the past couple of months, they have been kicking things further into overdrive. After a previous statement about plans to have a Star Wars movie every year, it looks like Disney wasn't just offering hyperbole. In fact, in the past few weeks, besides updates on the Abrams movie (which I have to admit, some misgivings about the writer bailing aside, I am feeling more optimistic about) they've already booked two different directors for follow-up entries. Almost immediately after Godzilla proved a box office success, they approached and scooped up Gareth Edwards to helm their first Star Wars spinoff project. Now word around the proverbial campfire is that Rian Johnson, known for the films Brick and Looper, has been tapped to do the next two main Star Wars installments after Abrams directs Episode VII.

Right about now, I feel conflicted. Of what I've seen of Johnson's work, I like him as a director. He's got a good style, and there's certainly some projects I'd be interested in seeing him take on. That said, I'm not sure Star Wars is one of them. This isn't to say I don't think he can do it - Lord knows directors have proven me wrong before. At the same time, this is one of those choices where I'm going to want to wait and see what comes of it. The same goes for Edwards. I'm admittedly less sold on him as a director in general than I am with Johnson, but at the same time, my concern is less with his general skill as a director, and more with the fact that what I've seen of his style leads me to wonder if Disney approached him because they thought he'd be a good fit for Star Wars, or simply because they saw he can make a movie that'll move at the box office.

I realize this is something that's already been discussed by other people, but with this announcement, it bears repeating - this now means they have at least four titles lined up, at a rate of a movie a year (unless they've backed off of that) and they still haven't even started yet to know if people like them.

Guys, even in his prime, Lucas at least waited three years between each movie.

As it is, it's taking a lot of convincing to tell myself that Disney isn't going to overextend this brand before Episode VII is even out of the gate. Sure, it's Star Wars, but the fact is, it's the first time a Star Wars film is being made with a whole new creative team. To already be making this much of a plan before you've even tested the new formula is taking a BIG risk.
Also, before anyone mentions Marvel here, I'll reiterate that Marvel actually played it pretty carefully when they started out. They played the Avengers plan fairly close to the chest until Iron Man was out, because they knew not to write up a bill of goods they weren't sure they'd be able to pay. Luckily, Iron Man was a hit, but had it not been and just stopped there, they were still early enough to retool their plans. Disney, meanwhile, is announcing an entire game plan that assumes this will all succeed, just because it's Star Wars.
On top of all of this - this plan runs the VERY dangerous risk of creating Star Wars burnout. Yes, people love Star Wars, but in the past they had downtime to enjoy what they got from it before being hit with the next wave. A new movie a year, spinoff or not, risks overloading your audience and devaluing the brand when everyone gets sick of it. It's the same line comic book movies are dancing on the risk of right now, and in those cases they at least have proven they have some stay power first.

...I could keep going with the hyperboles, but I promised I'd keep this short.

In closing, to sum up my thoughts on this matter as I try to stay positive, Disney, heed the words of the movie that started this whole brand:
"Great, kid! Don't get cocky!"

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