At a certain point in life, you learn about pleasure in moderation. A lot of something is great, until you get sick of it. A slow, steady enjoyment has always worked though and as a Star Wars fan, the aggressive plan for the franchise may sound good—but it also scares the living shit out of me.
Let’s run it down. There is a movie per year coming out through at least 2019. There’s The Force Awakens in 2015, Rogue One in 2016, Episode VIII in 2017, a Han Solo movie in 2018 and Episode IX in 2019. They’ll be more from there too (Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda are each rumored to be getting movies) and that alone would be overwhelming enough, from a franchise that has cemented its popularity by releasing a new movie every 5.5 years in the last four decades or so (Seven movies over 38 years to be exact). They’re basically making Star Wars 500% more present on the big screen.
But the movies are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s Star Wars Rebels on TV, at least half a dozen Marvel Comic books (Star Wars, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Lando, Kanan, Shattered Empire) and counting, dozens of novels both out now and on the way (Aftermath Parts 1-3, A New Dawn, Dark Disciple, Lords of the Sith, Tarkin), several new video games (Battlefront, Uprising) as well as rumors of new theme park attractions, additional TV shows and on and on.
That’s a lot of Star Wars. Making it even more daunting is that it’s all canon now. All of it. So if something happens on a ride in Disneyland or in mobile game, it also happened in the world inhabited on the big screen. So to really be up on the world of Star Wars, you have to ingest as much of it as possible.
Looking at this optimistically, if you love Star Wars, you have a huge amount to look forward to. There’s going to be new Star Wars material, seemingly every few weeks—starting this September, with the release of new merchandise. So if you love these wonderful, rich stories and want to learn more about them, both going backwards and forwards in time, all of this madness should be fun and rewarding. Think about what your younger self would have said if they knew infinite Star Wars was coming. Their head probably would’ve exploded.
That’s what Disney wants. Head-exploding excitement. And that’s already been the reaction. People are rabid for this new movie. Hundreds of millions of YouTube views on each trailer. Plus, it’ll only get bigger if the movies, novels and games are actually good. I think that’s a distinct possibility, too, with the people behind everything. But, we know from experience that Star Wars can be fun if it’s not good too. It’s just all about timing—which is the one thing these new movies don’t have going for them.
Think back to when the prequels were released. Even though they weren’t as good as the original trilogy, most people continued to get excited for each film. Why was that? Because you had to wait three years between each film. That was plenty of time to get over the first movie, start to get excited about the potential of the next one, learn all about it, relive all those exciting pre-release moments again (trailers, posters, toys, etc.) and then get amped up to sit in the theater. I’ve never been as pumped leaving a movie as I was the first time I saw Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. It was midnight opening night at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York. I’d waited 24 hours straight to see it and everyone in that audience was jacked up. (You can see me at 3:38 in this Triumph the Insult Comic Dog video.) Though I had a college graduation a mere five hours later, I almost watched Clones a second time. The whole experience made the movie for me. These days, I struggle to get through the entire movie.
With this new schedule, that whole timeline gets exponentially compacted. One movie a year doesn’t sound like a lot but each movie brings with it a whole marketing machine. So as Rogue One starts to get promoted, The Force Awakens will be released on Blu-ray, and along with it all kinds of stories following Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren and everyone else. Plus Episode VIII will then start shooting, so fans will begin to get curious about that. At any one time, three or four movies will be on our radar, plus all the other media. So as you sit down to see the next movie, there will still be tons to digest about the previous one as well as one coming the following year. There’s no time for perspective. No time for reflection. It’s just pedal to the metal, from now until forever.
On the one hand, as a Star Wars nut, that’s sounds cool. Star Wars is cool and more of it is cooler. But more than anything, it’s terrifying. The sheer abundance of content scares me more than one or all of the movies not being good. I can take a bad movie. I can even take bad “movies.” What I can’t take is gorging on my favorite franchise in such a gluttonous manner that in a few years, I’m sick of it. Will that happen? Can that happen? It seems like a natural reaction to anything. You may love pizza, but if you eat pizza every day for a decade, you’re gonna want a fucking hamburger.
Oh sure, the movies and stories won’t always be pizza. There’s the sequel trilogy, Anthology films and surely other awesome stories to come. For example, I’m beyond curious where the main “Episodes” will go after Episode IX. Do they jump ahead another 30 years again? Do they just continue every two years and stop being a trilogy but become something more? We don’t know.
What we do know is there are people, right now, making those decisions and thinking about those things. And that’s so awesome. They have the best job in the world. But the products themselves are just one aspect of what has always made me excited about Star Wars. There’s also the community outside of the universe. The people, the conversations, the anticipation, the collectables. Going to events, analyzing a new photo, and then diving deep into a film. I have positive memories of the prequels, purely because those anticipatory years outweigh the disappointing results.
All of that will endure—but it runs the risk of being rushed and overstuffed. A break between movies makes you want the next one more. You want to live that experience again, but are also glad for the downtime. I’m happy it’s been ten years since we saw the last movie. I was happy in 1999, when it had been 16 years since the last movie. That window made me want to fall head over heels in love with Star Wars again. And I did. Not that my love went away after Return of the Jedi in 1983, but there weren’t as many places to direct it until 1997’s Special Editions. In 2015 and beyond I can live with it every single day, all day, in multiple different ways.
So why this avalanche of Star Wars? I can give you $4 billion reasons why. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in October 2012, that seemed like a lot of money. Now, the hype for The Force Awakens is so great, I’d be incredibly surprised if Disney does go into the black on this first film alone. And then it’s just gravy. There’s no reason to turn off the faucet. When George Lucas made the original six movies, he was just one man. Now the franchise is controlled by one of the biggest film companies in the world, with unlimited resources and access. Lucas should have charged more.
The closest mirror for the potential of Star Wars is what currently happening with Disney’s Marvel franchise. We’re currently eight years into their nearly non-stop release of movies and fan anticipation hasn’t dwindled. It’s still there and it’s only getting bigger with two and even three movies being released per year in the near future. But you have to think, at some point, people may get tired of it. If not audiences, the filmmakers and actors. Rarely has a film trend not seen a dip. Star Wars will obviously be very successful for a very long time, but will it have another dip? And if so, will that dip be natural, like the one between Jedi and the Special Editions, or will it be because the fans are sick of paying for the same thing over and over again?
We don’t have the answer to that question of course, but the bigger question might be: Who is Star Wars for now? With Disney at the controls, Star Wars doesn’t seem to be for a 30 or 40-year-old fans anymore, if it ever was. More than ever, Star Wars is for 10-year-olds who can grow with it. Who can ask their parents to buy the toys, games, books and take trips to the theme parks. The audience who might not have that nostalgic feeling towards the series now, but will as it continues to grow. And maybe that means none of this matters. Maybe it means that at this point in our lives, when there will be more Star Wars than ever, some of the fans need to use this as an opportunity to grow out of the franchise.
But I don’t want to. I love that I love something so passionately that I can write 1,500 words on such an embarrassment of riches. Cause really, when Star Wars gets watered down – and it will – we’ll always have the originals. We’ll always have our current memories and several years of good ones moving ahead. Like the prequels, even if that eventually takes a turn, the journey will outweigh the destination.
So yes I’m scared, but Star Wars will endure. It always has, it always will, and each generation will learn to cope with it however they see fit. Star Wars is about what’s in each of us, both on screen, and off, and however we deal with it is exactly what it’s supposed to do.