We need to talk about Disney’s Star Wars
Empty theater seats in Solo: A Star Wars Story’s second and third week isn’t good news for Disney. Whether the under performing box office numbers is a one-off or the first of a general decline, Disney is on notice.
Disney acquired Lucasfilms and Star Wars because its a highly popular and valuable property that involves movies, merchandising and other tie-in promotions. Rectifying the Star Wars brand is in Disney’s best business interest considering the many upcoming films in the pipelines.
As entertainment, Star Wars original trilogy provides enjoyment and excitement for fans and their families. Star Wars also deeply resonates and captures the imagination of die-hard fans.
Although I enjoy many of the Disney Star Wars movies, some fans have a lot of criticisms. Fans have discussed how Disney could benefit from a fresh creative direction.
Let the Past Die?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. puzzled me as a kid when I first watched A New Hope. How can this story have taken place a long time ago when there are futuristic technology like space ships and droids!?
Star Wars famous opening crawl tell us that the story being told is old and universal. These are stories that we recognize from history as well as from our own experiences. The hero’s journey, overcoming the evil empire and redeeming the father are timeless storytelling elements. Knowledge and meaning are deeply embedded in these stories which is why they strike a chord with audiences.
Among many criticisms, what some fans are reacting against is that the above mentioned ideas appear to be deconstructed or at the least challenged. If the The Last Jedi had better execution perhaps the ultimate message of hope could have been made clearer. In terms of messaging, a clear and consistent vision would make it easier to get fans on board Star War’s future direction. A fresh artistic direction can bring new life to the stories and impart why they are profound and timeless.
They were Nobody
The relationship between a movie studio and audience is a tricky one to navigate. In an older interview with Buffy creator, Joss Whedon acknowledges that the audience are good at discerning the aspects of the show that aren’t working. It is beneficial to listen to the audience and acknowledge their underlying concern. Acknowledging is not the same as agreeing. When fans feel like they aren’t being heard, they will speak up. And when fans feel like they are being silenced, they will shout.
Disney owns the intellectual property rights to Star Wars. But in a way, it is the fans who have personal ownership of Star Wars. Many fans possess childhood memories about Star Wars, some even have Star Wars themed weddings. As fans grow older, they share their love of Star Wars with their children. Moving forward, Disney/Lucasfilms can choose to take viewers on a heartfelt and exciting journey in a way that is not dismissive of what fans appreciate about Star Wars. It is not a good marketing move to reject fan’s personal and emotional connection to Star Wars.
At its core, the division between some fans and Disney is in part due to creative differences. There are also criticisms that social commentary should be handled in a nuanced manner while ensuring that the characters and stories are competently constructed. This post isn’t meant to summarize all of the criticisms. But it would be Disney/Lucasfilms’ best interest to acknowledge the criticisms – at least the ones that are reasonable.
What do you think about the current state of Star Wars? What should Disney/Lucasfilms do to address fan division?