So, it’s that day of the year when we celebrate all things Star Wars.

And now that I’ve spent the day teasing my Star Wars-loving work colleague by changing my Skype avatar to the Battlestar Galactica logo, I suppose I’d better actually talk about something vaguely Star WarsianIf that’s even a word?

I’m going to put it out on front street straight away for you…

The best Star Wars has to offer right now is on Disney+.

Yup, I said it.  

The Mandalorian is BETTER than the latest saga movies.

Sorry Rey, Finn, Kylo and BB-8, but it’s absolutely true.

With that bold statement made, let’s take a deep dive into the current state of Star Wars, shall we?

While the Saga films have made big money at the box office they were critically a bit of a mess and, consequently, were the victim of diminishing returns.

I’m not making this up, honest!

Check out the global box office numbers for the latest Star Wars films (the Saga movies are bolded)

The Force Awakens – $2.068 Billion
• Rogue One – $1.056 Billion
The Last Jedi – $1.332 Billion
• Solo – $393 Million
The Rise of Skywalker – $1.074 Billion

Now, to throw that into perspective, let’s take a look at the last few films of the MCU. (In this case, the Avengers tent pole releases are bolded.)

• Avengers: Infinity War – $2.048 Billion
• Ant-Man & The Wasp – $623 Million
• Captain Marvel – $1.129 Billion
• Avengers: Endgame – $2.797 Billion
• Spider-Man: Far From Home – $1.131 Billion

If you think of the Saga films as being the equivalent of the Avengers movies, and the Anthology films being the same as the MCU solo outings, then something is startlingly clear…

Star Wars is trending the wrong way.

Which is surprising considering that both of these mega-franchises are being controlled by the House of the Mouse.

So, what the fuck is going wrong in a galaxy far, far away?

Well, I’m no expert, but I’m going to give you my personal opinion on the whys and wherefores. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments. I love a good debate! And, please…don’t think this is me knocking on the Star Wars films. I LOVE Star Wars. The original trilogy are three of my favorite movies, and Empire is just magnificent.

Also, and apologies to Disney and all the feminists out there, but slave Leia was a fundamental part of a 12-year-old Jon’s sexual awakening. Just saying…

But we probably shouldn’t talk about that…

Let’s concentrate on talking about the issues with the current Star Wars franchise, and the problem is especially stark when you look at two aspects of those lists above.  

Let’s start by looking at the smaller movies.

Solo and Ant-Man & The Wasp (hereforth referred to as AM&TW) came out within about 6 weeks of each other in 2018. One featured one of the most iconic movie characters of all time. The other featured a bit player in the MCU.

Jon’s Take – Part 1

Solo took $393M on a $275M budget. That’s a profit of just $118M and you’ve got to imagine that a huge chunk of that was taken up on marketing.

AM&TW took $623M on a rumoured $162M budget. That’s a profit of $461M, almost 4x what Solo made.

AM&TW mopped the floor with Solo, and this is my opinion on why.  

I like Solo as a movie. I like the story line, I like the characters, I like the special effects. It’s a fun little adventure with a charming cast…

But…was it a film anyone REALLY wanted?

It boggles my mind how so many seemingly clever people in charge of these huge franchises don’t seem to understand the attraction of their characters. Fundamentally missing the point. (Think Ghostbusters reboot, MIB International, Universal’s Dark Universe… even the DCEU!)

Han Solo works as a character purely because he swoops into Star Wars as a man of some mystery. He’s the perfect counter-point to the innocent Luke Skywalker. He’s a good-hearted cynic, who thinks he’s in it for himself right until he finds out at the end that he’s not.

That’s all we need to know about him.

I didn’t need a Solo backstory movie, and I think perhaps a lot of other people felt the same.

It also came too closely on the heels of The Last Jedi, which was out a mere 5 months before.

You know the problem here? 

Money! It’s all about the money. And Marvel.

You’ve got to imagine that this conversation happened somewhere in the Star Wars meeting room at Disney…(and I in turn, imagine it looks like the Emperor’s throne roombut with a big table).

Look at how much money the Marvel branch of the business is earning!  WOW!

Well, we could do that!

Really?

Hells, yeah! We have the OG mother-effing franchise! We could turn this into a money making machine like the MCU. Piece of cake!

But they have all these solo films. We can’t do a Luke film. Or a Leia film. Or a Han Solo movie. Those actors are too old now to support their own franchise.

Solo films… that gives me an idea! Hear me out… Prequels, baby!

I’m not sure…that’s not a good word to bandy around here…

Okay, fine. We’ll cater to the sensitive little fuckers and call them ‘Anthology’ movies instead. But here’s the twist. We cast new younger actors to play them in their youth!

I don’t know about this…

And what’s more, we ramp up production. Release 2 movies a year. Maybe more! The world’s our oyster! The MCU does it, so why can’t we?

Because we haven’t earned that sort of production yet? Are we sure that our fans would accept that?

Pffffft, of course, they will!

Actually, I’m sorry guys,  but I don’t think we will.

So in summary…  Too many films in too short a time that included a film that no one was truly excited about. The MCU was smart in plugging these smaller ‘palette cleansing’ films between their ‘tentpole‘ releases. AM&TW was one such film, giving a sense of light relief after the heavy ending of Infinity War. Plus, at this point, the hype train was building off the back of the last Avengers movie and everyone wanted more MCU on the way to the inevitable conclusion coming a year later in Endgame. In contrast, The Last Jedi had split the Star Wars fan base and followed that up with a movie that not many were excited about.

That was a mistake.

Now, let’s take a look at the bigger movies. The ones that ended their respective sagas/phases.

April 26th 2019          and        December 20th 2019.

The former broke the all-time box office record. The latter under-performed massively.

So, what went wrong for BB-8 and chums?

Jon’s Take – Part 2

MCU beat Star Wars to the market by 7 months and set a massive precedent.

It took a very skillfully-built franchise run of 21 interconnected movies and capped it spectacularly in a film that completed a number of very emotional story arcs in an incredibly crowd-pleasing manner with more than a dozen moments that make you laugh, cry or fist pump excitedly.

We were invested in these characters. That trinity of IronMan, Cap and Thor were beloved and we all wanted to see how their stories ended.

See that picture above…that’s FROM the film ‘Endgame’. Remember that. It’ll be important later.

The Rise of Skywalker had a daunting mountain to climb to even match that, and in truth…it had no chance. The films before it had already squandered its chances.

The Force Awakens made bank. But was heavily criticized as a re-run of A New Hope. And it was – you can’t avoid the comparisons. But that was kinda okay because after the prequels had disappointed so much, confidence needed to be won back.

The Last Jedi came next and split the fan base. You can count me in the camp of fans who actually liked it. I love the concept that Rey is NOT special. She’s not connected to the Skywalker family and that’s okay. Many other fans did not see it that way, though. The mystery of her heritage had been much debated since The Force Awakens, so for many, this seemed like a huge anticlimax. Plus, if she wasn’t connected to Luke or Leia, then were we supposed to be rooting for Kylo as the lone ‘Skywalker’ in the saga?

Then came Rise. It was kind of dour in tone, and the reveal that left people scratching their heads and mouthing…

JJ Abrams seemed to pick apart all the groundwork had been laid in the previous movie, and the franchise started to stink of something that was NOT a common vision. The MCU had Kevin Feige guiding it and pulling it in one direction… Star Wars seemed all at sea with no true heading.

But the final nail in the coffin of the Skywalker saga was the fact that they wasted their own famous trinity by not having them share the screen together. At no point were Luke, Leia and Han on screen at the same time. And after the sad death of Carrie Fisher prior to the final film, we all knew that it wasn’t going to happen.

To me, it feels, again, like they fundamentally missed the point and failed to understand their audience.

I like Rey, Finn and BB-8. I even begrudgingly like Kylo. And it’s fine to have them in the movies to bring in new fans and a youth movement. But MANY of the fans of those films are an older generation that loved the original trilogy. We wanted to see the end of the story for our old favorites and, to us, that was FAR more important than whatever happened with Rey and Kylo.

After all the hype of having the original trio back onscreen, we were shafted royally.

Remember that image of the Avengers above, being from the movie…

Well, all Star Wars could give us was cool concept art. It was a promise unfulfilled.

And as the film series went on, I think the hardcore old school fans became more and more disenfranchised with the series.

You can see it in the drop in box office performance with each movie.

It was compounded by the fact that Rise couldn’t stick the landing in any way close to the same fashion Endgame did. It was disappointing and the word of mouth was not great, hence the repeat business that had driven the Marvel movie to almost $3 Billion was hard to come by.

Now, there is some good news on the horizon for the Star Wars fan on the street.

First up, the powers-that-be over at Disney have hired Taika Waititi to direct a new Star Wars film. Personally, I think that this is an awesome move. He was a breath of fresh air into the MCU with Thor: Ragnarok, and the SW universe desperately needs a new vision. He’ll bring back the humor too, something this franchise badly needs!

This could be the best thing that’s happened to it in years.

Secondly, there’s a second season of The Mandalorian on the way. If it’s anything like the first season, then we’re truly in for a treat.

Which brings me back to my opening statement.

If you want truly epic Star Wars, then get yourself on Disney+ and watch The Mandalorian. It’s fucking amazing! It has truly awesome moments that give you all those goose-bump feels that Star Wars should.

Plus it has… **SPOILERS**

and…

and also…

The writing is clever, the characters compelling and it’s forging its own unique mythos. Yet, it is packed with clever references to the wider mythology both obvious and subtle.

I hope that they decide to do the anthology films as a series on Disney+ instead. It allows a wider canvas to paint on, and if they can be as smart as Mando in their execution, then we’re in for a treat. Fingers crossed!

Hope you had a great May 4th.

Live long and prosper.

P.S. So Say We All!

P.P.S. This is the way!

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9 Comments

  1. RaeY

    Reply

    Jon… you can’t even compare Star Wars to the Marvel movies. Hands down, Endgame was spectacular! There is no comparison between how great it was to how bad Rise was. I was never into Star Wars as a kid, but I did go back and watch them all. I’ve been watching the Marvel movies since the beginning. I can be honest and say that I’ve watched most two or three times.

    • Sarah

      Reply

      I’m with you on this one Rae. The Marvel movies are the best ones out there. Endgame was great, sad but great. I’ve actually been rewatching all of the movies in order (someone posted the order online).

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I think from a Franchise point of view, the two are directly comparable.
      If you look at the box office for Infinity War and for Force Awakens, they are almost identical.
      Both are well established universes with much loved characters that have huge and passionate fandoms, and are both owned by Disney.
      Marvel’s formula has long been to put out a series of standalone solo films, and then tentpole their crossover ‘Avengers’ movies as the BIG money makers. AND now they’re branching out into TV shows.
      Star Wars SHOULD have the ability to do the same.
      My roadmap for them would have been to slow the releases down. One a year until they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. The solo movies (no pun intended) should have been more like Rogue One and tied into the continuity better. I’d have happily watched a Rey movie, or a Finn movie, or whatever. But instead they went with a misjudged prequel.
      The biggest misstep in my opinion was not finishing the Skywalker Saga off with the Han, Luke, and Leia trinity front and centre. Rey and co should have been supplementary characters they were prepping for their own spin off series after wrapping this arc up. But instead we got a very muddied and confused final trilogy that doesn’t really give us closure to the Skywalker saga at all.
      I WISH they’d have just made movies of Timothy Zahn’s ‘Heir to the Empire’ trilogy of books instead.
      Now that this latest trilogy is over however, and the Mandalorian was so popular, I’m kind of looking forward to where they go next.
      Conversely, it’ll also be really interesting to see where Marvel goes next. With Cap and Ironman out of the picture, can they sustain the success they’ve recently enjoyed? I have to admit, I’m not that excited about The Eternals or Shang Chi…but I am looking forward to the eventual incorporation of Deadpool, The X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

      • DesireeS

        Reply

        I can see the similarities in the 2. I do wish that the Star Wars writers would have put Han, Luke and Leia together the way Marvel did.
        I can’t believe Ironman is out! I’m looking forward to more of the Fantastic Four, but not Deadpool.

  2. Jack Evans

    Reply

    It felt like it took ages for Disney+ to make its way to the UK because I was dying to binge The Mandalorian. I’m not a massive Disney fan and only signed up for that one programme. It was worth it! I just wish there wasn’t such a big break between the first and second season.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Didn’t it just feel like forever!
      I had friends who’d already seen The Mandolorian and were raving about it. And of course the internet memes spoiled the Baby Yoda reveal. But I still loved the show.
      And that two part finale… Wowsers.
      To be honest, I’d expand on the post above and say that my absolute favourite Star Wars of the past few years has been Rogue One and the Mandolorian. That film and that series seemed to me to encompass what Star Wars IS at it’s core. Something I felt the latest saga movies missed by giving us nonsensical plots, retread story ideas and wasted character potential.

      • Jack Evans

        Reply

        Do you think it turned out so well because it is a series rather than a film? I just think The Rise of Skywalker tried to cover too much ground. The Mandalorian was an ambitious project too, but it could plot out things out more clearly and offer twists and turns to keep the audiences’ attention because it played out as a series. I’ve run across a fair few books that make the same mistake as The Rise of Skywalker. Just trying to cover too much ground and fit it all in one book which often creates massive plot holes and unsatisfied readers.

        • Jon Ford

          Reply

          I think you’re right.

          I fell like if you want to tell a long form story in a visual medium, then TV is where to go. I think if I was an actor I’d be drawn to TV these days as that seems to be where the more interesting material is. Where you can get truly stuck into a character. I think that’s why we’re seeing more and more crossover between the two.

          A few years ago, you had movie actors and TV actors. These days you’re far more likely to see actors across both formats. Like the marvel actors doing the Disney+ shows, or Tom Hiddleston doing ‘The Night Manager’ or the litany of big names they’ve had on ‘True Detective’

          I feel like Film is becoming increasingly where you go for spectacle. TV is for story… unless you’re Marvel and are creating films as if they ARE TV. LOL

  3. Evie

    Reply

    The creation of Baby Yoda was brilliant! Baby Yoda owned the world when the instant he appeared on the screen. Few characters in film or books can say that.

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