Disney Is Ruining Star Wars With Fear Of Failure

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I’m often envious of audiences that saw Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope in theatres back in 1977.  Not in some prophetic “they have no idea what’s coming” sort of way, it's more to do with the comparatively quaint manner in which the industry operated at the time.  I’m starting to believe the kind of movie magic A New Hope delivered can only really exist in a world where the word franchise is only synonymous with car dealerships and burger joints. Part of the thrill of watching a sprawling cosmic epic, directed by a relative newcomer, was not knowing if it was going to work. It’s odd to think that if Disney, the quality-regulating hit dispenser, owned Star Wars 40 years ago we might not have had the bold, risky narrative choices that made the series iconic in the first place.

It’s as if after the prequels some nerd signed a deal with the devil on the crossroads for “good Star Wars movies. “At least one Star Wars movie a year until we’re all dead ” sounds great ostensibly, but now that we’re living it, I’m not so sure. At first I thought it was merely that the anthology films promised and released thus far didn’t deviate enough from the status quo, but I think the problem is more perilous. The problem is that the presence of a multi-million dollar machination that prohibits any of its releases to fail also prohibits any of its releases from rising above the rank of “good enough.” Given the option, and hindsight, I’m not sure it’s a trade I would’ve been comfortable making. The term blockbuster really doesn’t mean what it used to. It’s been neutered, thanks in large part to corporations like Disney getting fat off of the spoils of nerd sentimentality and nostalgia.

All of this aside, I yearn for the romanticism that once married the rise of a young auteur. I fear we shall never again witness folk legends that saw scrappy, independent filmmakers granted a bundle of cash from a major studio to make a hit or it meant their career. That’s how classics are born; the incidental shrapnel from a perfect explosion, the right things go wrong at the right time. The degree of creative control afforded filmmakers back in the day meant the occasional Dune or Waterworld, but I have a hard time believing Alien or 2001 would ever get mainstream distribution today.

If you're not paying close attention, what I’m saying might very well seem like nonsense. In addition to the clever “shared universe” phenomenon Disney has managed to monopolize, is the slight of hand marketing trick that makes us believe that the newfangled success of The MCU and the rebooted success of Star Wars is owed to the studio's passion for pushing the envelope. It’s a filthy lie comrades. Disney is ruining Star Wars . Yes, Rogue One , as a pitch boasts all the hallmarks of an edgy undertaking. A “gritty” war film set in the Star Wars universe, that revolves around a throw away line from A New Hope , sounds compelling and inspired. Then you saw the film and it was flatter than Olivia Newton John. Doctor Strange’s marketing dared to proclaim: “visuals like you’ve never seen” and then you saw the film and it amounted to little more than quippy Inception.

I’m not going to feign knowledge of the ins and outs or the goings on over at Disney or Lucasfilm, but the departure of directors - Edgar Wright, Phil Miller, Chris Lord, and recently Colin Trevorrow - were all reported to be varying degrees of “creative clashing.” In some sense it feels as though the “filmmakers that comprise these pop culture dynasties are illusory. Kathleen Kennedy crafted an algorithm that ensures we get a veritable surplus of “pretty good” until the end of time, but it also perversed the nature of these things. Turns out that indescribable sense of wonder and escapism perfected by Star Wars and superhero flicks has a decodable genome, a definitive formula, and that machiavellian mouse won’t ever let us forget it.

 

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