The Downfall of Star Wars
Thanks to its innovative special effects, the premiere of Star Wars in 1977 revolutionized the film industry forever, making the brand one of the most important entertainment franchises in the world. The film won six Academy Awards from a total of ten nominations, including the Best Picture category, and its cultural impact is immeasurable. However, the relevance of Star Wars has declined since Disney took over the franchise.
The new films made as a continuation for the George Lucas saga are being poorly received by critics and fans, which is evidenced by the decreasing box office earnings of these Disney productions. What hides behind the Downfall of Star Wars? Let’s discuss it in this MFC Editorial.
The Force Awakens: Disney buys Star Wars
Since the premiere of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (George Lucas, 2005), fans of the saga didn’t have any news about future films. Three years later, the animated movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Dave Filoni, 2008) was released, but it was not a continuation of the Skywalker story, but the beginning of a new animated series that would be broadcast on Cartoon Network. When was made the announcement that Bob Iger, president of The Walt Disney Company, had closed a purchase deal with George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, a new hope was born in fans of the space saga.
Disney bought the film and television production company Lucasfilm and with it the Star Wars franchise, promising to expand the main story with new movies. In this deal, George Lucas would have no power over the new productions of the brand he created, although he would be considered as a consultant. That is why, before closing the sale, Lucas appointed producer Kathleen Kennedy as president of Lucasfilm, with the intention that Star Wars maintain its creative essence in the future.
Although Lucas included outlines of what would be the continuation of his story in a new film trilogy, Disney and Kennedy chose to discard these ideas and create a story of their own, that despite their efforts, didn’t have the expected success.
The Return of the Jedi: Star Wars is back in theaters
With Disney and Kathleen Kennedy‘s decision to tell a Star Wars story different from the one planned by George Lucas, the challenge came to do it without losing the essence of the franchise. This is how Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (J. J. Abrams, 2015) arrived, a film that, although it successfully revived the franchise, was practically a remake of the original 1977 film, using an identical narrative structure.
The success of The Force Awakens gave Kennedy the courage to turn Star Wars into an annual franchise and a calendar of releases was leaked with projections as far as 2020. Among the plans were episodes VIII and IX of the main saga, as well as various spin-offs of popular characters such as Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Boba Fett.
Despite Kathleen Kennedy‘s calendar, the low box office performance of the following Star Wars films threatened Lucasfilm‘s plans. Although The Force Awakens made $2.068 billion, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Gareth Edwards, 2016) made $1.056 billion and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson, 2017) just made $1.333 billion. The performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story (Ron Howard, 2018) was considered a failure, grossing only $393.2 million against a budget of $300 million.
It was clear that something was wrong with the new direction that Kennedy had taken Star Wars, far from the plans of its original creator and losing more and more relevance in the film industry. Solo‘s failure led Disney to cancel future film projects and take a break after the premiere of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker in 2019, to rethink the future of the saga.
A New Hope: Star Wars on Disney+
On the poor performance of Star Wars in Kennedy’s hands, Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, assumed responsibility and said it was due to the release of too much content in a short amount of time. Although subsequent film projects have been paused, a couple of films had to change their format in order to be able to come to fruition. This is how Boba Fett‘s film project became The Mandalorian (Jon Favreau, 2019), and the Obi-Wan Kenobi film in a show that will be led by Deborah Chow, with a premiere estimated for 2021, both for the Disney+ streaming platform.
In the case of The Mandalorian, the show is being led by Jon Favreau, director of The Lion King (2019) and Iron Man (2008), and one of the creative minds behind the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first episodes of the show were directed by Dave Filoni, one of the most prestigious creatives in Lucasfilm and responsible for the successful animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008), who seems to be being instructed by Favreau in the directing of productions on set and with actors. Plus, the production has George Lucas on set as a consultant. Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that producer Kevin Feige, mastermind behind Marvel Studios, is working on his own Star Wars movie.
While Kathleen Kennedy continues to be president at Lucasfilm, Bob Iger has established that every important decision about the future of the saga will have to go through him first, an unprecedented situation for producers of the big studios that belong to Disney. It seems that Kennedy‘s days as the mind behind Star Wars are coming to an end, and a new group of writers and directors are ready to return one of the most important sagas in film history to its greatness.