Have We Reached The Star Wars Saturation Point?
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is the latest instalment in the increasingly bloated Star Wars film series. As expected, the franchise has become Disneyfied beyond belief, there’s been a new movie in each of the last three years. It won’t stop there, Disney have announced at least five more Star Wars films plus a TV show.
With each new flick we hurtle towards a reality where people no longer care about subsequent releases in the series. Like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney will continue bombarding us with Star Wars properties until they’ve printed enough money to fund a real-life Death Star.
The Last Jedi follows the events of Force Awakens, continuing the story of Rey, Finn and the rebellion against the nefarious First Order. This is the second film in the Sequel Trilogy, which continues the story from the Original Trilogy of the 1970s. The Last Jedi provides closure to questions about Luke Skywalker, while increasing the stakes of the rebellion.
Star Wars remains a cultural institution and people will pay money for any new film, regardless of quality. Despite a poor performance in China, The Last Jedi earned $1.2 billion worldwide making The Last Jedi the tenth highest grossing film of all time. Comfortably surpassing its $800 million break-even point, it became the UK’s highest grossing film of 2017.
Side note: British audiences spent a record £1.38 billion on cinema tickets in 2017 – in a few years you won’t even be able to get Cineworld popcorn at that price.
It is extremely unlikely The Last Jedi will match the $2 billion performance of Force Awakens, a film which capitalised on being the first Star Wars film for 12 years. However, The Last Jedi was successful enough for Disney to reward writer/director Rian Johnson with his own trilogy.
The $4 billion Disney paid for LucasFilm is looking like peanuts. All that’s missing is an Avengers-style orgy to simultaneously whore out as many characters as possible. Don’t rule that out.
Eventually the Star Wars saga will feel tired. The previous scarcity of films made it special but the bubble will burst. Star Trek experienced this after ten movies, when the disappointing Nemesis bombed. A planned eleventh film was scrapped due to ‘franchise fatigue’ and they were forced to reboot the entire franchise. Again, don’t rule this out.
Unlike Disney’s Marvel films, the Star Wars universe has a more limited range of narratives to pull from. The franchise hinges on the clash of the evil Empire and plucky rebels. Assuming The Last Jedi’s sequel sees the evil Empire crushed, what will the next proposed trilogy focus on?
Will people be interested in watching another brave rebellion against the Empire? As we know, deposing a tyrant doesn’t destroy the regime. So, Disney could infinitely recycle Star Wars storylines until we’re all dead. More likely, they’ll squeeze the new trilogy between already established plot events; just in case we didn’t have enough backstory explained.
Rogue One’s purpose was to explain the beginning of A New Hope
Of course, Disney will use Star Wars films past and future to pad out their upcoming streaming platform. They aim to crush Netflix’s dominance by putting their many cash cows out to pasture.
With each sub-standard Star Wars film, we edge closer to the saturation point. The Last Jedi was the most flawed of the recent films, but the franchise’s strong emotional resonance guaranteed success. Much like how people will always pay to watch shitty teams like West Ham United, no matter how shoddy the product has been for a solid generation.
Vast parts of The Last Jedi were needless filler, particularly the first act. At two and a half hours, it was at least 30 minutes too long; characters like Finn were given pointless busy-work. The explosive final hour saved the film.
It was refreshing to see several Star Wars tropes subverted, the looming questions of Rey’s parents and Kylo Ren’s commitment to the Dark Side were tackled in unexpected ways. However, the typical character archetypes remain, with the insolent pilot, apprentice Jedi and wise mentor all present. It’s continuation with a new generation of characters with familiar character traits and backstories.
This new guard of Star Wars characters will carry future sequels forward as most of the older characters are replaced. Fittingly there was far less fan service in The Last Jedi than recent outings, making it feel like its own film.
We are edging closer to Star Wars saturation with each film. How much longer will people care when there’s a new formulaic film released every year?