‘Star Wars’ is entering a new phase, but its galaxy goes beyond streaming
What does “level-headed” look like, practically speaking? Additional movies, but fewer of them; producing single ideas, as opposed to leaping straight to the added burden of banking on trilogies; and yes, a lot of streaming — including experimental swings, potentially serving as an incubator for future spinoffs — building on the success of “The Mandalorian,” the buzzed-about Disney+ series.
To understand where “Star Wars” finds itself as a franchise, a bit of history is in order.
Part of that bounty, however, stemmed from pent-up demand, since Lucasfilm hadn’t produced a “Star Wars” movie for a decade. There was a good deal of other content — including some (very good) animated TV shows — but nothing quite like hearing John Williams’ signature score as that script crawled up the screen.
On closer inspection, “Star Wars” has surely diminished from the giddiness of four years ago, but the situation, and the property’s future, is far from bleak.
The latest movie, “The Rise of Skywalker,” fell short of opening-weekend expectations, but has exhibited healthy legs in the days since. While lagging behind its predecessors, Episode IX looks destined to generate more than $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, and that doesn’t calculate the value it delivers to Disney+ and the rest of the studio’s pipeline over the long haul.
Meanwhile, “The Mandalorian,” with its meme-creating character known as “The Child” (or more popularly “baby Yoda”), rapidly became a part of the cultural zeitgeist and put the streaming service on the map, trending with each new episode. The mind boggles at what the merchandising will be when it lands in earnest next year.
Disney learned a lesson the hard way — that it can’t flood the market with “Star Wars” properties and expect them all to be huge winners. But it needn’t stage a wholesale retreat either.
“Star Wars” has reached a creative crossroads. Given that people who were in college when the original premiered in 1977 are nearly eligible to receive Social Security checks, that shouldn’t be completely surprising.
But the glow remains bright enough that hand-wringing over its future and “You killed ‘Star Wars!'” bleating sounds alarmist at best. The franchise might not be all that Disney envisioned after “The Force Awakens,” but with prudent care and feeding, the yet-to-be-explored parts of that galaxy should continue to be a force to be reckoned with.