The End of Star Wars?
So – for the second time in 15 years we’re preparing ourselves for the end of Star Wars.
That’s right. We’re just over a week away from The Rise of Skywalker, the film that marks both the end of both the opportunistically-titled ‘Skywalker Saga’ and the first phase of Disney’s ownership of the franchise. And what a phase it’s been.
Strap yourself in. This post contains salt.
Custodians of the Force
When the Disney deal was announced back in 2012 I was excited but also incredibly wary. I’ve never actually liked Disney as a company and, with one or two notable exceptions, never really liked their films.
Yet Marvel has hardly suffered since being bought by the Mouse in 2009; in fact, quite the contrary. The MCU is a huge, consistent, exciting film series that has redefined blockbuster cinema and spawned a multitude of lesser imitations. It is the evolved modern-day equivalent of Star Wars, no question.
It’s my belief that the comics side of Marvel Comics has suffered since 2009, but then I need to be fair here. One More Day, the infamous story which broke Spider-Man, happened shortly before the Disney sale. More importantly, it’s difficult for me to say whether or not the comics are still any good as I’m no longer 12 years old.
As a fan of what they’ve done with Marvel, I’ve been inclined to give Disney a fair shot. I’ve been excited, gutted, hopeful, conflicted and ultimately critical of new Lucasfilm’s output, but I’ve yet to become disdainful of having new Star Wars to consume – and may that never happen.
The Rise (and Fall) of Skywalker
Yet whatever your stance on Disney’s output so far, make no mistake – Star Wars is suffering. The missteps have been well documented, from the fallout of The Last Jedi to the box office failure of Solo to the under-performance of Galaxy’s Edge to the cancellation of Resistance to Bob Iger’s call for a slow down through to the underwhelming build up to The Rise of Skywalker.
Whichever way you want to square it, since The Last Jedi premiered Star Wars has failed to resonate with the general public.
This Google Trends chart shows the global interest in Star Wars over the last five years. The huge peak on the left is around the release of The Force Awakens, the second biggest peak corresponds with The Last Jedi, and the bump in-between the two is for Rogue One. At present, there seems to be less interest for The Rise of Skywalker than there was for even Rogue One.
If this translates into a below-expectation performance it may well become the first Star Wars trilogy where the third film in the sequence does not beat the second at the global box office.
Further, if the widely reported leaks prove to be correct then the story itself may well cause even greater discontent amongst the fans. If that happens then I wouldn’t want to bet on how Disney handles the fallout.
It would have been a challenge in any event, but shoehorning Palpatine into the plot and introducing a host of new characters makes it unlikely that we’re going to get answers to all of the questions thrown up by The Force Awakens. And that’s before we factor in the damage control required to heal the unbridled nihilism of The Last Jedi – let alone supposedly re-ending the previous six Lucas films as well.
And all of this is before we consider that JJ Abrams, while a good director, a great producer and seemingly a nice guy, is not an amazing storyteller.
I would love to be wrong but I simply don’t believe that The Rise of Skywalker can tie itself, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi into one cohesive story.
The Failure is Complete
I’m far too big a Star Wars fan to not go and see The Rise of Skywalker as soon as I can. But, perversely, I’m also far too big a fan to not want the film to fail.
It’s entirely self-defeating but I have a ticket to the midnight opening of a film that I want to perform poorly at the box office. And it’s because of this twisted situation that I already know that, whatever happens on the big screen next Thursday morning, my main emotion will be one of relief.
My fandom, my own sense of self and my respect for many, many other fans has been put through the wringer since 2015.
After The Force Awakens, I could only speculate on how Episode VIII would redeem Kasdan and Abrams’ awful choices. In being part of the minority that recognised how damaging The Force Awakens was I was castigated by my own community. After The Last Jedi, I felt compelled to walk a tightrope between my rising uneasiness and a desire for cultural acceptance until I had to finally give in and admit that no – Johnson’s film is terrible.
I’ll be relieved after The Rise of Skywalker because the tourists will finally clear off to pastures new, the cultural conversation will move on and the Disney films will not be able to stand on anything other than their own merit.
That’s when we’ll learn what their cultural half-life really is.
A Complicated Profession
There’s one final factor to consider that’s putting further screws on the Sequel Trilogy, and that’s the adventures of a certain masked bounty hunter.
If the online reaction were not enough, these stats alone could put an end to the gross misconception that Star Wars fans “hate Star Wars”. It’s crap storytelling we’re not too keen on, as most of us have been saying all along.
Anyway. Simply put, The Mandalorian is bringing the fan base back together. “Baby Yoda” has caught the cultural zeitgeist, as confirmed by friends far outside of the Star Wars life, while the series itself has produced several great Star Wars moments already.
Based on the first half of series one alone, The Mandalorian is Star Wars that I’m happy to consider as part of the grander canvas.
So… the End of Star Wars?
It’s thanks to The Mandalorian and Jedi: Fallen Order that I know that Star Wars isn’t finished. It’s thanks to places like Saltier Than Crait, the Reddit forum that sprang up following The Last Jedi as a haven for fans to air their concerns, that I know I will still have people to discuss Star Wars with.
Disney will scientifically chip away at us until they get Star Wars right, and I’m OK with that because thanks to Rogue One and The Mandalorian I know they can get it right. More content like that and we can all look forward to a bright future for Star Wars once again – one where everyone is truly welcome.
The Rise of Skywalker may well be the end of Star Wars for some. For foolish old optimists like me, it has the potential to mark the start of something better.