Bye bye box office: has Disney really given up on Star Wars movies? | Film


So that’s it. After three trilogies, at least two of them pretty flawed, and more than $10bn taken at the global box office, Star Wars as a going Hollywood concern is being parked. Stalled like an X-wing in a Dagobah swamp, this story has reached its finale with the insipid, crushingly disappointing The Rise of Skywalker – a movie that seemed determined to confirm every criticism aimed at the latest triptych of films. That they existed only to sell movie tickets and merchandise. That this was Star Wars in name only, a bloodless counterfeit of the original trilogy’s soulful cosmic magnificence.

Word that Disney no longer sees Star Wars as a cinema priority comes from studio chairman Bob Iger, who told investors this week that the series would be taking “a bit of a hiatus in terms of theatrical releases”. The company intends to focus instead on potential small-screen spin-offs based on its highly successful TV show The Mandalorian – the space western-esque tale of a taciturn bounty hunter whose heart is melted by Baby Yoda. According to Variety, Disney believes it has oversaturated the market with Star Wars movies after The Rise of Skywalker and 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story failed to storm the global box office.

Bringing up Baby … The Mandalorian.



Bringing up Baby … The Mandalorian. Photograph: AP

Disney’s move is a bit like a football team deciding to retire from the game because their most recent season didn’t go according to plan. There are myriad reasons why the latest movie triptych was a damp squib. These stem largely from the saga’s inability to move on from the original trilogy’s story and themes. Fans watched through their fingers as Andy Serkis’s Supreme Leader Snoke was set up as the big bad of the new movies, before being discarded and replaced by a returning Palpatine for the final instalment, purely to allow JJ Abrams to pretend he was rounding off the saga nicely (when George Lucas already managed that feat pretty well in 1983, irritating space teddies notwithstanding.)

Even the much-maligned prequel trilogy that emerged between 1999 and 2005 told a flowing, if rigid and boring story of the last days of the galactic republic and rise of the evil empire: the new films seemed to lurch between trying to introduce new characters and ideas and reprising themes that were played out to their logical conclusions more than three decades ago. I’m still trying to work out how Palpatine built a fleet of ships and managed to crew them in about five minutes during The Rise of Skywalker, despite having been a zombiefied husk for the past 30 years or so (there is a sort-of answer here, but it still makes no sense). Last time out, Palpatine needed the resources of the entire republic to do something similar, but this time around he seems to have magicked up all those superlaser-equipped Star Destroyers with a click of his half-dead digits.

Ironically, The Mandalorian has shown Disney where it went wrong with the new trilogy. By touching more lightly on original story beats, the series was able to carve out its own path while retaining the fascination of fans eager to see every strange corner of this famous galaxy. The show’s slow-paced, Boys’ Own sci-fi shtick – part Rogue Trooper, part Zorro – was a perfect reintroduction to Star Wars for those who might have got a little tired of the relentless blockbusterisms of the new movies. Less turned out to be more. And some of the series’ machine-tooled set pieces – The Mandalorian’s attempts to recover his kit from a bunch of marauding Jawa in episode two is a gilded example – put their big screen counterparts to shame. Casting Werner Herzog as the show’s main villain was outside-the-box genius.

We were hoping to see this kind of verve and creative courage parlayed into Rian Johnson’s mooted new trilogy of films set away from the utterly rinsed Skywalker clan and its various hangers-on. Johnson, with 2017’s The Last Jedi, at least showed signs of having the guts to do away with much of the established thinking around Star Wars and drag the saga into fresh territory. Whether or not those movies ever get made in future it seems unlikely that Disney will risk a new kind of space opera.

Time heals all wounds, and surely Disney won’t sit for ever on its cosmic cash cow when there are so many stories to be told. Star Wars as a big-screen endeavour may be stuck in the smoking waters, its engine cold and its carapace covered in swamp weed, but with grit, determination and a sprinkling of sparkly Jedi magic it will surely soar again one day.



Source link