Image for illustrative purpose only.
James McMahon, The Independent
In the unlikely event that time travel is ever invented, I will go back in time and tell my younger self two things. 1) “Here are the results of every FA Cup final in the next thirty years. Put a few quid on each of the winners, because your career choice isn’t ever going to make you rich”; and 2) “One day there will be too much Star Wars for you to handle.”
That sound you can hear is one of a five year old’s head exploding, echoing through the years. “Too much Star Wars” isn’t something either that boy, or the man I’ve become, ever imagined they would complain about.
Nor would any fan of George Lucas’s epic space odyssey who lived through the sixteen-year drought (with apologies to 1985’s TV toons Droids and Ewoks) that began after the 1983 release of Return of the Jedi and ended with 1999’s creative dud of a revival, The Phantom Menace. Yeah, still not over it.
I frequently dreamt of a new Star Wars movie during these years. As a little kid I would plot out what this new film might look like on my bedroom floor with my action figures. And yet my reaction to Disney’s recent announcement that there were 10 new Star Wars stories in production, most of them TV series exclusive to streaming platform Disney+, wasn’t one of excitement (OK, it was a bit), more one of overwhelming stress.
There are bigger Star Wars fans than me — at the many fan conventions I’ve been to I have met practitioners of “lightsaber yoga”, a man who built his own X-wing in his back garden, and someone with Yoda tattooed on his face. But I think I hold my own. I once flew to Tunisia, trekked into the Sahara desert and stayed at the Hotel Sidi Driss in the remote village of Matmâta — the filming location for Luke Skywalker’s childhood home in 1977’s A New Hope. So why aren’t I delighted?
Putting aside the entirely reasonable wish to sometimes watch things that aren’t Star Wars — and worries about how independent voices will find an audience for their creativity amid such a colossus competing for every moment of our time — I remain conflicted about the advent of streaming platforms. It’s wretchedly privileged to moan about the ability to watch any episode of The Clone Wars at any time of the day we might choose. It’s King Canute-like to resist the tide of change. But I do think it’s worth shedding a tear for the demise of visual media’s communal moments.
The consequence of each media outlet announcing their own service is that we become further siloed. Star Wars — created by George Lucas, but the property of everyone — was always about community; the collective cheer in the cinema for the destruction of the Death Star, the shared shock at the reveal of the Skywalker lineage. The franchise, and its universal themes of good vs evil, belongs to you, me and the little kids I saw pretending branches were lightsabers in Tunisia.
Truth be told, the glut of new announcements caught me off guard. Last September, the then Disney CEO Bob Iger himself warned of the danger that, after the release of five movies in four years, there might be too much Star Wars. “A little too much, too fast,” he said. “You can expect some slowdown. I think we’re going to be a little bit more careful about volume and timing.” This summer passed, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy made a similar point, telling Vanity Fair that “you can’t turn [Star Wars] into some kind of factory approach. You can’t even do what Marvel does, necessarily…”
So what changed? Well, for a start, Bob Iger is no longer Disney’s CEO. But also the enormous popularity of Disney+ series The Mandalorian, an excellent weekly deep dive into Star Wars lore, topped off with the emergence of “Baby Yoda”, the most iconic new Star Wars character since Jar Jar Binks in the aforementioned Phantom Menace (and unlike Jar Jar not the inspiration for countless acts of fury).
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