I’ve been a fan of Star Wars from the start. I was only four when the first movie came out, but I remember getting a watch with C-3PO and R2-D2 on it for Christmas in 1977. It’s still the most memorable gift from my childhood.
I have vivid memories of going to see the original trilogy, both in the original runs and in re-releases. I suffered through the prequels. And my siblings and I have introduced Star Wars love to a new generation through the new films and Disney World visits.
But this year I can’t help but wonder one thing: are we suffering from Star Wars fatigue? My family lined up to see The Last Jedi just before Christmas, and I’ve already seen Solo twice. Disney has plenty more “product” in the pipeline: Episode IX, more standalone films, another trilogy unrelated to the Skywalker saga, and cartoon and live television deals.
Is it all too much? I can’t help but think that even die-hard Star Wars fans think so.
The trouble is that collateral damage results from Star Wars fatigue. Solo is a box office disappointment, earning a mere $177 million in the States and $313 million worldwide at the time of this writing. And that’s a shame because Solo is a terrific, rip-roaring adventure.
I think Solo has suffered because it followed The Last Jedi by a mere five months. The Last Jedi created a stir for its length and for the path down which director Rian Johnson took the film. Let’s face it: the eighth episode of the Skywalker saga was a flawed, bloated movie, though I’ve warmed up to it with repeated viewings.
What made fans hate The Last Jedi so much? Over at The Hollywood Reporter, Marc Bernardin chalks much of the animus up to nostalgia – and the violation of it. “Star Wars fans — I count myself among them — look to the original trilogy as an anchor of youth,” he wrote. “They want anything Star Wars to make them feel the way they did when they saw “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …” roll across the screen 40 years ago.
It’s possible that nostalgia plays into the restlessness of Star Wars fans. After all, Johnson took this trilogy in a surprising direction — one that included enough twists and turns to make the movie about 20 minutes too long. Bernardin also muses about whether fans saw too much social justice warrior posturing in the new films.
“When J.J. Abrams signed on for The Force Awakens and built his narrative around a young woman with The Force and her black friend, it triggered the anti-SJW brigades. (Never mind it also gave them Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia and a pair of familiar droids.) The #BoycottEpisodeVII hashtag spread, targeting Ridley and John Boyega, though it probably had more headlines than effect, as the film topped $2 billion worldwide,” he wrote.
I think this argument is a little ridiculous. Sure, Lucasfilm has played the “girl power” card a few too many times in the last few years, and I can see how some people saw the Canto Bight subplot as a having bit too much of a “stick it to the man” ethos. I just think blaming Star Wars fatigue on a political backlash doesn’t quite work.
But whatever the reason, Solo had the unfortunate fate of following the most controversial Star Wars movie since the prequels. As a result, moviegoers have been wary, and the box office numbers are anything but stellar. That’s too bad, because the people who have stayed away from Solo have missed a heck of a good time.
The hatred toward The Last Jedi has had a sad effect on one of its stars. Kelly Marie Tran’s story was by all accounts the feel-good tale of the year. She was a young actress who’d had a difficult time getting good roles until Johnson cast her as Resistance mechanic Rose.
For some reason, enough “fans” (I use the term loosely) saw fit to turn Tran into a scapegoat for everything they saw wrong with The Last Jedi. Insults piled on — misogynistic and racist insults and even death threats — and Tran couldn’t handle it anymore, so she left social media.
That’s yet another shame. Ask anybody in even the smallest sliver of the public eye, and they’ll tell you that jerks and trolls abound. Tran’s costar Mark Hamill came to her defense:
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) June 6, 2018
And Rian Johnson stood up for the preponderance of Star Wars fans who aren’t mean-spirited bullies: “On social media a few unhealthy people can cast a big shadow on the wall, but over the past 4 years I’ve met lots of real fellow SW fans,” she wrote. “We like & dislike stuff but we do it with humor, love & respect. We’re the VAST majority, we’re having fun & doing just fine.”
These scenarios are terrible — and in Tran’s case heartbreaking, and I believe that they’re unfortunate symptoms of Star Wars fatigue. Fans of the franchise had to endure George Lucas’ incessant tinkering with the original trilogy, along with the soulless prequels. before waiting a decade for something new and worthwhile. But Disney has overcompensated in a way, and in a two-and-a-half year period, we’ve seen the satisfying The Force Awakens, the glorious Rogue One, the unsettling The Last Jedi, and the exciting Solo. It’s a lot to take in.
Maybe Disney/Lucasfilms’ goal of a new Star Wars film a year (or less than a year) was overly ambitious. Maybe we need a longer wait after Episode IX. Maybe even the most ardent Star Wars fans could use a breather.