Is Star Wars Losing Its Luster?


The title of this post sounds click baity, but it brings up a nagging thought among many fans over the beloved sci-fi franchise. There are many indications that Star Wars is losing its luster with the general public. No need to worry, Star Wars is not going anywhere, but the property just doesn’t seem to be capturing our excitement these days. Instead that is going to Disney’s other blockbuster IP, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Star Wars is still a behemoth that brings in tons of dollars to Disney, but the evidence is becoming more clear. Let’s look at some facts:

  • The property has been swept up in the toxic culture wars that is strangling our society. It started with the release of the controversial Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which has enraged many conservatives fans who accused it of being too politically correct.
  • The mixed to negative reaction to The Last Jedi, not just from haters but many die-hard Star Wars fans helped lead to the failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story. That in turn led to the cancellation of planned Star Wars films.
  • Disney head Bob Iger admitted that too many Star Wars films were being released too quickly and cited this as a reason for Lucasfilm to cut back on Star Wars films.
  • Even though there is another Star Wars film coming out later this year, the enthusiasm for it is not as high as it was for previous Star Wars films.
  • Merchandising sales are down, with many retailers severely discounting Star Wars toys, especially those related to the Disney-era films.
  • The recent opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland has not brought in the massive crowds that Disney anticipated.

So, what is happening and why? The answers are not quite simple and it really depends on context. Yes, Star Wars is a victim of the stupid culture wars going on but that has affected other properties and franchises as well. Yes, there are too many sites and videos from haters infesting the web, but they also target Star Trek and even Marvel. Then the fact that these places champion underdog properties indicates that many of them just want to kick at the top dog of the moment. What didn’t help Star Wars is how Rey was written to be a Mary Sue and how the deconstruction of Star Wars in The Last Jedi alienated many die-hard fans who hated what writer/director Rian Johnson did with the characters.

There are many reasons why Solo didn’t perform well. A big part of it was due to the backlash of The Last Jedi, which is unfortunate because Solo was actually a fun film that evoked the traditional adventurous Star Wars films.

The scaling back of Star Wars films is a natural reaction to the mixed reception of recent films. However, more films are still being planned and the Disney streaming service, Disney+, will premiere this year The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars film and it is highly anticipated. Plus, the same service will include a new season of the beloved animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which has many fans excited. So, for now, Star Wars’ future lies with television to keep us satiated until the next standalone or saga film.

All this hand wringing over the property could wind up being silly if the next film, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, recaptures the magic and leads to new films coming out sooner. Given how Star Wars: The Last Jedi turned out, it is nearly certain that The Rise of Skywalker will play it safe and give fans what they want. In the long run, it could wind up hurting the franchise in the same manner that some were ultimately turned off by Star Wars: The Force Awakens because it was too derivatives of A New Hope. But a short-term win is called for.

Let’s face it, Disney went overboard with the marketing and merchandising of the property At first, it worked wonders for the company when they acquired the IP in 2012. The build up to The Force Awakens was immense and was a genuine phenomenon. Unfortunately, this led to Disney slapping the Star Wars label on practically everything. If we thought creator George Lucas was bad with the merchandising when he owned the property, Disney took the marketing to the nth degree. it is only natural that there would be a backlash and this led to lowered sales.

empty Galaxy's edge

This focus on selling products is very obvious in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland. While the themed land has won rave reviews, some have griped that basically the area is just a fanciful mall with overpriced merchandise. Seriously, $200 to build a lightsaber? Putting that aside, there are many reasons for the lower attendance at Galaxy’s Edge. Some say that Disney’s blocking out annual passholders is a reason for the low attendance. Others state that the anticipated crowds drove away potential visitors or they only want to visit Galaxy’s Edge when it is complete. After all, right now, the land only has one attraction, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, basically a simulator. The headline attraction, Rise of the Resistance, won’t debut until later this year in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and early January in Disneyland.

In fact, sales are down for all the Disney parks and that is mainly due to the severe price hikes for tickets. With their habitual price increases, not just for tickets but food and merchandise, Disney may have gone too far. It should be noted that revenue in the parks are up, meaning that those that can still afford a Disney trip are spending money, but the downside for Disney is that attendance is down as visitors are instead going to their competitors. In the long run that will not benefit Disney.

As things go, it is natural that Star Wars has reached its peak and is now on a downward trajectory. Believe it or not, this has happened to Star Wars before. After Return of the Jedi, the fervor for the IP died down only to start up again in the 90s as nostalgia reignited interest and passion for it. Then there was the negative reaction to the Star Wars prequels. The films made money but critics hounded Lucas so much he retired from filmmaking.

We shouldn’t panic or despair over what is going on with Star Wars. The rest period will allow the filmmakers the time to come up with truly great stories and characters. And the future films, shows, rides, etc. will take center attention, once again. All things considered, Star Wars is still part of the public consciousness and will probably remain so for a long time.


8 comments on “Is Star Wars Losing Its Luster?

  1. This is a very interesting piece and offers a lot of well-judged thoughts on the current ‘situation’ with the Star Wars franchise.

    I’ve always been fond of Star Wars, but in all honesty it’s never had the same hold as Star Trek for me but I still enjoy Star Wars and want to see it succeed and continue on, which I’m confident it will. I think the issue really is that Disney pushed the milking of the franchise at too fast a pace and to early on and they’ve been, quite rightly, burned by their corporate goals. It’s an IP that should be nurtured and respected rather than being used as little more than a cash-cow.

    I think Disney are playing it cool with the Rise of Skywalker and won’t start cranking up the promotion until well into the autumn, that way it’ll given the more jaded fans time to move on and start anticipating new Star Wars, which’ll no doubt be fed by the launch of the Mandolorian.

    • Some excellent points here. Disney did go overboard with the merchandising probably to recoup the cost of buying the IP. While in the short term it yielded profits, their actions damaged the franchise.
      But it looks like they learned you can’t just treat Star Wars like an ATM and are taking their time. The news on the TV shows sounds promising, especially the Kenobi one, so we’ll see.
      My only fear is that they don’t start treating the MCU the same way.

  2. Well said! Disney doesn’t do anything small, so its no surprise they went overboard on the Star Wars franchise. Social media also plays a big part in today’s troubles as the original trilogy and the prequels didn’t have as many platforms for toxic fans to shout their opinions to the world.

    • You bring up an excellent point about social media that did not exist back then. Can you imagine how the prequels would have been treated if social media was around then? Yikes!
      Disney going overboard is no surprise given their nature which comes back to bite them often. Just look at how the Spider-Man Sony debacle blew up in their faces.

  3. I feel the new line of Star Wars is failing an opportunity to correct some of its kidish world-building aspects, for a lack of a better term, that other sci-fi sagas excel. Yes, the diversity of characters have improved and thats just not important politically, although some would imply that the representation of people of color and women is in itself “politically correct.” But as for the storytelling it would make sense that a Rebel Alliance just might reflect its galaxy’s inhabitants. With that said, it still remains too human-centric, Jedi messianic, Skywalker led, where the good guys barely have their shit together and if it where not for that one person who didn’t want to be the hero in the first place saves the entire galaxy with little to no training. Of course that person had the most unique help but I suppose its The Force at work.

    Maybe thats what Star Wars is supposed to be, that knight-in-shining armor fantasy storytelling that happens to take place in a sci-fi environment. But then how much room is there to connect to new audiences, especially when it’s difficult to please the old ones?

    I would like to see more political narratives being interwoven between The First Order and governments who are swayed by, and governments who are against, them. But it seems there are no active or even strong governments period, unless you sound British. Why do some people follow Nazis or excuse their bahavior, cause its obvious thats what The Imperials and their First Order decendents are modelled after? Then, for some reason, lets keep all that potentially rich storytelling threads completely hidden and go with how The Force is something between an Invisible Hand, The Holy Spirit, and lazy writing. I know I may be asking and judging too much, but for me, Star Wars storytelling remains exceeding stale. But at least I get to see rebels shooting Nazis.

    • You bring up some interesting points about the lack of world building in the new films.

      One problem is that it is essentially the same set up in the OT without an explanation. Where did the First Order come from? It is not clear if the Resistance is part of the New Republic. The new films don’t explain anything and no we should not have to read the books or comics, etc. to get a better understanding of what is going on.

      For all the grief the prequels get at least they adequately built up and filled in background info about the Republic and why it fell.

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