Will the next Star Wars movie be the straw that broke the camel’s back in Star Wars fandom? This month the second in an infinitely-long line of Disney-backed Star Wars films will debut with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. What we’re discussing today is whether the release of this film will prove to Disney and Lucasfilm that they’ve made a mistake by continuing to milk the cow what is George Lucas’ Star Wars universe.
Growing up, I had one Star Wars film available to me – Return of the Jedi, filmed by my parents from a TV broadcast a few years after I was born. I watched Return of the Jedi several times as a tiny child before I found out there were more movies. It made me very happy when I found out there were two other movies I could rent from the video rental store whenever I wanted.
I watched all three Star Wars films for the first time in one sitting. At the end of Return of the Jedi – the full version, not just the cut-for-time TV version – I turned off the VCR and bang! Staring back at me was the first commercial for the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. It was a very exciting time.
Watching the originals (their new editions, that is) in theaters were some of the best theater-going experiences I’ve had. The same goes for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. But with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came over-production of toys. Too much merchandise – and what I considered the end of the nerdy age for Star Wars.
Little did I know at the time that Star Wars was always mainstream – that was part of its appeal. George Lucas always meant for the Star Wars film and eventual collection of films to be part of a merchandise franchise. Below you’ll see how George Lucas made his deal with the movie studio that produced Star Wars (A New Hope) to get Licensing Rights to the Star Wars universe.
If you were a big fan of toys in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, you know what happened with Star Wars toys. Kenner made too many action figures – too many of the wrong characters – and created generations of “peg warmers” (action figures that never sell). Worst of these was the Star Wars The Phantom Menace collection, the lot of which sold well for a short period of time then sat on shelves and on pegs for months.
You can still buy boxes and boxes of Episode I: The Phantom Menace action figures on eBay today for pennies on the dollar. This happened because George Lucas made a mistake.
A mistake that might have been rectified by The Force Awakens. George Lucas relied on special effects to make a pristine environment for The Phantom Menace – and the other two prequels. It was as if he looked at what worked in the first Star Wars movies with the “Used Future” and tossed it in the trash heap.
People didn’t want Flash Gordon, they wanted Star Wars. So it may have been The Force Awakens that brought back the magic. It was one of the most successful films in box office history, after all.
But look at the toy aisles of your favorite department store today and see how full the racks are of Star Wars merchandise. Look to the sale aisle and see how many Star Wars items you can count. We may well be headed for another Phantom Menace Merchandise Nightmare – even if the films are decent.
On the other hand, it could just be that Star Wars is finally reaching its potential. But I don’t think so. I think George Lucas should have stopped short of selling the brand to a company that’d continue to use it until the end of time.
Which Star Wars movie ended Star Wars for you?