Fucking seriously?

 

The Rise of Skywalker? What?

I’m trying to imagine a more lame title. Titles have never been Star Wars’ strong suit – it’s 20 years later, and I still don’t know who the phantom menace was supposed to be, but at least it was cool to say.

Disney Star Wars has always been stingy with its trailers, but this is getting to the point of self-satire. This is a 123 second trailer, and 15 seconds of that are spent on a completely blank screen. Another 15 seconds are spent on an eternal shot of a completely empty desert landscape.

Hold on a minute…

“Every generation has a legend … The saga comes to an end.”

Did they just rip off The Dark Knight Rises, of all things?

“Every hero has a journey … Every journey has an end.”

“Every generation has a legend … The saga comes to an end.”

Fucking seriously?

That’s it. I have completely lost hope for the Disney Star Wars era. Really I’d lost hope a year and a half ago when it was announced that Colin Trevorrow had been canned as director and J.J. Abrams, who has done more damage to 21st century storytelling than anyone else alive, would replace him, but it’s hitting me emotionally with this trailer. Disney Star Wars has been an unmitigated and unrepentant debacle from the very beginning, and now they’ve put together this trailer that seems tailor-made for tracing the reasons why.

When Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, the idea was there was going to be a Star Wars movie every year indefinitely into the future, and it looked like everyone would get to come over and play on Disney’s new funhouse. J.J. Abrams was hired to lead the first film, but the next were helmed by a parade of under-appreciated, under-worked indie guys – Gareth Edwards, who made 2010’s haunting Monsters, Rian Johnson, the writer/director of films like Looper and Brick, Trevorrow, who did Safety Not Guaranteed and The Book of Henry – young, inspired directors who were just breaking into the big time would be given four times the budget and 20 times the audience than they would otherwise have access to so they could make a name for themselves and bring their unique visions onto the big screen. This was to be a manufacturing plant for new movies made by new names with new ideas.

Obviously, that’s not what happened.

Disney has become notorious in recent years for its risk aversion across all franchises. Edgar Wright was fired from Ant-Man before production, like Trevorrow, but bigger problems arose when Edwards was ordered to reshoot 40% of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired from Solo: A Star Wars Story with shooting still unfinished. Replacement director Ron Howard ultimately took credit for 70% of the finished product.

This is not just risk aversion – it’s making risky decisions and then going back on them. This very specific lack of follow-through has been uniform across the Disney Star Wars franchise with one giant exception.

Every risk this series has ever taken is confined to one movie – Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s far from perfect and reception was mixed, to say the least, but it was bold and surprising in a way that was beginning to seem impossible for this franchise.

The flashpoints for the film were its casual dismissal of mysteries surrounding Rey’s parents and Supreme Leader Snoke, which fans had been speculating about for a hot two years after Star Wars: The Force Awakens drew direct attention to them. Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams had set these as his mystery boxes, and in The Last Jedi, Johnson opened them, using their emptiness to tell his own story.

After the backlash against The Last Jedi, Disney has positioned itself for an almost DC-esque course correction, catering lustily to every criticism of the previous film. Fans didn’t like that Luke Skywalker died, so he’ll be back as a Force ghost. Abrams, who says he actually had a plan to reveal his mystery boxes for once in his life, will be back at the helm to re-establish his “original vision” for how the series would end. Instead of Rey building a new weapon, the hereditary lightsaber that was broken, The Last Jedi’s physical symbol of the old stories, has been remade. Kylo Ren is even seen putting his smashed helmet back together – not just getting another one, but literally welding the one he broke back together.

That’s really the last thing I was looking forward to. Kylo Ren, this explosive combination of terrifying and pathetic, had killed his master, and I was excited to see what depths my beautiful negging boy would sink to without anyone to take his Playstation away, but the emperor will also be back as a Force ghost, so he’ll presumably be under some kind of control again.

The massive shift in direction of the Disney Star Wars franchise over four short years begs the question – why? Why wasn’t there a plan in place? Abrams says he’d had a plan for the whole series, but he was initially only given control over one installment, and then Johnson took things in an entirely different direction. Why wasn’t the full story already hammered out before cameras started rolling? Was even that basic of a concept, of knowing what direction the overarching story was going to go before it got started, lost on this series of movies?

With this month’s Avengers: Endgame, the question of whether or not we’ll ever see a Marvel-style cinematic universe again has been raised. Every franchise that has tried to build something similar has failed miserably, Disney Star Wars included. But these other series aren’t just failing to make money and maintain enthusiasm, they’re failing to do things as basic as have a plan and stick to it.

Looking at how Marvel and Disney Star Wars have gone about building their series, the basic failures are so obvious that you can hardly compare the two efforts. Marvel’s Kevin Feige knows what movies he’s going to make, what they’re going to be about, who’s going to be in them, how they’re going to affect the rest of the franchise and how they’re going to lead into future movies several years in advance. It’s all planned out. Apparently, Star Wars’ Kathleen Kennedy went into The Force Awakens knowing what movies she wanted to make, and that’s pretty much it. The basic bird’s-eye-view planning process for how this series was going to go seems to have never place. That’s been obvious since The Last Jedi.

It’s unlikely that any brand will ever be as powerful as the MCU is now, but if other aspiring shared universe-style series can’t so much as put together a rough multi-movie outline and stick with it, are they really shared universe series at all?

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