I’ve loved Star Wars for most of my life. But I’m starting to feel like we’re getting too much of a good thing.
In Roald Dahl’s Matilda, there’s a part where a sweets-loving boy named Bruce Bogtrotter is forced to eat a massive chocolate cake by the evil Miss Trunchbull. It’s a cruel scene, and it taught me at a young age that it’s possible to have too much of something, even something that you otherwise adore. When the cake just keeps coming, when there’s more and more cake no matter what you do, you find yourself tiring quickly of cake. You start to feel some deserved contempt for the cake.
Lately, whenever I read about Star Wars industry news—which is pretty much every day—I find myself thinking about Bruce Bogtrotter. If you had told me at age 13 or so that one day I would put forth the argument that there’s too much Star Wars in the universe, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed and then told you to go away and leave me there with my stacks of extended universe books.
But 13-year-old me could never have imagined our current world of billion-dollar franchises and an apparently insatiable appetite for nostalgia-driven properties. After the prequel films worked to kill a considerable amount of my Star Wars trust and enthusiasm, I thought we’d never have more Star Wars again, and perhaps rightly so. The prequels are better left buried in the sand that Anakin hates so much.
Then—borne on the wings of our revival-obsessed era, and Disney buying Lucasfilm—came The Force Awakens, a Star Wars movie that is just fine. It works. I’m fine with it. Its interesting characters are more compelling than its whole, but it gave some of that old tingly Star Wars feeling. I gasped “No!” when Kylo Ren killed Han Solo. They got me. Its massive success guaranteed that the lid was blown off of the Star Wars Pandora’s Box. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if The Force Awakens had been a total disaster, but the movie basically minted money for Disney, and then it minted some more.
Star Wars was back to being a sure thing critically as well as financially. Rogue One arrived, a movie I am also fine with. I cried at the end! It’s criminally under-developed but it works. “Nostalgia works” seems to be the guiding principle of Star Wars these days. It certainly worked for The Last Jedi, a movie I liked a good deal more than The Force Awakens. I cried again. I love Star Wars.
Yet that chocolate cake just keeps coming and coming. There’s so much cake. Per Mashable, here are the current Star Wars projects on the horizon:
- Solo: A Star Wars Story, coming out in May, 161 days after the release of The Last Jedi
- J.J. Abrams’ Episode IX
- Rian Johnson’s independent trilogy, with no relation to the Skywalkers
- A “few” live-action streaming TV series in development
- Film series created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, number of movies unknown. “It could be two or it could be twenty,” Mashable points out
- Rumored standalones for well-known characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi
And these are just the productions that we know about—there’re likely a lot more projects in infant development stage. By my count, we are facing approximately 1,456 new Star Wars creations coming our way (all of them, at current, helmed by white men).
Okay, I’m exaggerating about the number of productions (maybe), but if we figure that Benioff and Weiss have a trilogy as is tradition, that’s at least eight upcoming Star Wars movies, TV notwithstanding. Disney has planned the next 15 years of its Star Wars slate. I will be middle-aged by the time this course is run, and that thought is exhausting. By then, another several dozen projects will likely be in development. We will be glutted on Star Wars for the conceivable future. Eating this cake every few years, possibly forever, is now on the menu.
What makes me wary about the lifetime commitment is that it’s already starting to feel like too much Star Wars. Other than the joy of seeing Donald Glover as Lando, I can’t bring myself to care about Solo, and I’m bracing for the possibility of it being a disaster. Han Solo has been my favorite Star Wars character since early youth (I fell in love with him), and yet the approach of a movie all about him makes me flinch—which makes me feel confused and disloyal. But I can’t ignore the signs that I am approaching maximum Star Wars saturation.
I know that I’m particularly immersed in a constant Star Wars news stream due to the nature of my job, and that most of you probably don’t feel so constantly surrounded and bombarded by Star Wars.
But I don’t think I’m entirely alone in this feeling of worrying about Star Wars getting diluted. Star Wars felt rare and special and unparalleled when there were only three precious movies held up as the ideal. These days it seems like we’re approaching a time where anything can be called Star Wars if it has the right branding.
My fear is that as we move forward with this frenzied franchise-building, we’re going to start naming a lot of things Star Wars that don’t deserve it. Star Wars will become about a certain aesthetic and some familiar rules for how the universe works, and that’ll be it. Obviously, this isn’t the worst thing that can happen in the world of entertainment. This isn’t the Transformers franchise. I’m sure that I will always love and want to consume Star Wars on some level.
But I want delicious, well-made bites of it parceled out that are worthy of its name. And if we’re going to be fed an endless stream of Star Wars, its creatives must at least start to reflect its hugely diverse fanbase. It should be patently unacceptable that 8+ movies stretched over the next decade only have white men piloting them. Let’s at least agree to send that overdone cake straight back to the kitchen.
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