[Disclaimer: This editorial, which will explore how Lucasfilm is aping its sibling, Marvel Studios, with its new approach towards Star Wars, will contain *SPOILERS* for Rogue One]
Something that Jammer and I have been railing against on the LOS FANBOYS Podcast for months now is how seemingly safe Lucasfilm is playing it when it comes to its Star Wars Story spinoff movies. Shortly after George Lucas sold Lucasfilm (and, in turn, the Star Wars and Indiana Jones IPs) to Disney, fans around the world became intrigued by the direction that the Mouse House was going to take his far, far away galaxy. It was announced that, in addition to a new trilogy, we'd be getting standalone films set within the Star Wars universe that don't have to do with the core Episodic Saga.
The promise of that was tantalizing. After all, Lucas created such a vast and wide open world, with such a rich history, that the storytelling possibilities are seemingly endless. You need not look further than the shelves at your local bookstore (assuming any of those things still exist in your neck of the woods), to see the countless novels and comic books that have been written over the last three decades that explore different corners of the Star Wars galaxy, even breaking open the mythology in their own inventive ways, and that there's no limit to what can be explored.
Because of how exciting the idea of these new Star Wars spinoffs was, folks like me were very disappointed when we found out what the first two would be: A prequel to A New Hope and a Young Han Solo flick that'll probably show us how he got the Millennium Falcon and became BFFs with Chewbacca.
"Ugh. No thank you," we thought.
With so much fertile ground to explore, why tell stories that are so attached-at-the-hip to what we've seen already? Where's that Knights of The Old Republic movie we've dreamt of? Or a Seven Samurai-style Jedi movie? You guys have an entire galaxy to mine from, and you're sticking with movies about the Death Star Plans, and a Han Solo movie starring someone other than Harrison Ford? Why can't you just do exactly what I think you should do?!?
The nerd rage was real. But, as Yoda would say, "Butthurt is the path to the dark side. Butthurt leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." Or something like that.
But in the days since Rogue One's release, as more and more of us have gone out to actually see the film, some of us have started to change our tune. On the film's opening day, Jammer admitted he had Lucasfilm all wrong in this humble "my bad":
Now, far be it from me to ever admit I was wrong about something, but I'm going to take that sentiment a step further: I'm so stupid.
Lucasfilm's strategy with these Star Wars Story flicks is something I've actually applauded when used by a different studio, and it's actually a brilliant one. How could I not have seen it sooner?
Lucasfilm is turning Star Wars into Marvel, and that's a good thing!
Think about it for a second. How did Marvel Studios grow from- basically- a non-entity to the biggest thing in Hollywood? By being very cautious, very conservative, and sticking to their plans.
Sure, they probably could've produced something outside-of-the-box like Guardians of The Galaxy right out of the gate, but they knew the film would turn out better if they built to it. They could've tackled more obscure characters like Doctor Strange and Black Panther in Phase One, but they likely gauged that mainstream audiences wouldn't be ready for all that just yet. So they played it safe; They stuck with familiar faces (Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor), methodically expanding the scope of their Marvel Cinematic Universe, before arriving at films and concepts that would've been a little too-left field in 2008.
Lucasfilm is now doing the same thing with Star Wars. That's why these first two standalone films are so closely linked to the core Saga. The whole thing's an experiment and, in theory, as the years wear on, we'll start to see films that are far more bold with their intentions, and that veer further from the beaten path. They have to expand, in the viewer's mind, what they think Star Wars even is, and do that important legwork, before they can take them on a deep dive into unexplored territory.
Disney owns both companies, of course, and it's likely that Lucasfilm has seen Marvel's playbook and said, "Yes, I'll have what they're having." Similar to Marvel, they're going to release standalone pictures that expand the size of the galaxy, and then celebrate with an Episode; Just as Marvel celebrates with an Avengers showdown. Both kinds of movies will carry their own unique expectations, which is why no one is panicking that Rogue One isn't doing The Force Awakens numbers, and just as Marvel Studios never expected Ant-Man to do what Age Of Ultron did.
"Oh, no! But Marvel movies suck!"
Just as some of you are reading this and going, "That's brilliant! I can't wait until we can get to that Greedo's Revenge movie in Phase 7" there are also folks reading this and groaning to the tune of the "Carol of the Bells." It's true, there are some that are growing tired of the Marvel formula, and can't shake the feeling that all of their films are starting to suffer from a feeling of sameness, so the idea of Star Wars becoming so carefully corporate is probably a very upsetting prospect.
To those people, I offer this encouraging observation:
If ROGUE ONE Was Any Indication, Then The Folks At Lucasfilm Have Bigger Balls Than Kevin Feige Or Anyone Else At Marvel.
Just think about that for a second. While Marvel is often- and rightfully- criticized for being a little too safe and gutless with their films, look at what Lucasfilm just did. They released Rogue One, a film where every single protagonist dies before the credits roll! They also followed up the cheerful, adventurous The Force Awakens with a deep, dark war film steeped with emotionally complex undertones and complicated relationships.
So while Lucasfilm seems very welling to mimic what it is that Marvel does so well in terms of expanding their universe, they don't seem willing to homogenize their movies for the sake of making them easier-to-swallow for the masses.
Quality control, people!
They're also better than Marvel in the sense that they seem unwilling to churn out a so-so movie just to make a deadline. They spared no expense, and risked a huge amount of egg on their face, when it came to extensively overhauling Rogue One in order to make it as good a film as possible. While Marvel Studios doesn't mind popping out a subpar, bland movie like Thor: The Dark World just to keep things moving, Lucasfilm seems almost allergic to the idea of releasing a movie until it meets their standards. They even delayed The Force Awakens and threw out Michael Arndt's original script. These people don't mess around, and refuse to simply "cash in" on the Star Wars name.
As part of this commitment to quality, there's also been no mention of there ever being more than one Star Wars movie per year- while Marvel is going to start releasing three flicks a year starting in 2017.
If all that's not an encouraging sign for the future of the Star Wars galaxy, then I don't know what is.
It's become quite clear that Lucasfilm is giving Star Wars the MCU treatment, and that we'll have to be somewhat patient with them as they get to their equivalent of Guardians of The Galaxy (which came out six years after Iron Man started everything) and Black Panther (which is still almost a year and a half away!). Yet there's reason to be optimistic that Lucasfilm is only borrowing the best parts of Marvel's approach, and discarding the rest.
Lucasfilm, you are the Force, the Force is with you.