In case you hadn’t heard, Disney-Lucasfilm is putting out a little movie this May called Solo. It’s a Star Wars film and — if you’ve been reading the internet (What? You don’t get all of your news from LRM? Shame!!!!) — some “media” people are already exclaiming that this is too much Star Wars too fast. It’s true that The Last Jedi was just released a couple of months ago. Lucasfilm is reverting back to a summer release schedule, so that explains their decision to release Solo in May. Besides that, though, there is news of two all-new Star Wars trilogies in production and the recent reveal that at least one, and maybe several new television series are in production. Add on top of that the possibility of several more spinoff films, including (hopefully) movies centering around Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and it’s apparent that there is a lot of Star Wars content coming at us. Several people in the media have begun to ask, is this overdoing it?
To these people, I say:
We have precedence for this ridiculous take on the state of Star Wars movies: superheroes. For almost a decade, ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe really began heating up, critics have said that “superhero fatigue” is on the horizon. While Kevin Feige, head honcho of Marvel, laughs at this, it’s a good idea to look at these supposed “problems” and see what we can learn from them in relation to Star Wars.
There Are Too Many Superhero Movies
In 2008, there were six superhero films released (I’m counting the spoof comedy Superhero Movie but not the assassin-centric comic book movie Wanted — if you disagree, “at” me on Twitter at @LRM_Brian). Punisher, Hulk and Iron Man all hit the theaters that year, so it was already pretty Marvel-centric, but keep in mind that the MCU hadn’t even ramped up yet. The fever pitch of “superhero fatigue” didn’t hit until Age of Ultron in 2015. That year, a grand total of … four superhero films landed. This year, there are nine, including two animated films — The Incredibles and Teen Titans Go.
Is nine a lot? Depends on who you ask. But here’s the point: people began crying of “superhero fatigue” years ago, even during years that featured less than half of this year’s haul. It’s reasonable to ask if there is enough content out there to keep making superhero movies at this level, but I think the resounding reception to Wonder Woman and the massive pre-sales of Black Panther are evidence of a still-huge appetite among film-goers.
In contrast, Lucasfilm wants to release one Star Wars movie a year. Seems kinda silly to worry about that release schedule, huh?
The Movies Are All The Same
A huge critique of Marvel movies is that they all feel the same. There is action, some drama, some humor and the fate of the world is at stake. This was a very pertinent question around 2015, when Age of Ultron was released. Just a few years earlier, we had seen the first Avengers, then an off-kilter but funny Iron Man 3, then the hilarious Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m not sure, though, if this critique was ever accurate. In today’s MCU, though, it’s definitely far from the truth. Black Panther looks pretty serious. Thor: Ragnarok was a slapstick space comedy. Spider-Man: Homecoming was also funny, but much more grounded in a teen comedy format. Doctor Strange had some funny bits but drew on an Inception-meets-kung-fu vibe instead. The apocalyptic Avengers: Infinity War looms large in the distance. These are all very different movies.
Beyond that, you have the classically-styled Wonder Woman and the dour and gritty Snyder-verse DCEU movies. The meditative Logan and, while not well-liked, the body-horror sci-fi film Fantastic Four reveal a high level of depth within the superhero genre. Simply put, these movies are only “all the same” to someone who isn’t looking very hard. Will Star Wars suffer from this non-issue? It was unquestionably a concern after The Force Awakens didn’t bother being much more than a nostalgia trip. Yet, Rogue One and The Last Jedi each tilted the Star Wars formula. Solo looks like it’s ready to do the same and, with only a single Star Wars film coming out each year, I wouldn’t bet on this being an issue.
Audiences Are Losing Interest
One of the craziest critiques of superhero films is that audiences are beginning to lose interest in them. If there is a segment of the audience losing interest, it seems to be only those members of the media who write such hot takes. Six of the top twelve movies in 2017 were superhero films. That goes with four of the top ten in 2016 and four of twelve in 2014. Perhaps 2015 gave us this impression when only Age of Ultron cracked the top 10? Regardless, superheroes are making billions at the box office and fans show zero signs of slowing down. That said, no superhero film has led the box office in the last three years. The reason? A Star Wars movie has. That’s how popular that series is. And even if Solo doesn’t lead for the year — it’s facing tough competition from fellow Disney flick Avengers: Infinity War and is competing in the densely-packed summer movie season, a Solo Star Wars movie that grosses anything above $600 million worldwide is still a financial success, if not necessarily hitting any internal targets at Disney-Lucasfilm. If Solo gets close to or breaks a billion again, though? Regardless of if it’s the year’s highest grosser, that’s a resounding success.
These Movies Are Creatively Bankrupt
Usually, a take from the same critics who say all superhero movies are nothing but mindless action and that sequels are bad for the movie business, the low level of grumbling about the lack of creativity in superhero films always reaches a zenith anytime a Justice League-sized bomb opens in the local cineplex. Nevermind that NO MCU MOVIE EVER has scored a “rotten” rating on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Nevermind that Wonder Woman and Black Panther are both hailed as landmark films. Nevermind that The Incredibles 2 is a sequel to one of the most beloved animated films of all time and that Pixar has a great track record with sequels.
If critics want to state a case about the lack of imagination in superhero films by cherry-picking the worst examples, they’ll have to do so while ignoring the overwhelming evidence. Meanwhile, Disney-Lucasfilm has shown its own critical success with The Force Awakens, Rogue One and, despite what some fans on the internet say, The Last Jedi. If Solo can’t manage a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it will be only the second Star Wars film to fail to do so and the first ever to fail on its opening weekend (The Phantom Menace was originally “fresh” and only fell below the 60% threshold as naval-gazing critics weighed in years after its release).
All of the above clearly indicates that there is no “superhero fatigue.” Before anyone gets excited about the possibility of “Star Wars fatigue,” let’s allow history to educate us a bit. One Star Wars film a year isn’t too many and those people in the media who seem to want to push this agenda are likely hoping to ride the wave of The Last Jedi haters to extra clicks and message board controversy. But hey, that’s just my take. What do you think? Disagree with me below or – even better – tell me I’m right! What’s your take?