Disney’s first Star Wars film only hit theaters five years ago, but excitement for the series has already faded. Box office reports of the latest trilogy, Rogue One, and Solo show a steep downward trend, especially compared to its predecessors. Meanwhile, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is over a decade old and has never been stronger. Avengers: Endgame, a culmination of 10+ years of stories, beat out Avatar to become the biggest movie of all time. So why has interest in the MCU endured over 23 movies and 12 years when moviegoers are already exhausted with Star Wars? The answer may not be as simple as you think.

Lucasfilm can certainly be criticized for its handling of the brand, but Star Wars fatigue isn’t solely the result of poor decision making at the top. Truthfully, its footing was never as secure as the MCU’s. No matter the quality of the films, Star Wars was always going to struggle to retain the attention of moviegoers. Here are just a few reasons why Marvel Studios continues to excite audiences who have already grown tired of a galaxy far, far away.

Marvel is a confluence of genres, Star Wars is one sub-genre

MCU Star Wars heist

One secret to the MCU’s success is its diversity. Their movies are generally categorized as superhero films but, in reality, Marvel’s output represents wildly different genres. Captain America: The First Avenger is a World War II movie; the second Cap film, The Winter Soldier, is an espionage movie; both Ant-Man films are thinly-veiled heist flicks. Even the original Avengers follows the structure of classic alien invasion movies. Viewers are happy to revisit the MCU multiple times a year because, while the Marvel films have established a consistent tone, audiences still feel like they’re getting something different with every outing.

- Advertisement-

Star Wars, on the other hand, always feels like Star Wars, even when the franchise tries to do something different. Rogue One clearly wants to be a gritty war film focusing on the unsavory elements of the galaxy, but the Star Wars aesthetic gets in its way. Talking droids and Storm Troopers serve as constant and unwanted reminders of the film’s space fantasy roots.

The visual style of the 40 year-old series is incredibly iconic, but that is ultimately to Disney’s detriment. After only five years and five films, Star Wars already felt too familiar to viewers. Disney executives expected an annual franchise but found that audiences weren’t looking for a new Star Wars experience every year.

The MCU is more carefully coordinated

MCU Star Wars feige

Much of the MCU’s success has to be attributed to the man leading the way. Every major studio tried to create its own intertwining movie universe, but those initiatives keep failing because they didn’t have someone like Kevin Feige. Feige has a rare gift for building larger storylines and frameworks which make the MCU feel cohesive but (usually) don’t hamper the creative visions of the filmmakers. 

The new Star Wars trilogy felt less carefully coordinated than the entire last decade of the MCU. The Lucasfilm Story Group tried to mimic the model of the original Star Wars trilogy by handing each chapter of the trilogy to a different director, but didn’t designate a single individual with the last word on story decisions.

During the production of the original trilogy, George Lucas was the steady hand guiding the ship. Even when he had a co-writer, he was the one responsible for the story. Episodes VII-IX, on the other hand, lacked a single voice dictating the course of the trilogy, which explains why director Rian Johnson was able to take it in a completely different direction. No matter how anyone feels about The Last Jediallowing Johnson to alter the course of the new trilogy proved disastrous for Lucasfilm.

Following Episode IX, audiences feel soured on Star Wars. Rise of Skywalker abandons the themes and characters introduced in The Last Jedi. At the same time, it fails as a viewing experience in its own right. Based on reactions from critics and fans alike, neither side of fandom left the theater totally pleased with the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga.

Indiewire shared a rundown of reactions to the film. Last Jedi fans were, of course, frustrated by Rise of Skywalker‘s dismissal of key characters and plot points. But the majority of viewers sampled also admitted that the film felt bloated and at times nonsensical. The uneven-to-negative sentiment to Episode IX and the franchise as a whole could have been avoided with a more confident, capable hand steering the multi-billion dollar franchise, which is why the recent news of a Star Wars movie produced by Feige, a man whose track record with the MCU is as solid as Lucas’ with the original trilogy, is so enticing.

Marvel distribution is malleable; Star Wars is trapped in its cycles

MCU Star Wars Force Awakens

Once it acquired Lucasfilm, Disney had virtually no choice but to initiate a new Star Wars trilogy. Since the franchise followed a specific template for decades, moviegoers expected a three-film series tying up the Skywalker Saga. But that structure posed several challenges.

Disney, seeing dollar signs in its eyes, decided to release a new Episode every two years. As a result, the end of production on one film bumped up against the start of production on the next. The Star Wars Story Group had little time to ensure the series felt like one multi-film epic instead of three separate parts. Disney wanted to milk its cash cow for all its worth but put the cart before the horse, forcing the corporation to put Star Wars on a brief (but costly) hold.

Due to how much significance Disney and fans placed on the trilogy, the films released between chapters of the Skywalker Saga felt inconsequential. Solo was the franchise’s first major box office disappointment. After viewers satisfied their curiosity with Rogue One, they seemed to decide they weren’t interested in Star Wars side stories. That forced Disney to shut down production on several projects in development, including movies starring Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi (before the now-delayed Disney+ series was revealed.)

Feige’s Star Wars entry is a standalone film, which may be a wise strategy for the brand’s entire slate of movies. By not prioritizing any one film or trilogy over the rest of its output, Lucasfilm may persuade audiences that every new Star Wars movie matters again.

MCU Star Wars Cameos

Marvel Studios was able to chart its own path, unconstrained by what came before. Feige and his team started with the production of Iron Man and Incredible Hulk. Incredible Hulk features a Tony Stark cameo that ties the movies together, but not to the extent that it dictated Marvel’s future plans.

Marvel Studios continues to introduce new franchises rather than just milking its existing IP. Thanks to that strategy, Marvel doesn’t rely on any individual property. The end of Avengers: Endgame says goodbye to two of its most lucrative film franchises, but no one seems concerned about the future success of the MCU. 

Plus, because it’s made up of so many different parts, Marvel Studios can gauge audience reaction to determine which paths to go down. Everything is expendable because Marvel Studios isn’t dependent on a single character or franchise. Every Marvel property following Hulk has received a sequel. But, if a movie ever fails to meet expectations, Marvel can reposition itself and chart a different course to the same destination. 

Iron Man has always loomed large, but Marvel Studios developed a world rich enough to live on without its first hero. As vast as the Star Wars universe is, the first seven movies all focused on one Jedi lineage. When Disney tried to stray from that, the films immediately felt like side stories. Thanks to smart decision making and the deft hand of Kevin Feige, there are no side stories in the MCU (on the film side, at least). Everything ties together.

Starting in 2022, Star Wars films will trade off December releases with James Cameron’s Avatar sequels. But the jury’s out on if audiences will even be excited about a Star Wars movie every other year. The omnipresence of the brand diminishes its value. For decades, new Star Wars felt like something to treasure while we had it because we never knew when it would be back. Now that the brand is owned by Disney, Star Wars will stick around as long as it’s expected to net a profit while not damaging it to an unrepairable extent.

All fans hope that Lucasfilm impresses us with its next era of Star Wars. But Disney clearly has to rethink its use of the iconic series, especially now that it’s seen how it measures up to the continued success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

12 COMMENTS

  1. No franchise is more dependent on nostalgia than Star Wars. That’s why some fans go berserk when anyone tries to take it in a different direction, as Rian Johnson did. LAST JEDI is the best of the five SW movies produced since Disney took over. But it upset people who want their childhood toys to stay the same.

    SW isn’t “winding down.” It will continue, though the emphasis may be more on TV and streaming than theatrical movies. That will also happen to the MCU, as Disney gradually gets out of the movie biz and becomes a TV/streaming company. Bob Iger has bet the company’s future on streaming.

    RISE OF SKYWALKER was a watchable but far from great movie. I don’t intend to see another SW movie. Now that Han, Luke and Leia are all dead, I’m done with it. The future adventures of Rey, Poe and Finn don’t interest me.

  2. “Since the franchise had been following a specific template for decades, moviegoers expected a three-film series tying up the Skywalker Saga. But that structure posed several challenges.” This is what happens when you buy a franchise instead of creating one. Fans have long been teased a 9 part story from Lucas. If Disney didn’t have a plan for a concluding trilogy, they shouldn’t have bought the franchise. Fans realize when they’re being taken advantage of, and that’s what Solo and Rogue One proved as the strategy was rolled out. Disney said one saga movie every 24 months, with some fill in film in between. Turns out they didn’t have a trilogy plan, and the fill ins were pandering nonsense. Mandalorian succeeds because it it’s a different story. They still think anyone wants a part 10 movie??? Put that in the bin with other overplayed franchises like Fast and the Furious. No one expects anything from those.

  3. “LAST JEDI is the best of the five SW movies produced since Disney took over. But it upset people who want their childhood toys to stay the same.”

    LAST JEDI is an objectively bad film. It might be slightly better than RISE OF SKYWALKER but that’s almost entirely because ROS has to move mountains to try and repair the damage done by LJ.

    And why would any grownup want to play with someone else’s childhood toys? Why can’t you at least get your own toys or…you know…maybe enjoy grownup things instead?

    Mike

  4. Mike, there’s no such thing as an “objectively” good or bad movie. All opinions about quality are subjective, including your own lowbrow, stuck-in-seventh-grade opinions.

  5. “Mike, there’s no such thing as an “objectively” good or bad movie.”

    That’s like saying spoiled meet doesn’t taste “objectively” bad. That’s like saying there’s no difference between good and bad people. Not everything is subjective and it’s only adolescents who think otherwise.

    Just because you like something, that doesn’t make it “good.” Just because you dislike something, that doesn’t make it “bad.” Maybe a movie is plotted like crap but you don’t care because you love the characters. Maybe a movie has characters flatter than pancakes but you don’t care because the plot is brilliant. But you liking one part of a film doesn’t magically make the crappy part of the movie disappear. It doesn’t even mean the part you like is any good. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but not all opinions are equal.

    In the thousands of years human beings have been telling stories, certain rules and standards of good and bad storytelling have developed. They may not be 100% unbreakable but that doesn’t mean they NEVER apply. The idea that “good” or “bad” storytelling is solely based on personal opinion is immature and probably explains why so many supposed grownups nowadays just want to play with other people’s childhood toys.

    Mike

  6. Mike, not everything is subjective, but certainly all art is subjective.

    Part of the Star Wars fandom strongly disliked The Last Jedi. Part of the fandom think it’s the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back. Neither of them are right or wrong, it’s just all a matter of opinion. The Last Jedi was very highly critically acclaimed. It ended up on a lot critics lists of the best movies of 2017. That doesn’t mean, those fans who felt the movie didn’t work for them are wrong. Both experiences are just as valid.

    Going back to the article, I think one of the reasons that people love the Mandalorian is because it has very little bagage attached to it. There was 32 years before the original and sequel trilogy. Also because it looked like Lucas wasn’t going to touch those characters anymore there was plenty of stories being told in novels and comic books.

    It was around 20 or so years of comic books and novels building in a certain direction and then new movies comes out that take things in a very different direction and do things very differently.

    Meanwhile we have a tv show like the Mandalorian that has very little bagage. It pulls from Star Wars lore, but it is new characters on brand new adventures. I’m glad the show didn’t bring in Boba Fett, because no matter what they did with Boba Fett, people likely would have been upset about it.

  7. I’ve heard that this objective/subjective stuff may come from videogame culture, where fans constantly gripe about game reviews being “subjective.” As if there’s any other kind of review.

    This mentality really took hold last summer, when Joker came out. Tweet after tweet accused critics (including The Beat’s critic) of not being “objective” in their reviews.

    There’s no such thing as an objective movie review, because reviews are opinions. Opinions are not objective. (I hope that’s clear now.) Apparently, fans just want a plot synopsis, and maybe a graf about the film’s box office.

  8. This article feels overthought and politically correct. You mention Feige’s genius, but refuse to name Kathleen Kennedy once, instead wracking all the bad decisions up to greedy Disney (which definitely deserves blame)? Kennedy was put in charge of this stage of the franchise and is quietly being replaced by Feige because of she never had a genuine story plan in place. Yes, MCU has every reason to be seen as the astonishing box office success it is, but all Star Wars movies have made the type of money few franchises can touch. It’s the weak characters in unremarkable stories that have created Star Wars fatigue.

    The Star Wars universe has bountiful life in it if directed by knowledgeable people who care and know how hard it is to create memorable stories. The Mandalorian and both Clone Wars cartoons prove that. Blaming fans, as if all of them refuse to accept new characters and settings, is ridiculous. These series did both and were rightfully praised.

    It will happen again if passionate creators are given the latitude to create the next generation of Star Wars stories.

  9. No one is going to mention that marvel had years and years of content in their comics to pull from? I expect better from the Beat! I also could only imagine how successful SW would have been if they had used dark empire or Zahn’s books…

  10. “No one is going to mention that marvel had years and years of content in their comics to pull from?”

    Yeah, articles like this give the impression that the Marvel Universe began with the release of “Iron Man” (the movie) in 2008, instead of the publication of Marvel Comics No. 1 in 1939. Even if you date the MU from Fantastic Four No. 1 in 1961, it’s still 16 years older than Star Wars.

    As for me, I was in high school when Star Wars came out in 1977, so it wasn’t part of my childhood. I didn’t spend decades longing for a Boba Fett movie, and I was fine with Rian Johnson turning Luke Skywalker into a bitter old man. This franchise was never sacred to me.

  11. Those decades of comic books can be seen as a low-cost form of research & development. When the movies got rolling, Marvel could use what had worked and omit what had not worked.

    Some of the comments here remind me of an old saying: “Nobody hates Star Wars more than a Star Wars fan.”

  12. MBunge said: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion but not all opinions are equal.”

    I agree. If you think Trump is a good president, you’re wrong.

Comments are closed.