Film Discussion

Star Wars: When do we reach saturation point?

Star Wars is everywhere. To the point where you’re reading this ancillary content because a new movie in the series is imminent, therefore Star Wars is everywhere. And although there have been dips in the property’s presence since its 1977 debut, it’s never been too far away. With the backing of their (now) parent company, The Disney Corporation, the ubiquitous presence of the brand quickly raises one question: when do we reach saturation point?

Because the action figures, pencil cases and cereal box tie-ins which seemed so overpowering in the Original Trilogy run of ’77-’83 were nothing (-nothing-) compared to the full-on marketing onslaught that ushered in The Force Awakens. But the same non-essential product can’t be sold to the same audience at the same (or increasing) rate indefinitely. So where does it end? It’s not so much a question of ‘how much longer can this ride go on?’, but rather ‘how much more intensive will Disney/Lucasfilm make it, before it burns out?’. While eyebrows were raised at the recent announcement of ‘the next ten years‘ , remember that Star Wars media has been a full-on, going concern since 1997’s Special Edition re-release, even if that concern hasn’t always included imminent movies.

But since Disney’s acquisition, tentpole blockbusters are once again the sharp tip of the sales-pitch spear, almost continually prodding the target audience with set-photos, teasers, trailers, TV-spots and of course tie-in merchandising. As one mogul once observed, ‘you may choose not to see this film, but you will know it’s playing…’.

While this once-a-year jaunt is manageable for the casual viewer, the cinema visits and Blu-ray hoarding are just one spinning plate for the hardcore Star Wars fan. With the revitalised elements of the animated TV series, Marvel comic lines and Del Rey novels more firmly occupying the same canonical timeline, the near constant release of content can begin to feel overwhelming even for the completist.

Because let’s not forget, George Lucas’ greatest achievement in 1977 was his creation of an army not of Imperial Stormtroopers, but of completists. It’s not so much the financial cost of collecting which is ominous (although we certainly shouldn’t dismiss that aspect), but the time spent consuming media after purchase. Audiobooks are handy for the fan who’s on the go, and the advent of the tablet computer in general has been a godsend now that most content can be delivered digitally.

A hobby, or more properly a fandom, should never feel like a chore; a list of things to do before relaxing. But now that Lucasfilm feels confident enough to begin exploring the prequel-era in spin-off media, they’re effectively telling intertwined stories across three time-settings. And past gripes with the ‘Before the Battle of Yavin’ timeframe aside, if you fall within Lucasfilm’s target audience, you will want to consume this extra material.

We only have to look at the Disney’s Marvel-model to see that there’s plenty of gas left in Lucasfilm’s pop culture tank. While a new Star Wars feature once a year can feel relentless to the audience who remember three-year gaps (or longer) between installments, bear in mind that Marvel Studios have put out seventeen cinematic entries of a series in under a decade. Three of those have been in 2017 alone, a previously unimaginable release-pattern for any major studio, let alone one which maintains such a high standard of quality with each entry.

But Marvel have a firmer plan. Not to end, but to change and evolve, certainly. The Galaxy Far, Far Away is, by definition, a broader canvas. Already working at varying points in the timeline, Lucasfilm don’t have to ramp up releases toward an Infinity War fulcrum. Their stories are ongoing, not a soap-opera by any means but interwoven and independent at the same time. While the MCU progresses through its phases, the GFFA sees themes and events echoing down the generations, often in a non-linear order to the audience’s perception. There are stories to tell everywhere across the galaxy.

So, what does the future hold? More Star Wars. We’ve known for quite a while that new ‘Episodes’ will be coming out long after we stop being around to watch them, but Lucasfilm recently unveiled their plans for a Rian Johnson-helmed trilogy after the current one has run its course, as well as the development of a live-action TV series, the likes of which has been on and off the cards for some years now. And with the House of Mouse working on their own streaming service to host small-screen entertainment, there will be even fewer barriers between the writers’ tables and our living rooms.

How long can this go on for? As long as any galaxy lives, we suppose. And where does it end? Well, those blue words constantly remind us that all this happened a long time ago. While we’re ahead of that temporal curve, maybe it can’t end. It certainly shows no signs of slowing down…

1 comment

  1. At some point, fans are going to have to ask — how much of this am I really interested in or how much can I afford? I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for years now and with the advent of the new series, Big Finish productions, audiobooks of old favorites, comic book adventures, spin-off series and so many other Who-related things, I’ve had to slowly draw a line for msyelf. I keep up with new episodes and I listen to Big Finish audios if they interest me. Beyond that, I would like to someday watch Class and I’ve still not seen season four of Torchwood or the entire run of the Sarah Jane Adventures. Simply because there is only so much time for the content and only a limited amount of resources. I think that Star Wars will be like this as well. You have to pick and choose.

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