Last year, Disney decided to put the brakes on Star Wars, one of the biggest franchises in its portfolio. The stars stopped streaking as the hyperdrive shuddered to a halt. This move, namely slowing or stopping development on more prequel movies, is intended to fight what is referred to as franchise fatigue. But have fans really had enough of Star Wars, or do they just want good movies?
The event that seemed to indicate this fatigue was Solo: A Star Wars Story not performing as well as expected at the box office, earning just shy of 400 million dollars worldwide and reportedly losing money. As such, the entertainment giant assumed there was too much Star Wars for the consumer base to handle.
Disney also owns the biggest force, no pun intended, in the movie industry right now, and perhaps ever: the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Avengers: Endgame just shattered records by making well over a billion dollars worldwide on its opening weekend alone. For those keeping score, the MCU has released 22 movies in 11 years. Where is the fatigue?
Perhaps what the house of the mouse should acknowledge is that they made bad decisions with Solo, such as launching right after blockbusters Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2. In fact, this timing is particularly egregious when you consider that the former is also a Disney title. I find it difficult to see this decision as anything but hurtful to both titles, although Infinity War ended up having such momentum it barrelled through holding Scrooge-McDuck money bags in its Infinity Gauntlet anyway. In doing so, it almost certainly hit Solo.
Now, Solo is an entertaining movie, but hardly an earth-shattering watching experience. At 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an even lower audience score (64%), it is hardly a critical success. Thus, I do not believe we can credit its performance to “franchise fatigue.” The truth is that as strong a brand as Star Wars is, it cannot turn an average movie into a money-printing machine. We are not tired of Star Wars, we are tired of cynical merchandising. Just slapping the name on any old product, or an average movie, is not enough to make us pull out our wallets. Just ask Electronic Arts.
While the idea of franchise fatigue misplaces the blame, its consequences may be beneficial. Who was really clamouring for a movie starring a young Han Solo? Very few people, and even fewer people want to see a Ben Kenobi or a Yoda flick. There are hardcore fans who do, but I feel confident in stating that the bulk of cinema-goers do not. Quality films are what they want.
Header picture by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash