A wise man once said that “less is more.” What utter horror that man might have seen upon viewing the current state of the Star Wars franchise, had he been born a few centuries later and been a longtime fan of the saga like yours truly.
Alright, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but I can’t help but feel like we’re moving toward a concerning trend of oversaturation with the amount of Star Wars content Disney has pumped out as of late. Forgive me as I don my bright red everything-new-sucks hat, but Star Wars really just ain’t all it used to be.
If the lukewarm reception to “The Book of Boba Fett” is any indication, fans simply aren’t too thrilled with the direction Disney is taking with some of their most-cherished characters.
Let’s look at Fett specifically, a character with historically little-to-no character development in the mainline canon, aside from his drastically differing presence in “Attack of the Clones” and “The Clone Wars” animated series. You’d think fans would be thrilled to finally get a full glimpse at the man beneath the mask of the stoic man hunter.
But what Disney failed to realize is that Boba Fett’s reputation as a bad*** anti-hero and a man of few words is what made him such a compelling character. He was alright in “The Mandalorian” season two, largely because he was relegated to a background role that allowed him to maintain much of his strong-but-silent persona. By making him the central focus of the story, Disney exposed Fett’s lack of potential as a lead, as well as Temuera Morrison’s limitations as a leading man. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy to death, but it’s just not the role he's suited for.
The absence of these obstacles is largely why the latter half of “The Book of Boba Fett'' was more positively received and far more enjoyable; it again forced Fett into a backseat role and placed a greater emphasis on the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda. The Mandalorian’s humanity and vulnerability simply make him an easier character to connect with, whereas there’s little to Fett beneath the thick, hardened veneer of a grizzled veteran who’s just now beginning to repent for his sins.
The downfall of “The Book of Boba Fett” is representative of a lesson I think Disney would do well to remember: less is often more, especially in a genre whose early popularity was arguably defined by its aura of mystique. That’s still the case whether we’re talking about the demystification of the Force through the explanation of Midi-Chlorians in “The Phantom Menace” (looking at you, George Lucas), or this more-recent example of the dilution of Boba Fett’s menacing presence. Overexposure is a problem that has plagued the Star Wars franchise for much of the past two decades, but even more so under the Disney regime.
The problem is that Disney is a major corporation, and a very successful one at that. The more content they can churn out, the more lucrative the returns they stand to bring in. In short, milking franchises dry is baked into their business model because it’s more profitable than keeping people waiting three years at a time for a new movie to come out.
That’s where their streaming platform Disney+ comes into play. Not only does it allow for them to release multiple products in a shorter time frame without worrying as much about franchise fatigue, but there’s a stronger sense of choice for the consumer in what they watch and can do at their own pace. With a movie-going experience, there’s more of an obligation for people to go watch within a short time frame, and going to the movies is increasingly becoming less popular.
The versatility of the streaming platform model can tell lots of different stories of lesser importance, as opposed to every storyline needing to be grand and epic in scale. What their motivation really comes down to is Disney maximizing the amount of content they can generate, and through it, the amount of consistent interest and profit they can maintain from intellectual properties like Star Wars.
That brings us to the real crux of the issue. When George Lucas wrote and released Star Wars in the late 1970s, he did so with a vision of a fantastical universe full of possibilities. Star Wars was a visual expression of his artistic aims. The prequels — despite all their flaws — followed this same model.
In fact, I would argue that the prequels’ polarizing nature and unpopularity among many original trilogy purists is further evidence of the idea that Lucas didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought when forming the concept of Star Wars. He was simply putting out the product that he wanted to put out. This idea seems to be best reinforced by the fact that he insisted (much to our cringe-induced agony) on writing the dialogue for the prequels on his own.
Since Disney bought out the intellectual property in 2012, Star Wars has become a watered-down, hyper-commercialized commodity. It’s transitioned from a work of art to a shamelessly pandered entertainment medium. Although they’ve brought on some major cinematic players with brilliant vision (Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau being the most recognizable among them), Star Wars still feels like an empty shell of its former self.
So the question is simple: will we continue to gobble down whatever they feed us, continually banging our fists on the table shouting for more, more, more, or will we demand something better?
I, for one, choose the latter.