Lucasfilm could stand to learn some important lessons from the DCEU. The studio has had a polarizing year. Star Wars: The Last Jedi may have grossed over $1.3 billion at the global box office, but the film divided the fanbase. Solo's box office performance has been shockingly poor; when the movie leaves cinemas, it's expected to have failed to recoup its budget by over $50 million. Right now, Lucasilm is desperately attempting to work out what lessons need to be learned. The fate of the anthology films is uncertain, and Disney and Lucasfilm are reportedly done taking risks on up-and-coming directors.
Marvel Studios make it look so easy, but it's becoming clear that it takes a lot of skill and hard work to build an effective cinematic universe. Lucasfilm is hardly the first studio to struggle to accomplish this. Universal's "Dark Universe" didn't exactly get off to a good start with last year's The Mummy. Lucasfilm isn't in nearly such troubled waters, with 3 bona fide box office smashes under its belt post-Disney, but the fumbling of Solo raises a number of major question marks over the universe's path forward.
The studio whose difficulties have been most well-documented is undoubtedly Warner Bros., whose nascent DCEU launched to controversy and critical derision. Over the course of the last year, Warner Bros. seem to have gotten things under control, and there's now a growing sense of direction and momentum to the DCEU. The studio is reportedly confident of Aquaman, which is due to release in December; marketing for Shazam! is on-brand, and there's a positive buzz about the film; and the Wonder Woman brand has simply never been this strong.
Having learned a number of difficult lessons the hard way, Warner Bros. experience could actually prove really valuable to Lucasfilm, in that it would show the studio exactly what to focus on. So let's examine the lessons that Lucasfilm could learn from the DCEU.
This Page: Not All Movies Have To Be Blockbusters
Not All Movies Have To Be Giant Blockbusters
This is the first, and possibly the most important lesson: not every film in a shared cinematic universe has to be a tentpole blockbuster hit. Warner Bros. didn't initially understand this initially, pouring far more money into each movie (other than Wonder Woman) than it needed. While Justice League was the first financial failure of the franchise, most of the previous movies (excluding Wonder Woman, again) were running a far slimmer margin than their reasonable box office takes would suggest.
In theory, Lucasfilm's Star Wars plans should have avoided the mistake. After all, the anthology films are essentially spinoffs from the main Star Wars Saga, largely irrelevant to the ongoing narrative of the beloved Galaxy Far, Far Away. Does it really matter how the Death Star plans were obtained? And do we really need to see how Han Solo rescued Chewbacca? Ironically, though, the anthologies became a victim of their own success. Rogue One grossed over $1 billion in the global box office, and that seems to have persuaded Lucasfilm and Disney that any Star Wars film was simply destined to make bank. The studio had the same kind of expectations for its anthologies as it did for the Star Wars Episodes.
Given that's the case, the box office failure of Solo may well actually be a necessary wake-up call - the same one the DCEU received through the controversy over Batman V Superman and Justice League. It's time for Lucasfilm to begin making mid-budget Star Wars movies, ones that have more realistic box office goals. Those lower-budget films can add a range of tones and styles to the ever-growing Star Wars universe. Even Solo, while it underperformed, is a worthy candidate for a smaller budget. In fact, if the studio had stuck to the original budget, Solo might have actually squeaked into the black.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018