The Marvel Formula Won't Work For Star Wars

As Lucasfilm continues to develop a slate of Star Wars spinoff films, a troubling pattern has emerged in the projects the studio is considering. Recently, it was revealed the long-rumored Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone was in early stages, and the powers that be are also discussing possible movies for characters like Yoda, Boba Fett, and even Jabba the Hutt. It's worth pointing out that Disney/Lucasfilm has not officially confirmed any of the titles, but the reports indicate they are all at the very least on the table. Going by the studio's "one film per year" release schedule, fans shouldn't expect these to hit theaters until 2021 at the earliest - following the premieres of The Last Jedi, Han Solo, Episode IX, and Indiana Jones 5 between now and 2020.

When the Mouse House acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 and first discussed the anthology series, they represented something exciting for the Star Wars franchise. While the famous Skywalker saga continued with a sequel trilogy, continuing the stories of original trilogy characters as they pass the torch to a new generation, additional films in the larger series would flesh out the universe by showing the galaxy far, far away is so much larger than just the opera of one family. However, what's been revealed about the spinoffs in the years since illustrates a surprising lack of vision on Lucasfilm's part as they try to emulate the Marvel Cinematic Universe formula of giving everyone a movie. Arguably, that approach isn't the best fit for Star Wars.

Star Wars Is Smaller Than Marvel

Avengers Guardians of the Galaxy crossover Infinity War

Kicking off with the original Iron Man in 2008 and truly becoming the pop culture phenomenon it is today with The Avengers in 2012, the MCU popularized the idea of the shared universe film franchise. In the wake of Earth's Mightiest shattering box office records and earning positive reviews, other studios looked to replicate that success with their own properties. Obviously, Warner Bros. quickly moved the DC Extended Universe through the pipeline, but other attempts included brands that were not part of the comic book genre, like Transformers (which put together a writers room) and Star Wars.

Part of the reason Marvel Studios' approach worked so well is because they were translating what happens in the comics to the big screen. Superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor all have their own standalone series and would cross paths in special lines like The Avengers. As something that had never been attempted on film, Marvel was taking a bit of a risk when they put this plan into action, but they had a solid foundation. The comics have been published for decades, with each title having more than enough material to make a trilogy. There is also a nice variety. Yes, all Marvel productions are under the same umbrella, but the characters are unique in their own corner of the universe. An Iron Man film is different from Guardians of the Galaxy; and Guardians is different from Spider-Man: Homecoming. It's expansive and ripe for years of tentpole films.

In contrast, Lucasfilm is working with a far smaller foundation. Though Star Wars is set in a galaxy far, far away with a rich mythology, the franchise was originally conceived as a simple throwback to the old Flash Gordon serials George Lucas watched in his youth, populated by a tight-knit cast of characters in a story of good against evil. Han Solo's allusions to his past adventures, casual mentions of the Clone Wars, and Obi-Wan's reflections on Anakin/Darth Vader were world-building tools to make the Star Wars universe seem more like ours. Several of these backstory details were insignificant in the grand scheme of things (the 2-hour Rogue One is summed up in a sentence of text crawl) and gave the original trilogy movies a sense of history. They weren't necessarily the launching pads for full-blown spinoffs. For nearly 40 years, many people were OK not knowing exactly how the Rebels stole the Death Star plans or the circumstances that brought Han and Chewbacca together.

The point here is that while Star Wars has the appearance of a giant, ever-expanding universe, the series as currently constructed is much smaller than some might think. Even in the heyday of the old Expanded Universe, all of the stories were Star Wars tales that felt like they were part of the same world. Lucasfilm's stable isn't nearly as full as Marvel's, which limits their options when trying to come up with standalone movies that complement the saga episodes. Right now, they appear to be handcuffed by what was established in the initial six movies, a time period that in-universe spans roughly 35 years and has already had a majority of its most substantial stories told through a variety of platforms. Unless the story group plans on ever really expanding horizons to go either way into the past or future, they may have overestimated what they thought they had. As the old saying goes, some things are better left unknown, and some may wonder what there is to gain from the standalones in development.

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Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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