Did Rise of Skywalker Save Star Wars?

March 7, 2020

 

Probably not.

 

But two words do not an entertaining blog post make, and the answer is obviously more complicated than that.

 

First of all, the question posed in the title is really 2 questions:

 

  1. Is Star Wars still a viable investment for Disney in the wake of The Rise of Skywalker?

  2. Are fans satisfied with The Rise of Skywalker’s attempt to repair the damage done by The Last Jedi?

 

Does Disney still value Star Wars?

 

To answer the first question, I started by taking a look at the movie’s box office performance relative to its budget and the other two movies’ performance.

 

The Force Awakens grossed $2.07 billion with a budget of $306 million.

 

The Last Jedi grossed almost two-thirds of that: $1.33 billion with a budget of $317 million.

 

And The Rise of Skywalker did $1.07 billion from a budget of $275 million.

 

If this was a series of ebooks by an indie author, I would call this performance pretty good, though the fall-off between movies 2 and 3 is higher than you’d typically want to see.

 

That is, if you make about half as much money on book 2 as you did on book 1, that’s considered a decent performance. But we’d want to see book 3 make at least 90% as much as book 2, whereas Rise of Skywalker only did 80% of what The Last Jedi did.

 

Of course, as we all know, Star Wars generates way more cash through merchandise than through films.

 

And reports have been consistent in recent years of merchandise sales falling.

 

We also need to consider the total revenue against Disney’s initial purchase of Lucasfilm for $4 billion, but according to this article, they recouped that investment after 6 years.

 

That’s touted as an accomplishment, but is Disney truly happy with the investment it made?

 

Judging by falling merchandise sales, cancelled movies, and the rash of firings in the wake of The Last Jedi, as well as the confusion and conflict surrounding the latest movie’s filming…

 

…it’s difficult to say that with confidence.

 

Did The Rise of Skywalker fix Star Wars for fans?

 

As for whether the newest movie ‘fixed’ Star Wars…that question is perhaps even more complicated.

 

Arguably, Disney broke Star Wars well before releasing The Last Jedi, by declaring everything in the Expanded Universe to no longer be canon, calling those stories “Legends” instead.

 

That’s like buying a religion with a mammoth following, and then telling its devotees that their god is dead. Our Chris Fox persuasively discusses the sacrilege Disney has committed in fans’ eyes here.

 

Ultimately, I can only talk about my experience with the movie. After The Last Jedi, I entertained fantasies of boycotting the franchise altogether, as I’m sure a lot of fans did.

 

But after being sucked into The Mandalorian and loving it (see our Christian Kallias’ review of that excellent show here), I decided to give The Rise of Skywalker a chance.

 

 

My friend and I are both Star Wars fans, and we’ve been going to see whatever new movie just came out every Christmas. It’s become a tradition for us, and I decided I didn’t want to break it just because I was still salty about The Last Jedi.

 

And Solo.

 

I thought The Rise of Skywalker exceeded expectations.

 

Problem is, expectations weren’t high.

 

J.J. Abrams, and everyone else who had their fingers on this movie, were clearly trying hard to win fans back.

 

The fact Rey inexplicably had awesome powers from the get-go was retroactively explained by her being Palpy’s granddaughter. That doesn’t really fix the fact that the story of the first two films were compromised by her Mary Sue-ness, but whatever.

 

Just having Ian McDiarmid’s awesomely campy Emperor back for the movie went a long way, even though his return sort of invalidates Anakin being the chosen one who rebalanced the force. Apparently we’ll get a better explanation for that from the upcoming novelization, so I guess I’ll reserve judgment on that point.

 

The movie had lots of action and plot – so much so that at times it felt like two movies crammed into one.

 

But in the end, it could never have the same sense of triumph as Return of the Jedi, because Rey’s character arc simply isn’t as dynamic and satisfying as Luke’s was.

 

He started off as a feckless farm boy who had to train hard to become a Jedi. She started off as one of the most powerful force users in the galaxy – Palpatine’s granddaughter, apparently.

 

Will Star Wars Be Okay?

 

Yes.

 

It’ll be fine, from both perspectives we’ve looked at in this blog post.

 

Why?

 

The Mandalorian.

 

The show recaptures the spirit of the original Star Wars, delighting fans by offering a blaster-slinging bounty hunter dropped into a familiar story with a dash of something new (the spaghetti-Western-style sci-fi, although that was always an element Star Wars, just more understated than it is here).

 

Not only that, but The Mandalorian got Disney Plus off to a roaring start, and once Baby Yoda merchandise hits in March (as our Jonathan Yanez details here), Disney is going to rake it in.

 

Baby Yoda has colonized the internet, and everyone and their Tauntaun is going to want to own a physical manifestation of that meme.

 

The Mandalorian proves that Star Wars is still a viable venue for excellent, enduring stories.

 

Hopefully Disney makes good on that promise.

 

Find Scott Bartlett's space opera novels here.

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