A canon too far

A billboard featuring Harrison Ford

As we move into 2017 the era of the mega franchise is truly upon us.

It wasn’t that long ago that just one stand-alone movie or as it was known then, a movie, was more than enough to satisfy us.

The Goonies, Blade Runner and Pulp Fiction are examples of great films that didn’t overstay their welcome, and with the passing of time developed cult status, ensuring their place as classics.

Movie trilogies were few in number up until the turn of the millennium. Star Wars, Back the Future and Indiana Jones are examples of successful trilogies that didn’t return, at least at the time, with a fourth installment.

But now that Hollywood has fully grasped the brand power of movies, and hence a brand’s ability to deliver box office returns time after time, the prospect of not just a trilogy, not just five movies but an unending movie franchise has been created.

Arguably, Harry Potter paved the way as it captivated audiences with eight movies over a ten year period between 1997 and 2007. The Potter franchise proved, for the first time, that the quality and appeal of a franchise doesn’t need to diminish over time.

However the key to Harry Potter’s success was that many of the stories had already been published as highly successful and profitable books.

The story arc of each character and of the overall storyline was a proven hit.

Which is very different to making a sequel simply because the first movie happened to be a hit. Sure, many sequels have been good movies and a few have been great movies. But too many have been a waste of time.

So where does that leave us with Star Wars?

I think a key factor that has kept Star Wars special and fresh over these last few decades, has been the prolonged break between episode six and episode one, and then episode three and episode seven.

In both instances we were left wanting more. We were left to absorb each trilogy’s conclusion. The gap between trilogies, first sixteen years and then ten years, meant that we built up a sense of nostalgia. That nostalgia allowed up to revisit our past and enjoy the company of a franchise we know and trust.

But now that Disney/Lucasfilm plan to launch a film each year for the foreseeable future might the launch of a new Star Wars film in 2021 become dull and in the eyes of the public just another Sci-Fi film?

We’ve been lucky so far. The Force Awakens and Rouge One have been very good films. But it is possible that along the way one or more of the films might not hit the mark. Then, a break in the filming schedule would be brought about by necessity, and not design.

There are things that make Star Wars what it is. Some of those things are intangible while some are easily identifiable such as the unique music score and colourful characters. Some of them are physical and structural, such as the prolonged break between trilogies.

This prolonged break might not make short-term financial sense but it does make long-term financial sense. It also allows a new generation of fans to enjoy the thrill of watching Star Wars movie in a theatre for the very first time.

So what will happen? It’s too early to tell at the moment, but I hope that Disney/Lucasfilm see the wisdom of learning from the past.

As someone once said, “Impossible to see, the future is.”

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