There is no new Star Wars movie

Friday, 15 August 2008 — 10:14pm | Animation, Film, Star Wars

Before you read any further, observe these choice photographs of costumed Disneyland employees being arrested. They will set the tone.

I’ve noticed a bit of confusion in the air owing to the fact that cinemas are booking something called Star Wars: The Clone Wars this weekend. Lots of cinemas, actually—3,452 at last count, placing it on the order of a big summer release (and take special note of how I’m not going to call it a “film”). Well, the throngs of uninformed consumers out there are the primary audience at the multiplexes anyway, so you might as well cast a wide net.

The fact is, anyone who pays the least amount of attention to Star Wars (and if you aren’t, why would you watch this release?) is, or should be, fully aware that The Clone Wars is nothing more or less than a television pilot for a spin-off series that follows the footsteps of a long line of spin-off series, though the subject matter probably allows for more lightsabre duels and space battles than Droids or Ewoks did back in the ’80s. This might appeal to the individuals who will swallow anything as soon as you stick a Star Wars label on it—refer to your local bookshop’s “Science Fiction & Fantasy Series” shelf for details—but I’m not fooled for a second. I, for one, am quite aware that the seedy underworld of Star Wars spin-offs has historically produced nothing of value whatsoever, with the notable exceptions of Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic, Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2D Clone Wars vignettes, and a couple of choice LEGO sets.

I’m not even speaking to the quality of The Clone Wars, since I haven’t seen it: word has it that it’s dreadful, for all that other people’s opinions matter around here. The fact remains that there is no new Star Wars movie opening this weekend. The film series ended three years ago. Some would go so far as to argue that it ended twenty-five years ago, though they would be wrong.

When the dust settles and the inevitably anemic box office tally comes in, let it be a warning to anybody who thinks projecting television-quality material on underbooked screens confers some sort of legitimacy on the product. It doesn’t. Even Disney found this out years ago in the dying throes of the Eisner regime, when they tried to sneak the likes of Return to Never Land and The Jungle Book 2 under our noses. It confuses the market and dilutes the brand.

This is especially criminal where the Star Wars brand is concerned, because since the inception of the franchise, there has been an invisible line between the core product—the six Star Wars films—and the spin-off money farms of the comics, books, and video games. The existence of The Clone Wars is not news. What is news is the gumption of the folks at Warner Bros. (yes, Warner Bros., not 20th Century Fox) to fire the first salvo across the ceasefire line. It makes a mockery of the possibilities of cinema to remain above and beyond what television and direct-to-video have to offer. Then again, that’s standard practise now, isn’t it?

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2 rejoinders to “There is no new Star Wars movie”

  1. TLG

    Nick:

    Star Wars is the new Star Trek: discuss.

    (In terms of creating a brand, then running it into the ground by going to the well one time too many, then realizing the Rubicon has been crossed, so continuing to churn out an infinite series of inferior yet profitable products.)

    Also, Lego Star Wars is a fantastic spin-off, though not extended universe or a spin-off in the traditional sense, bearing in mind that Star Wars invented merchandising as we know it.

    Saturday, 16 August 2008 at 12:41am

  2. The comparison is a good one, though I think Star Wars has the benefit of having a closed circle of continuity for the core product that, let’s admit it, went out on a pretty high note. Never mind the conventions, toys, Klingon dictionaries, and Star Trek: The Animated Series. As we saw with Enterprise and Nemesis, declining audience interest forced the backbone of Star Trek (the television show and films) into irrelevance. The Star Wars films are done, and no amount of rot in the brand name is going to change that, short of another round of Special Editions.

    I sometimes think George Lucas gets a bit too much credit for the modern culture of licensing that we see infect every single blockbuster movie today. His impact was enormous, of course, but I believe that a lot of the groundwork had already been laid by Walt Disney—and they are two very similar businessmen, if you think about it.

    LEGO hit upon something truly ingenious when it started associating itself with licenses like Star Wars (because, let’s face it, we LEGO kids were building X-Wings anyway), but I do miss the days of Pirates and Black Knights.

    Wednesday, 20 August 2008 at 2:13am

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