Stop It

Stop It: Star Wars

Why do the same franchises, the same stories, the same films (literally) keep happening over and over again, like 'Groundhog Day' at Vue?
28 February 2020, 5:11am
kylo-ren

Star Wars is like global warming or Twitter beef: always happening in the background, even if you're not paying attention. Films, books, the extended animated series, comics, Lego, serialised television. All going, all the time, since 1977.

There's nothing particularly objectionable about Star Wars. The universe, its themes and its characters – all perfectly acceptable (with the exception of Jar Jar Binks, a creature that looks like a horse dick gained sentience and immediately attended a psytrance rave in Stokes Croft). The films, like all good blockbusters, are fun to watch on as big and loud a screen as possible while necking a litre of Ice Blast and holding in your piss. Also, I would watch a literal pile of shit for two hours and 15 minutes if Adam Driver was in it.

However, as time ticks on – as decade after decade slips by and the Star Wars franchise continues to swell in size, eclipsing everything in its path, eclipsing my timeline, eclipsing organised religion – I have to ask: when will it stop?

Along with comic book multiverses and Doctor Who for some reason, Star Wars just goes on and on and on. It has dominated half a century’s worth of pop culture with incessant sequels, prequels, reboots and spin-offs, and shows absolutely no sign of stopping. Some thought last year's Star Wars Episode IX – the end of the most recent four-year saga – would bring an end to things, but some were obviously deluded. Earlier this week, Lucasfilm announced The High Republic – a new literature series that takes place 200 years before The Phantom Menace – which was swiftly followed by confirmation of further films, which will inevitably lead to more 38-year-old men gushing near me about a story set an even longer time ago, in a galaxy the same distance away as last time.

Star Wars is no longer a series of films. It isn't even, as it self-describes, an "epic space-opera media franchise created by George Lucus". It is a monster. A cultural behemoth gobbling up everything in its path and upsetting everyone who isn't a Harry Potter feminist or a child encountering it for the first time – which would also be fine if there were loads of other exciting (or even really terrible!) things going on, and Hollywood wasn't dominated by three franchises shitting out variations on the same film every year. Alas!

The original trilogy was both genre and generation defining, but it will never be able to do the same 50 years later. It can't define a genre it initiated into popular consciousness in the first place, and it can't define a generation without some sort of dramatic change in style. The High Republic at least gives the story a clean slate, rewinding all the way back to the wonder years of the Jedi – and the Venn diagram of people who read Star Wars books and people who watch Star Wars films isn't exactly a perfect circle anyway. But anyone who says that Love Island, for example, is relentless ought to take a look at the Star Wars franchise, which can't go two fucking months without announcing something else.

The real problem, obviously, isn't Star Wars itself, but what is being done with Star Wars – and high grossing franchises in general. Last year saw an end to Game of Thrones as a TV series, but there's still a book to come (which is the only thing most fans actually care about anyway). Last April, Avengers Endgame was the last in a series spanning 11 years, but don't worry: Black Widow comes out in May. Three different versions of the Spider-Man origin story have been told since 2002. There are 25 James Bond films. There is more Harry Potter to come.

We've reached a breaking point of cultural exhaustion. The same franchises, the same stories, the same films (literally) happening over and over again, like Groundhog Day at Vue. The film industry in particular is monopolised by a handful of companies, which operate on a "safe bets only" philosophy because they’re influenced so heavily by the interests of shareholders. Shared experiences may be significant, but it says something tragic about our cultural industries that companies with infinite resources at their disposal spend all their time making cursed live action remakes of 90s animation classics.

To paraphrase an age-old platitude about any franchise that has been flogged to death by capitalism: no one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans. And, ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether it guns for another "landmark" moment or simply rattles on into the abyss, because it’s fucking Star Wars. Longtime fans will continue to stan the animated series, and kids will gobble up Baby Yoda merch like pots of Petit Filou because it’s for them. At the very least, we can be grateful it hasn't become the de-facto metaphor for political unrest.

In the meantime, will someone for the love of god make a new film. I am begging you.

@emmaggarland

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.