Saturday, November 11, 2017

How Much Ice Cream Can You Eat? (A Few Thoughts On Entertainment Franchises)

This post is the direct result of the announcement that Disney is going to produce another Star Wars trilogy, one that will deal with new characters and a new story line.

I'm sure most of you are thinking, "You love Star Wars, don't you Dan? Isn't this great??" Yeah, I love Star Wars. But my definition of Star Wars is the Sacred Original Trilogy. I loved ROGUE ONE, and the CLONE WARS and REBELS animated TV shows are very good. But how much Star Wars do we really need?

To me, Star Wars is supposed to be special--like ice cream. You wouldn't want to eat ice cream three times a day, every single day. THE LAST JEDI will come out this year, and the Han Solo film will come out next year, and in 2019 the final part of the second trilogy is expected to be released. This just announced trilogy is scheduled to begin in 2020...which means we are probably going to have new Star Wars movies every year in the immediate future.

The films in the original Star Wars trilogy were released three years apart--and as a kid that seemed an interminable time. But it made you anticipate and appreciate the movies even more. It made the movies seem more special.

I fully understand why Disney is cranking out as much Star Wars product as possible. I have no problem with people trying to make money off of creative endeavors--that's something I want to do myself someday. But with all these titles coming out, it's easy to foresee the watering-down of the Star Wars Universe.

Just because you slap the Star Wars label onto something doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be good. You can make a rom-com, and put Bib Fortuna in it for five minutes, and technically you can call that a Star Wars film. As we have learned from the prequels, finding out more information about the Star Wars Universe doesn't guarantee to increase our enjoyment of it.

My friend Will McKinley (not the 25th President of the United States) has warned of "Star Wars Fatigue". Is it possible to be tired of Star Wars?? Maybe...but I think it has to do more with "Franchise Fatigue" than Star Wars in particular.

We live in an age of Geek Culture. One of the most important elements of Geek Culture is that you don't just watch filmed entertainment--you obsess over it, you totally envelope yourself in it, you wallow in the minutiae. Being a Geek requires a lot of time and effort...and money.

Think about all the big-time entertainment franchises that are active today. Star Wars, Star Trek, The Walking Dead, the Marvel movies, the DC movies, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Stranger Things...and I've just scratched the surface. There's so much Geek stuff out there that you have to be independently wealthy (and have a lot of time on your hands) to keep up with it all.

The result is that when one of these many Geek Franchise titles comes out, one feels almost obligated to see it. Nearly everything in entertainment is now part of some expanded universe, or part of some vast connection. The idea of an original stand-alone movie, one that does not have well-known characters, and isn't connected with any other medium, seems almost quaint.

I can't tell you how many times over the past few years someone has told me, "Dan, you need to see this movie/TV show because it's the kind of thing you're supposed to like." When you watch something because you're supposed to see it--you're putting it on the same level as getting the oil changed in your car or doing the laundry. The movies and TV shows that I love the most are the ones I discovered on my own. Today it's almost impossible to stumble upon a movie or a TV show, because we are inundated with so much media on everything.

I know I sound like a grouchy uptight white guy (maybe because I am one), but the anticipation of looking forward to the release of a major genre film has lessened considerably for me over the years. It seems that they come out almost every other week now. And when they do come out, they inevitably do not live up to all the internet hype.

When I was a kid, there wasn't a lot of big-time science-fiction movies, or fantasy films, or comic book pictures. In other words, you very rarely got ice cream. Now, you can eat ice cream 24/7, if that's what you want to do.

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