It Appears Disney Is Going All-In on Streaming

So suggests Variety.

This explains what I’ve been wondering about, both here on the blog and on my podcast: Disney’s current strategy of “nothing but live-action reboots and Frozen 2.” It also jibes with the news that they’re done making Star Wars films for the time being (and with the rumors that the test screening for Episode 9 have not been going well).

In a nutshell, movies are too expensive and risky to make when there’s a cheapier method to getting content onto the screen.

If you spend $250 on a movie, you’ve got a single run in theaters plus home-video sales to make your money back. If the movie doesn’t find an audience, that’s a bunch of sales you aren’t going to get.

But if you have a captive audience of people throwing down $7 a month for all of your content, you don’t need to worry so hard. They’re paying, and you just have to keep putting half-way decent content up, and they’ll be happy.

So it appears that the Spielbergs and Scorseses are wrong: this is what cinema is going to be. If a powerhouse like Disney decides it’s not worth it to put Star Wars movies in theaters, then movie theaters are going the way of the dodo.

And Now, More Mindlessly Speculative Guff about Star Wars

First, the rumor mill: reshoots, secret cameos, six different endings, a bunch of “sources say” folderol. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. There’s really no way to know. Even after the movie’s out, we don’t get a lot of facts about what actually goes on in a movie shoot. Until the last Blu-Ray sale, no one wants to go on record.

Also, I’m kinda tired of the idea that it was The Last Jedi that broke Star Wars, as if the last 20 years hadn’t happened. This franchise has been coming apart at the seams for a while.

And honestly, the whole point of doing movies is to re-shoot them if you can. This is especially true of large corporate popcorn movies. Everyone with a stake gets to put their 2 cents in. It’s not inherently bad that they’re trying to please as many of the fans as they can.

Still, not a good look.

Then we’ve got completely speculative horse-puckeys about what can even be done with the story at this point:

This sounded terrifyingly plausible to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s what’s happening. My instinct says that Skywalker is going to be blandly competent and mildly forgettable. But again, this could also be wrong. Every thought and process we have about this right now is locked into essentially the same place it was in the Prequel era – Please don’t suck, please don’t suck, please don’t suck.

Because, Solo aside, they haven’t done anything to expand the universe (Solo was a good movie. It didn’t deserve its fate). It’s the same blues-vs-reds that it was before, only now it’s done with different sensibilities and feels about 20% as fresh. And maybe that’s because we’re all too wrapped up in it as fans. Fandom is inherently obsessive and perspective-warping. Turning enjoyment into devotion messes up the relationship between art and audience.

The question is, when Lucasfilm busted its ankles to profit from that devotion, and still does, do they not bear some responsibility for that skewed relationship? Especially when they feel no obligation to the art as anything other than a bland corporate product? It’s hard to find much sympathy for an organization that refuses to manage basic continuity in what’s supposed to be an ongoing story.

But again, nobody knows. And my attitude has become so clinical and noncommittal towards this, that I’m beginning to ask myself if I even care.

Economist Crunches Numbers, Makes Box Office Condemn “The Last Jedi”

This post by Captain Capitalism falls under the category of Interesting, With Caveat.

In essence, he calculates Box Office As a Percentage of GDP, to evaluate the relative success of the Star Wars Movies in 1977 vs. today.

Naturally, A New Hope tops the list, bringing in .035% of the US GDP.

Solo does the worst, at .0019% GDP.

The blogger/economist thus observes that “Kathleen Kennedy wiped out 95% of the Star Wars franchise value”.  He then twerks the numbers a bit more, and gives us a more conservative, mere 75%.

Which, as I said, is interesting, and certainly grist for the mill of those who want to make Kathleen Kennedy the Palpatine of Lucasfilm.

But.

We cannot know, at this point, if Solo was an outlier or not. The narrative – that fans boycotted Solo in protest of The Last Jedi, is commonplace, and indeed was argued on this very blog. But we can’t call it a trend yet. Solo had things wearing it down in addition to the reaction to Last Jedi, such as the fact that no one wanted it in the first place. If Episode IX returns to the mean, then that means: a) Solo tanking had nothing to do with any boycott, b) said boycott has run its course, or c) the fan base is gaining new members to replace the old ones. And any of those will mean that the conclusion – that Kathleen Kennedy destroyed Star Wars – will be inoperative.

Also, the data suggests that, Solo notwithstanding, The Disney films are doing about as well as the Prequels. Force Awakens more or less ties Phantom Menace at .011% GDP, while Rogue One and The Last Jedi do about the same as Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Now, it is absolutely damning with faint praise to defend the Disney SW films by saying “they’re doing as well as the Prequels”. But if that’s true, then as I’ve been saying, the real damage was done to the franchise 20 years ago, and Kathleen Kennedy is merely the golem operating under George Lucas’ ghostly hand.

If Episode IX does fail, then Kennedy will certain deserve opprobrium for taking a profitable if damaged franchise and driving a stake through its heart. But if it doesn’t, then we must all revise our narratives.

 

And Now For Some Mindlessly Speculative Guff About Star Wars Episode 9

Get obsessed over product, swine!

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Actually, this article at Digital Spy  hews very close to verifiable fact, and leaves the theoretical where it belongs.

A few pertinent facts:

  • Mark Hamill will be back.
  • Previously shot footage of Carrie Fisher will be used, rather than CGI.
  • We’ll also see Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
  • Most of the cast of The Last Jedi will be back, including Benicio Del Toro, Kelly Marie Tran, and Laura Dern.

These are interesting, but by no means surprising, nor as relevatory as we might want. Back in May, I made some predictions about Episode IX, one of which has been basically confirmed (the return of Hamill/Luke), and one of which has been made more likely (The Finn/Rose or “Frose” romance, as both are predictably back), and one of which has become rather unlikely (The Kylo/Rey or “Reylo” Romance, as Disney is adamant that the Skywalker Saga is ending here).

But these things are not known. Luke fading into the Force at the end of Last Jedi probably means his return will be as a blue-outlined ghost a la Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda, but Abrams might hard-cut away from Rian Johnson and slap together some internal logic of Force Rebirth that would give us real, actual Luke. Do I think that will happen? No. Do I discount it? Also no.

Same with Frose. Maybe they have these characters in LUV, or maybe Rose gets killed in the first act, and Finn is Sad about it. Or maybe both.

As for the End of Skywalker, let me shove my glasses back up my nose and point out that a child of Kylo Ren would not be surnamed Skywalker, but Solo. And Disney ain’t said nothing about that. Just sayin’…

But again, these are all useless, deeply hedged, speculations. Until we see a trailer, we have no idea what will happen, and we really won’t then, either. So keep your lightsaber crystals dry.

A Series of Predictions on Upcoming Star Wars Films

Predictions are usually wrong. If Game of Thrones has taught us nothing else, it’s that what we expect to happen is not what’s going to happen at all. I was convinced that all of Snowcean’s Seven was going to die in the Land of Always Winter except Jon Snow. I had a whole theory posted to reddit, in which I declared that every single one was going to be murdered before our eyes as one last reminder that we should get attached to no one. I thought I had it figured out. I thought I’d drilled down to the show’s source code.

It’s hilarious how wrong I was.

So I’m fully comfortable with any one of these being dead wrong.

Let’s dance.

Predictions for Solo, Which Comes Out This Month

Han-Solo-Movie-Poster-Star-Wars-Characters-Revealed

  • Everyone will go in with very low expectations. The rumor about this film is that it’s been a giant clusterbomb that’s been 90% reshot. Everyone who hated The Last Jedi will have all guns trained on it, ready to blast it to hell.
  • It will not suck. It will not be brilliant. It will not become anyone’s favorite SW film. But it won’t suck. It will be entertaining. I will like it better than Rogue One.
  • The story won’t have much if anything to do with the main SW plot. We won’t see Vader, we won’t see Leia, we won’t see Obi-Wan Kenobi. It will be entirely about being a criminal smuggler under the Empire.
  • People’s reactions will very from “meh” and “whatever” to”That was better than I thought,” “actually kind of fun,” and “Best SW Prequel.” There will even be some “better than Last Jedi” (there will also be some “worse than Last Jedi“).
  • It will do decent box office. People will have a bunch of dumb arguments about What That Means.

Predictions for Star Wars Episode IX, Which Comes Out Next Year

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  • Whatever the title will be, people will moan about it, even though it will follow the same Flash Gordon/Republic Serial formula as the rest of them.
  • When the trailer drops, dorks will film themselves reacting to it. Because they’re dorks.
  • “Reylo” is going to happen. Kylo Ren and Rey are so into each other I half expected them to kiss after they were done fighting Snoke’s guards. The plot will involve some manner of plot device that will put them together, to give them a final scene. I’m not sure I can predict it, but if Rey finishes the film preggo with the Last Scion of Skywalker/Solo, I will not be shocked.
  • “Frose” will probably also happen, and it will be irritating. Rose kissing Finn in Last Jedi was easily the most tired, shoehorned, lifeless thing about it. The hug between Rey and Finn carried way more emotion, affection, and mild erotic charge. A giant Love Quadrangle involving both of these couples is not out of the question.
  • I hesitate to make other plot predictions, but given that the whole Superweapon device has been beaten to death, I intuit that the maguffin will be some kind of mystical energy resource, of ancient Jedi or ancient Sith lineage. I’m thinking holocrons or something similar.
  • We will see Ghost Luke. I don’t care if Mark Hamill declares under oath that he has no involvement with this film. Believe nothing until you see it.
  • I have this fond hope that we will also see Ghost Anakin, so everyone can get nice and angry about seeing Hayden Christensen in SW again, but also so Anakin can righteously denounce his errant grandson. I would enjoy that. Odds of it happening: enh.

I will make no further predictions until the teaser or the trailer (i.e. the trailer and the longer trailer) give me something to make informed wild guesses about.