Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman: “Sequels exist, as art and as business, to remind you of something that existed before. They are parasitical by design. That’s why, well into the ’90s (the era of Another 48 HRS, RoboCop 2 and Speed 2: Cruise Control), they were a form greeted with a mixture of (momentary) enthusiasm and (mostly) mockery.”
HE: There are still only two Star Wars movies of serious consequence — The Empire Strikes Back (which is approaching its 40th anniversary) and to a slightly lesser extent the original Star Wars: A New Hope. Some of the Star Wars films made over the last four decades have been marginally exciting or diverting or harmless as far as they went, but none even came close to packing the mythical cliffhanger punch of The Empire Strikes Back.
Since 1983 and the arrival of the mostly underwhelming Return of the Jedi, they’ve all been about one thing and one thing only — i.e., cashing in on the lore. And that, from my perspective, has never been a compelling thing to wade into.
Q: What’s in it for me?
A: Well, if you like it you’ll feel good and fulfilled. And if you don’t…well, not a whole lot. Ether way they basically just want your money.
Gleiberman: “Star Wars has come to represent a kind of capitalist religion: the notion that Hollywood can create a universe that’s so powerful, such a golden goose, that it never has to end.
“The birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in 2008, was a direct iteration of this philosophy, one that emerged in spirit out of what George Lucas had accomplished with his prequels. And in an odd way, it was the very mediocrity of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith that became central to their meaning in the global entertainment marketplace. The mediocrity suggested that when the brand is mythological enough, ‘if you build it, they will come…even if the films don’t measure up.’
HE: The general presumption is that Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were “summarily dismissed” from the Star Wars universe (i.e., an attempt to create a whole new world of Star Wars-like characters and narratives) because they weren’t able to shake off their drive and personality and become docile stooges for the Disney Empire — cogs in the corporate mechanism. They presumably wanted to do that to some extent, at least in the beginning stages, but it wasn’t in them. Their visions were too far afield of the generic Star Wars template.
Ditto Phil Lord and Chris Miller and their attempt to inject their attitudes and personalities into the Solo movie, which Ron Howard took over and made into something humdrum and misbegotten, certainly as far as the casting of the Prius-driving Alden Ehrenreich was concerned.
Summary: “Fear” isn’t driving the Star Wars machine but boilerplate greed. A sufficient exercise in furthering. and enhancing the brand. As Glieberman writes, the goal is to “keep Star Wars going the way it has been” for four and a half decades, and in so doing (cough, hack, wheeze) pocket a shitload of cash.