Since writing his memoir, Disney CEO Bob Iger spends a lot of time doing press. His most recent interview comes from BBC radio, where he talks for about an hour about his tenure at Disney. During the conversation, presenter Amol Rajan asked him if he felt he “squeezed” the Marvel and Disney properties too hard over the past few years. With respect to Marvel, Iger dismissed the criticism out-of-hand. As his fellow Disney executive Alan Horn said, superhero movie fatigue is not something they worry about. However, when it comes to Star Wars, Bob Iger took a different tone saying that less is more.
As he told BBC (at about the 43-minute mark):
“I have said publicly that I think we made and released too many films over a short period of time. I have not said that they were disappointing in any way. I’ve not said that I’m disappointed in their performance. I just think that there’s something so special about a Star Wars film, and less is more.”
Yet, when Iger said this publicly after the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, it was because the film failed to reach the box office heights of its predecessors. Yet, even a Star Wars “flop” is a hit. It grossed nearly $400 million, is Ron Howard’s third highest grossing film, and is generally well-received by fans. Though, one report suggested that the film lost Disney around $50 million though they assume the budget is twice what Disney said it was.
So, is Bob Iger right that less is more when it comes to Star Wars, or does the galaxy far, far away have just as much potential to dominate the box office as Marvel films? The answer is complicated.
Bob Iger is Right That Less Is More When It Comes to Star Wars
Image via Lucasfilm
As evidenced by the failure of Solo to hit the $750 million mark, Iger has a point at least commercially. While Marvel films have only really been around for about 20 years, Star Wars existed for twice that long. Fans did not get much new content from Lucasfilm after Return of the Jedi, outside of a pair of cartoons and two made-for-TV Ewok movies. Those who didn’t dive into the expanded universe of books and comics only had three films to watch over and over again. Yet, they did. And not only that, they loved the movies even more upon repeat viewings. Star Wars fans like to live with the films for a time to really establish them as classics.
Look at the previously maligned prequel trilogy. Adult Star Wars fans mostly felt disappointed in the new movies we got. This made them love the originals all the more. George Lucas, with the help of The Mandalorian producer Dave Filoni, expanded the prequel stories with the animated Clone Wars series. Kids for whom the prequels were “their” Star Wars movies grew up, and even adult fans found their opinions of the films changing over time. Not looking forward to two or three Star Wars movies per year forces fans to revisit and appreciate the films we’ve gotten. Trust me, in ten years, there will be plenty of young adults who cite Solo as their favorite Star Wars movie.
Bob Iger Is Wrong That Less Is More With Star Wars
Image via Lucasfilm
Just like the Marvel Universe, Star Wars contains a whole galaxy of stories. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss recently left their Star Wars trilogy unceremoniously. Their purported trilogy would have focused on the Jedi Order. Regardless of how you feel about how those two broke all of Game of Thrones best characters, it makes sense that such a sensitive part of Star Wars lore should only be trusted to storytellers who are all-in on this universe. Yet, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t dozens of stories, characters, and settings that moviegoing audiences would want to see. Things like the Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off series and The Mandalorian are different sorts of Star Wars tales that will likely resonate strongly with audiences. The real trick is doing what Marvel Studios did with characters like Ant-Man or the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Star Wars has to take chances and disconnect itself from the Skywalker saga. One of the main reasons Solo failed to land as it should had more to do with timing. The film came too soon after the contentious response to The Last Jedi. Disney sandwiched the movie between highly anticipated Marvel releases. Also, fans weren’t that keen to see a new Han Solo this quickly. The film told a good story, but it was not a story fans were hungry to see unfold. Once the Skywalker saga comes to an end, Star Wars has to branch out. We need movies set in new places, new eras, and with new characters. Bob Iger is wrong that less is more with Star Wars. More is more, but it also has to be different.
The State of Star Wars Leading Into The Rise of Skywalker
Image via screengrab
There is no question that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be a hit. We get one last film with Lando, Leia, and a Force Ghost Luke Skywalker. We also get one “last” film with the new characters, Rey, Poe, and Finn. Now, no one with a brain believes that this is the last we’ll see of these characters. However, the Star Wars galaxy needs to leave the Skywalkers behind if it really wants to branch out into the kind of story factory that Marvel Studios is. The Mandalorian is a step in the right direction. The Obi-Wan series is not, though the fan demand for it (and one more season of Clone Wars) is enough that it makes sense to do it. But what Rian Johnson and any other Star Wars storytellers need to do is simply take a (that’s not a) moon shot on something completely different.
In fairness to Bob Iger, less is more when it comes to Star Wars, at least right now. Remember, Marvel Studios made three films in their first two years. They slowly built up to Avengers, and the successive sequels. If the MCU came out of the gate with four movies per year, their story would play out very differently. Star Wars has the potential to be a significant part of pop culture for as long as such a thing exists. Lucasfilm and Disney have to simply be patient and willing to take risks in order to build up the excitement from fans hungry for these stories.
What do you think? Do you agree with Bob Iger that less is more with Star Wars? Tell us how you’d handle the franchise if you were in charge in the comments below.
Featured image via Lucasfilm
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.