The "Star Wars" Gamble

Disney’s wager on a flood of spinoffs risks diluting The Force.

By Jere Hester
|  Wednesday, Feb 6, 2013  |  Updated 1:45 PM CDT
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News that Disney plans to fill theaters with individual character-driven "Star Wars" spinoffs along with the saga’s third trilogy strikes us as tantalizing – and as risky – as a trip to the Death Star.

We’re excited by the prospect of seeing years of new Jedi adventures before we’re called to that next galaxy far, far away. But the Yoda in us can’t help but worry that a flood of flicks might dilute the Force. As our top bet to star in a spinoff might say, "Of too much of a good thing, beware.  Yes, hmmm."
 
Disney, of course, didn’t hand George Lucas more than $4 billion last year so it could make a mere three films. But Disney is wagering a lot more than Mouse House money – it’s also gambling with fans' deep emotional investment in the series.
 
We can take heart in how deftly Disney has handled the Marvel franchise, turning out generally high-quality individual hero movies amid planned new "Avenger" team installments. But "Star Wars" fans learned to be wary after Lucas' final three efforts, which many found disappointing, even if the box office didn’t show it. And Lucas’ bench of characters isn't as deep as Stan Lee's. We can only pray for a Jar Jar Binks-free run of new films.
 
Sure, there’s been a glut of “Star Wars” material for years – most notably the animated “Clone Wars” and Legos video games, aimed at a younger set that no doubt will make up a huge chunk of the audience for upcoming movies. But any new, live-action “Star Wars”-related flick creates great expectations across a mass audience – from those still playing with Legos to those us who saw the 1977 original in theaters.
 
Disney, so far, seems to be making smart moves, enlisting director J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” “Super 8” and the “Star Trek” movie reboot) to direct at least the first chapter of the saga's continuation. The spinoffs reportedly will be overseen by “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of Jedi” screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and “X-Men: First Class” producer Simon Kinberg.
 
The creative forces leading the franchise’s new era, though, would be well-served to remember they share “Star Wars” with legions of fans who feel they’re part-owners of the series. Some even made a "Star Wars VII" trailer a couple months back that's earned more than 250,000 YouTube hits (hat tip to Viral Viral Videos), suggesting many hold a new hope for what’s to come. Check out the fan-fashioned promo as we await Abrams' take on the saga, expected to hit theaters in 2015:

 

 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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