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The Rise of Skywalker is proof that Star Wars needs to reinvent itself

The Rise of Skywalker is proof that Star Wars needs to reinvent itself


Not all $1 billion movies are created equal

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Lucasfilm Ltd.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has officially crossed $1 billion at the box office worldwide, making it Disney’s seventh film in 2019 to hit the 10-figure mark, via Variety. But The Rise of Skywalker has taken longer than its predecessors to hit $1 billion, the latest indication that the ninth Star Wars film just isn’t doing very well at the box office compared to the other sequels.

For nearly any other film, hitting $1 billion at the box office in four weeks would be something to celebrate. But The Rise of Skywalker is a Star Wars film, as well as the closing piece of the resurrected sequel trilogy. It’s taken Rise of Skywalker 28 days to cross the $1 billion mark, when The Force Awakens hit that same mark in 12 days and The Last Jedi in 19.

‘The Rise of Skywalker’ isn’t any other film

There are any number of factors that likely contributed to The Rise of Skywalker underperforming: fatigue from an oversaturation of Star Wars films in the marketplace, or lingering malcontent over the controversial choices made by The Last Jedi. But it’s impossible to ignore that most people thought The Rise of Skywalker just wasn’t very good.

C-3PO in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Other films, such as Pacific Rim, The Great Wall, and the more recent Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers films, could rely on the international audience to make up for a lackluster domestic box office. While popular in the United States, the Star Wars franchise in general has failed to make as much of a dent in the international market, especially when compared to franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Fast and the Furious, and Jurassic World.

As The New York Times notes, a key part of that is China, one of the biggest movie markets in the world. Chinese audiences simply don’t have the same connection to Star Wars as US audiences — the original films simply weren’t available in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The sequels can’t ride on nostalgia. The result is that The Rise of Skywalker gets hit with both a relatively unenthusiastic domestic audience and an uninterested international audience.

After Rise of Skywalker, Disney is giving the franchise some time to rest. The next film in the series isn’t scheduled to hit theaters until 2022, assuming there are no delays or changes in planissues that plagued the last several films.

So the future of Star Wars (for now) lies in smaller shows like The Mandalorian, which just concluded its well-received first season on Disney’s new Disney+ streaming service. A second season is already in the works, as are two other live-action series based on Rogue One’s Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the prequel trilogy’s iteration of a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi played once again by Ewan McGregor.

Star Wars will return to the big screen at some point — as The Rise of Skywalker shows, even poorly received Star Wars films are still (usually) billion-dollar blockbusters. But with the lore-heavy Skywalker Saga concluded, it’s likely that the next phase of Star Wars will look a little more like Marvel or The Fast and the Furious films, emphasizing more standalone, bite-sized adventures that don’t have all the baggage of past films attached.