Ever since the beginning of film history there have been opinions. Every film has people who love it or hate it but there has always been a balance. The true test of the franchise films is how they connect with audiences. If they make money, then they must be doing something right. However, is there a chance that we could get too much of the same thing? Certainly, and the idea of fatigue is something that is more prominent now then ever. We saw the Western genre suffer from fatigue and it has yet to recover. Is it time for the superhero and Star Wars franchises to be worried?
Let’s take a look at the superhero/comic book genre first. 2008 is really the year the big boom of the comic book movies really hit. We got The Dark Knight which many consider to be the greatest comic book movie of all time. We also got Iron Man which launched the MCU into the juggernaut we know today. Both of these films were huge successes financially and critically. Ever since, we have had eighteen more MCU films as well as the launch of the DC film universe (DCFU) which was inspired by the MCU. When Avengers hit in 2012 we had the biggest opening of all time with $207 million domestically. It was a massive success and fans could not get enough. However, for as much as people loved these films, there were also some who hated the comic book genre from the start and did not consider those films to be “cinema”. These people have been crying for this genre to die since the beginning and hoping fatigue sets in, so has it?
Let’s look at the numbers for the most recent comic book films. Thor: Ragnarok has a worldwide gross of $853 million. This is the third Thor film and it performed the best of all three of them. Next was Justice League. This film opened at $93 million with a worldwide gross of $657 million. While not a failure, it was far below what was expected. Next, we had Black Panther which opened to $202 million and currently has made $1.3 billion worldwide. This is a brand-new character that audiences flocked out to see and are still seeing in theaters currently. Now we get to Avengers: Infinity War which broke the opening record domestically with $257 million and globally with $640 million. It currently is the fourth highest grossing movie of all time at $1.9 billion and has a shot at passing Star Wars: The Force Awakens to get the third spot. Based on these numbers as recent as today, I’d say the comic book genre is doing just fine. Even Deadpool 2 which opened lower than the original still managed to do $125 million opening weekend. Is this a failure? No, and the genre has shown no signs of slowing down. These movies keep doing huge numbers so its silly to say that fatigue is setting in. If you make a quality film, people will mostly go and see it in this genre. So people like James Cameron who want audiences to get “Avengers fatigue” are going to be waiting a long time. The same however cannot be said for Star Wars.
Star Wars used to be this untouchable force that could do whatever it wanted because of just how iconic it was. It was believed that if you slap the name Star Wars on it, it would sell no matter what. Today, the same cannot be said. Although still profitable, the franchise has shown over the past two films that it is not what it used to be. Let’s start with The Last Jedi. Just hearing those words makes certain fan angry. Why is this the case? We saw what we thought to be an anomaly with this film where it still made money, but nowhere near what people originally thought. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was able to compete with it. This film struggled to live up to Force Awakens because the fans rebelled. Star Wars fans have become the most divisive fan-base in pop culture and they showed it by not showing up over and over again for The Last Jedi like many expected they would. Six months later Solo: A Star Wars Story was released and that brings us to today.
A weekend ago we saw what we thought would never happen and that is a Star Wars film bombed at the box office. It opened with a 3-day total of $83 million and 4-day memorial weekend total of $103 million. Its worldwide total came in at $173 million overall. For reference, that is about half of what Deadpool 2 did in three days. So, what is the cause of this? Well there are many factors. For starters, this is the first Star Wars film under the Disney umbrella to not open in December. December was proving to be a homerun for them, yet they decided to move away from it. Instead it had to compete with Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War which did not help at all. Another factor here is the fans. Clearly, they did not show up to see their beloved franchise. There are many movements online by diehard fans to boycott the movie and the reason seems to be that they are not happy with the direction Disney is taking the franchise. This boggles my mind and I can’t understand why the fans are being this way. Do they want to go back to the old days where the possibility of another film was uncertain? Where the last film we saw was Revenge of the Sith? The other factor here is fatigue. The Last Jedi and Solo were released within 6 months of each other and maybe audiences just said they had had enough Star Wars. People point to how Marvel releases three films a year, but they are all different sub-franchises underneath one big franchise. Star Wars is different. Star Wars has a special quality that, until recently, no other franchise could match. That special quality is now dying and Disney is scrambling for answers. What is the answer? A Boba Fett movie? Obi-Wan? How about a story about something we have never heard before? There are many questions that will need to be answered and some course correcting is definitely needed. I enjoyed The Last Jedi and loved Solo but cannot deny something is not going right with the franchise. If a movie featuring Han Solo can’t make $100 million in three days, then something is seriously wrong.
At the end of the day, franchise fatigue is a real thing. For the comic book genre, it is nonexistent and until an Avengers film struggles to make money, the genre is safe. Star Wars cannot say the same. Fatigue is alive in this franchise but more than anything else Lucasfilm must win back its hardcore fans. If they continue to not show up, the franchise will die. Solo’s box office was a warning sign for Disney. Our next Star Wars film arrives December of 2019 and all eyes will be on JJ Abrams to save the franchise. Can he do it? I believe so but I’m not certain. Either way, fatigue is a very dangerous thing that all genres should be wary of.