2019 is without question going to end up one of the biggest years in cinematic history. Avengers: Endgame is within spitting distance of breaking Avatar’s box office record. Likewise, the film is the culmination of over a decade of cohesive Marvel storytelling. The MCU comes to an end as we know it in 2019. Similarly, one of the greatest film franchises ever will also see its finale by year’s end. One question on many people’s minds is whether or not the Star Wars franchise, and The Rise of Skywalker, can mimic Marvel and Endgame’s success this year. For two, simple reasons, it cannot.
One of the biggest advantages Marvel has over Lucasfilm in this regard is that all the films debuted in temporal proximity. The entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has existed within the span of barely a dozen years. Thus, the storytelling in the MCU has remained fresh, and present, during the whole period. It’s easy to stay invested when there have been over twenty films in that span of time. Endgame’s goal was to tie all of those films together, and it did so superbly.
Timing is everything: comparing the Star Wars and Marvel franchises
The Star Wars franchise, to the contrary, spans a period of over four decades. The original trilogy concluded in 1983. To put things in perspective, only one of the sequel trilogy’s three main actors (Oscar Isaac, 1979) was even born during the time of the original trilogy. The sixteen-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace had already created a significant, generational divide within the Star Wars fandom. Whereas the Marvel fandom is, by and large, a cohesive group, Star Wars fans have been split in their appreciation of the franchise for over a decade already.
The sequel trilogy now opens the franchise to a third generation of Star Wars fans. Technology, leadership, and emphasis on the storytelling have all changed with each trilogy. That didn’t occur by accident; think about how much our lives change in just a short period of time. Now extrapolate that to forty years. Fan interests in, and desires for the franchise, have seemingly, and unfortunately, solidified along generational lines instead of having evolved with time. Tell all your stories within one decade of people’s lives like Marvel and you don’t have that problem.
The importance of continuity
Avengers: Endgame was appropriately titled, as Marvel execs had an endgame in mind from the beginning. From the moment Tony Stark appeared on film to the moment the credits rolled on Endgame, Marvel had meticulously planned the MCU and assured its pieces all fit together snugly. Of course there are various continuity gaps and plot holes scattered throughout the MCU. However, for the most part, they didn’t particularly affect the epic finale to the Avengers story arc.
Star Wars continuity, on the other hand, had already begun to fracture with the prequels. From the introduction of Midichlorians to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s apparent age, the prequels chipped away at the Star Wars universe we knew.
If the various bits and pieces from the prequels created a fissure in the franchise’s continuity, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi was the wedge driven into that fissure to create a chasm. Johnson took the franchise in such a different direction that even J.J. Abrams spoke about the difficulties of filming Star Wars: Episode IX in the wake of Episode VIII. All you have to do is google the words “The Last Jedi” to see the effect that film had on Star Wars continuity, and the fan base.
There is no question that those two factors will have a significant impact on the final film of the Skywalker saga’s success. Make no mistake, the film will be successful. Of that I’m sure. But will these factors impede Star Wars, and The Rise of Skywalker, from achieving the same success Marvel reaped from Endgame? Most assuredly.
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Avengers: Endgame is still in theaters; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.