Growing pains? Checking in on our favorite franchises

There’s been a special tradition missing from my holiday season schedule the last couple of years: going to the theater to watch a new Star Wars movie. I’d gotten used to the release of a new Star Wars movie every year around Christmastime, and for whatever reason, I felt the absence a little more keenly this year. 

Maybe it was going to watch Avatar: The Way of Water on the big screen and realizing I’m not quite sure when (or even if, at this point) I’ll next be watching a brand-new Star Wars film in the movie theater. 

As you all well know (mainly because I won’t stop talking about it), Star Wars is my favorite franchise. These days, however, I’m not quite sure what all is going on over at Lucasfilm.

Remember the announcement of Rian Johnson’s supposed Star Wars trilogy? I dearly love Rian Johnson and his take on Star Wars (despite its controversy), but I’m started to doubt we’ll ever get to see it. Or the Taika Waititi project or Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron movie? I could see those projects being in limbo after the somewhat “meh” responses to the two directors’ latest superhero outings, Wonder Woman 1984 and Thor: Love and Thunder, respectively. 

Star Wars has seen great success over on Disney+, particularly with The Mandalorian. However, as much as I love that series, I find myself longing for another big-screen Star Wars adventure. 

At a certain level, I know I should just be thankful I even got more Star Wars movies, because there was a time when fans wondered if the prequels would be it for cinematic tales in our favorite galaxy far, far away. Even if we never get another Star Wars movie, I’m thankful for what we got. Rey is my all-time favorite Star Wars character, and the sequels are my favorite Star Wars trilogy. I recognize that’s not the most popular opinion amongst fans, but these movies are special to me on a deeply personal level that goes beyond the scope of this blog post. 

Interestingly, a lot of recent Star Wars TV projects have focused less on Jedi and the Force, which is totally fine because there’s a lot of corners of the galaxy to explore. Still, I feel a big-budget film premiering on the big screen with Jedi and lightsabers could be just the shot of adrenalin that the Star Wars franchise needs. A film set in the time of a war between Jedi vs. Sith would be so cool to see. 

In the meantime, I kinda wish Lucasfilm would stop teasing us with these projects that end up getting canceled. It’s hard getting my hopes up and then winding up disappointed, and the seemingly increasing string of delayed or canceled projects is bad for PR. 

Of course Star Wars is not the only franchise lately with some growing pains. I don’t even know how to describe what’s going on over at Warner Bros. regarding the DC cinematic universe. On the one hand, I love James Gunn and trust him to make decisions that serve the franchise’s overall storytelling goals, but I’m really gonna miss actors like Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill. I know the Snyderverse was divisive but I liked it generally (the long-awaited Snyder Cut was great superhero cinema, in my opinion). 

Then again, maybe a fresh start to clear the air will be good. I never thought we’d actually get the Snyder Cut, so I’m content with that being the end of that particular storyline, if need be. I don’t really get into the whole Marvel vs. DC debate; I enjoy both for different reasons, and I want to see them both flourish. As long as Warner Bros. still gives me another Matt Reeves Batman film with Robert Pattinson, I can make peace with all these changes. 

Even Marvel hasn’t been immune from some fan grumbling lately. Although this latest phase has been somewhat uneven (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings just might be my all-time favorite Marvel movie, while Eternals is one of my least favorites), I love the boldness of the storytelling and the MCU’s willingness to throw caution to the wind, take chances, and try new things. 

Even though I might have been a bit disappointed in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (particularly in how Wanda/Scarlet Witch was handled as a villain), it was very cool to see the MCU dabble in horror. I liked Thor: Love and Thunder more than Ragnarok, although not all the jokes hit the mark for me (you’re still painfully annoying, Korg #sorrynotsorry, and the less said about those screaming goats, the better).

Will the MCU ever reach the pop cultural heights (and ridiculous box office profits) of the Infinity War and Endgame days? Something tells me probably not, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still great stories to tell. 

Overall this recent phase of the MCU seems a bit unfocused (where is this all going, what’s the overarching goal, etc.). But maybe it will all come together in a spectacular way that I didn’t see coming. I just hope casual fans won’t drop out as it becomes more and more complicated to keep up with all the movies and TV series. 

In short, I’m ready to see more stories in all three of these franchises, and that means inevitably, there will be some clunkers along the way. I’m willing to be patient and enjoy the ride. 

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