We’re living in the age of superlatives, yet not enough are heaped upon Jon Favreau.
Not only did the writer/director jumpstart the MCU with 2008’s “Iron Man,” he directed the biggest Christmas movie of the modern age, “Elf.” He also wrote and co-starred in the seminal screen bromance “Swingers.”
That was just a warm-up act for his biggest pop culture magic trick to date. Favreau brought “Star Wars” back from the pop culture grave with “The Mandalorian.”
So who does Team “Star Wars” think can revive the franchise’s movie fortunes?
The director will helm “Rogue Squadron,” the first new “Star Wars” movie following the poorly received trilogy that capped the Skywalker saga. The next “Star Wars” film hits theaters Christmas 2023, assuming the theatrical model still exists by then.
The choice seemed wise, even hopeful, as recently as a few weeks ago. Now? It might seal the fate of “Star Wars” as a theatrical empire.
Sound harsh? Take a long, hard look at Jenkins’ new film, “Wonder Woman 1984.” It brims with all the sins fans accused the new “Star Wars” films of committing.
- Woke storytelling
- Muddied narratives
- Massive plot holes
- Feminism on steroids
- Ignoring canon
Yes, Jenkins directed a flat-out gem with 2017’s “Wonder Woman” and deserves plenty of credit for it. It’s why the “Star Wars”-Jenkins pairing seemed so promising.
She’s far more hands on with the sequel, though, given her growing Hollywood clout. She likely felt less pressure from Warner Bros. suits following the runaway success of the first “Wonder Woman” adventure. Plus, she co-wrote the story and screenplay for “WW84,” meaning her fingerprints are all over the finished product.
It’s her baby, and it’s a mess.
In fact, once the geek hype for the sequel subsided the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score sank from the high 80s to a modest 65 percent “fresh.”
That’s no accident.
So Disney, the studio that now owns Star Wars, Inc., is entrusting its movie franchise to Jenkins.
For starters, Disney is as woke as any film studio these days. Jenkins will be the first female director to helm a “Star Wars” feature. That matters.
It’s also likely why Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, the person in charge of the “Star Wars” brand, still has her job after torching “Star Wars” as a theatrical juggernaut. Each of the main “Star Wars” sequels created under her watch made less money than the previous film.
- “The Force Awakens” -- $936 million
- “The Last Jedi” -- $620 million
- “The Rise of Skywalker” -- $515 million
Kennedy built that.
The other “Star Wars” films under Kennedy’s reign delivered mixed results.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” became a box office disappointment with a $213 million haul. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” served up the best thrills of the new “Star Wars” era, earning a respectable $532 million despite its microscopic ties to the Skywalker clan.
The same “Star Wars” fans who clamor for Baby Yoda merch feel far less attached to the “new” “Star Wars” characters from the recent trilogy.
Analysts can point to many reasons for “Star Wars'” creative decline, from never assembling the original trilogy’s core heroes on screen to a narrative that felt scribbled down on the fly.
The film’s woke nods clearly factored into the equation. Think Mary Sue heroines (Rey, Rose Tico) strained progressive subplots (“The Last Jedi’s” casino debacle) and emasculating the one character who could carry Han Solo’s rogue torch (Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron).
Any chance Jenkins, given the keys to the biggest space franchise in history, won’t repeat what she brought to “WW84?”
- An anti-GOP villain
- Bald feminism
- Overt victimhood for its female characters
Slim, meet none.
Movies like “Wonder Woman 1984” and the upcoming “Star Wars: Rogue Squadron” must thrive outside the American marketplace to make fiscal sense. China is currently the dominant theatrical market for Hollywood given the current pandemic -- and it may remain so moving forward.
So how did “Wonder Woman 1984” fare in China? The movie under-performed in its opening weekend to the tune of $18.8 million, getting bested by a Chinese original (“The Rescue”). “WW84” plummeted 92 percent the following weekend.
That’s not a typo.
The far-left Hollywood Reporter added some necessary context to “WW84’s” lousy showing.
The sequel’s slide is particularly disappointing since China, which has bounced back strongly from the novel coronavirus pandemic and is known for its affinity for superhero movies, was expected to be the title’s largest theatrical market.
This is the director “Star Wars” is pinning its cinematic rebirth around?
Favreau made us care about “Star Wars” again with a simple, foolproof formula. Skip the woke theatrics. Tell a story hearkening back to core elements like a stoic main character, companionship and selfless acts of heroism. Deliver slam-bang action without hand-wringing.
In short, summon the creative spirit George Lucas first unleashed on the culture in 1977. Can Jenkins do the same with “Rogue Squadron?” The evidence so far suggests she can’t and Kennedy doesn’t care.