Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens proved to be remarkable in many ways, besting Avatar to become the top grossing box office hit in the US. Most people love it, and with such a throwback plot to the original trilogy, many memorable characters, and fights that get even the least enthusiastic audience member’s heart racing, it’s easy to see why. Disney owns LucasFilm (and Marvel, too), and so it’s difficult to not look at the cinematic and financial feat that is The Force Awakens without thinking that perhaps it’s also another kind of awakening…
A merchandising opportunity awakening. Take pause before writing up that hate-mail, as this isn’t meant purely as a jab at Star Wars (or Disney and J.J. Abrams’). If anything, it feels like another way in which the film is a throwback to epic sci-fi entertainment. Transformers and G.I. Joe were largely created around the idea of selling toys to kids, never mind that both titles were also given some of the most unrelentingly horrible cinematic treatment ever.
It only makes sense for Disney to indulge fans’ fanatical lust for the Star Wars universe in every way possible.
Set foot in any major retail store and just try to not trip over the glut of Star Wars goodies that are available. Funko Pop vinyl and bobblehead characters? Sure. New Lego sets for everything, complete with exclusive figures? Of course. Nine trillion varieties of BB-8 ranging from desk lamps to actual, functional droids? Be still, my over-eager wallet and already-heartbroken bank account. It all makes sense. The Force Awakens had become one of the most anticipated movies over a year before it even made its way to theaters. Each little bite-sized teaser or miniscule clue only fed into this Star Wars madness that swept the globe following the films’ release, and of course where there’s madly enthused fandom, there’s also big profits to be made.
Ultimately, The Force Awakens is a great film that happened to contain a lot of great merchandisable characters.
It only makes sense for Disney to indulge fans’ fanatical lust for the Star Wars universe in every way possible, and many other companies have followed suit. People eat it up because, really, who doesn’t want to have something to remember such an iconic movie by? Why just have Darth Vader’s lightsaber when it’s now possible to own Kylo Ren’s entirely new, unique looking one, (that so many people were eager to say looked stupid before)? BB-8 turned out to be the holy grail of marketing opportunities. There’s a TR-8R figurine as a part of a set with Finn, which sells for over $300. Of course, this all glosses over the glaring fact Rey was somehow left out of much of the merchandise, but that’s another topic entirely that deserves separate inspection elsewhere.
Ultimately, The Force Awakens is a great film that happened to contain a lot of great merchandisable characters, but in a way that doesn’t detract from the quality of the movie nor make it feel like there’s a wealth of cheap, useless merchandise that hadn’t existed prior to this film. We’ll know things have really gone too far when all nine films become available on Blu-ray with special in-film narration from Jar-Jar Binks. Until then: love the films, and tolerate the merchandise (or maybe even enjoy it a little bit).
By Phil Gorski
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