The Disney+ platform changed how both Star Wars and the MCU release content, yet original streaming shows have done more for Star Wars than for Marvel. While Star Wars and Marvel’s TV history began way before Disney+, as exemplified by Star Wars: The Clone Wars or The Incredible Hulk, the way Disney’s streaming platform changed how major franchises incorporate the TV format cannot be ignored. For example, it was only after Disney+ that Marvel released an undoubtedly canon MCU show and that Star Wars released a live-action TV series. Still, given the status of both franchises, Disney+ has been a better tool for Star Wars than for Marvel.
In terms of the number of releases, Marvel’s Disney+ output surpasses that of Star Wars. Lucasfilm has released six canon Star Wars shows, seven considering Clone Wars‘ final season. Marvel Studios, on the other hand, has so far released ten canon MCU titles on Disney+ – with many more on the way. That considered, the impact The Mandalorian and other Disney+ shows have had on Star Wars is greater than the Marvel series had on the MCU. That is not to say Marvel’s Disney+ content hasn’t been impactful, only that the streaming platform has helped shape the future of Star Wars more than it has helped the already consolidated MCU.
Star Wars Needed A Major Refresh (Marvel Didn’t)
Disney+ was launched on November 12, 2019, exactly one week before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hit theaters. As the final movie in the Skywalker Saga and the conclusion of three trilogies, The Rise of Skywalker was already expected to be a closing chapter for the franchise. Considering how divisive the Star Wars sequels had become at that point, plus The Rise of Skywalker’s underwhelming box office compared to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars saw itself in a tricky situation. The galaxy far, far, away had become synonymous with the big screen, yet crafting what the next Star Wars movie should be proved to be a difficult task.
Continuing Star Wars after Episode IX would never be easy, but the sequel trilogy’s divisive reception made it far more challenging. After reigniting the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens, a movie that all-but ignored the Star Wars prequels and tried to recapture the feeling of the original trilogy, Lucasfilm seemed not to be sure of what Star Wars should be after Rian Johnson’s controversial Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Simply emulating the original trilogy and appealing to nostalgia did not work in the long term after The Force Awakens, yet trying to reinvent the saga the way The Last Jedi did was also not working. After Episode IX, Star Wars needed a refresh.
At the same time, the MCU was at its peak with Avengers: Endgame. The fourth Avengers movie, which is currently the second highest-grossing movie of all time, premiered a few months prior to the launch of Disney+. Therefore, unlike Star Wars, Marvel did not have to focus on Disney+ as a “new hope” for the franchise. Instead, Marvel had with Disney+ the chance to expand the MCU through releases that would add to an already large and established universe. In other words, the Disney+ original Marvel shows were an extension of the MCU whereas shows like The Mandalorian were a new beginning for Star Wars.
The Mandalorian Gave Star Wars A Huge Cultural Hit
Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ impact on pop culture cannot be denied. The first Star Wars movie in more than 10 years, The Force Awakens played the nostalgia element in a successful way and went on to make $2 billion at the worldwide box office. That said, neither The Last Jedi nor The Rise of Skywalker manage to replicate the success of The Force Awakens. Less than five years after Star Wars’ return to the big screen, the franchise was already in a difficult position. Despite the importance of the IP, recent Star Wars movies were struggling to have the same cultural impact as the MCU, Disney’s other major IP.
Although Star Wars will always have a consolidated audience, bringing in new fans was something the franchise was failing too. Whereas the MCU could count on a plethora of Marvel characters to engage audiences, Disney’s Lucasfilm only had the sequel trilogy, two spinoffs, and a couple of animated series to offer. Star Wars needed a new huge cultural hit after The Force Awakens, and Disney+ made it possible to happen. The Mandalorian, a project envisioned by Jon Favreau that combined the prequel and original trilogies in a way that no live-action Star Wars movie had done, was exactly what both the Star Wars franchise and Disney+ needed.
Star Wars Has Taken Bigger Disney+ Swings Than Marvel
While the Disney+ Marvel shows are important for those who want to follow the MCU in its entirety, the MCU’s massive scale as of Phase 4 makes it so that not every new TV show or special feels like a must-see. As the extension of a preexisting movie universe, the Disney+ MCU shows can often feel like small events compared to the movies. Marvel has used the Disney+ series to better develop characters that did not get a lot of screen time in the Avengers movie, such as Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch, as well as to introduce characters that may have a significant role in the future.
The Mandalorian and other Disney+ Star Wars shows, on the other hand, are mainly self-contained adventures that offer new audiences the chance of getting to know Star Wars. The Mandalorian may feature a lot of Star Wars cameos, but the journey of a bounty hunter and his adopted son speaks to audiences all over the world in a way that the convoluted The Rise of Skywalker plot never did. The Mandalorian made itself an event – something that both long-time Star Wars audiences and newcomers could watch and be excited about. Obviously, shows like Obi-Wan Kenobi are more canon-limited than the “Mandoverse”, but it was thanks to The Mandalorian that those became possible.
Star Wars’ Future Is On Disney+ (For Now)
As important as the Disney+ platform is to Marvel Studios, the future of the MCU is still on the big screen. After having the highest-grossing movie of all time for a few months, Marvel Studios will now try to outdo Avengers: Endgame with Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars, both of which have the potential to be even more ambitious than the Avengers vs. Thanos storyline. In a way, the several Disney+ MCU shows released per year, a few of which have had pacing issues, have made the MCU movies feel like even bigger events in comparison. At the same time, Star Wars hasn’t released a movie since 2019.
Star Wars has been away from the big screen for three years, and there is currently no indication of what the next Star Wars movie will be. Rogue Squadron was originally intended to be released in 2023, but the Patty Jenkins Star Wars movie is now on hold. Several other projects have been either announced or reported, including but not limited to a Kevin Feige-produced Star Wars movie, a Taika Waititi Star Wars movie, and a Demon Lindelof Star Wars film. However, none of those represent a plan as consistent as Star Wars’ slate of upcoming Disney+ shows. Between the “Mandoverse” series and new stories like The Acolyte, Star Wars’ future is on Disney+.
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