WELL, THAT HAPPENED: The Marketing Awakens

By on September 29, 2015

Introducing Disney’s plan for galactic domination

Caption: As Disney takes the Star Wars reigns, fans will find themselves confronted with a flurry of new films and the merchandise to match. (Photo: lucasbooks)

Caption: As Disney takes the Star Wars reigns, fans will find themselves confronted with a flurry of new films and the merchandise to match. (Photo: lucasbooks)

Seventy-nine days from today, the world will be introduced to the newest addition in the Star Wars saga: Episode VII “The Force Awakens.” If you’re a purist who is trying to avoid spoilers, this might not be the best column for you. I will be revealing a few plot points and character names, but only those that have been included in Disney and Lucasfilm’s recent marketing for the film. I will not be revealing any underground secrets or rumors.

Since the purchase of Lucasfilm by Walt Disney Co. in 2012 (for the measly sum of $4.06 billion), Disney has gone full speed ahead with its plan for a new trilogy of films that take place after 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.” They’ve also planned additional standalone films including 2016’s “Rogue One,” which is rumored to take place before the destruction of the first Death Star in “A New Hope.”

One would think that announcing a new “Star Wars” film would be enough to usher millions of people into theaters in December, but months ahead of the release, Disney and Lucasfilm are charging ahead with toys, books and games to make sure that everyone knows the name Kylo Ren before the movie comes out.

On Sept. 4, Disney released a host of new action figures, LEGO sets, lightsabers and other toys during an event they dubbed “Force Friday.” J.P. Morgan estimated that Disney’s “Star Wars” merchandise push would result in nearly $500 million in revenue, likely just from “The Force Awakens” alone. The action figures included characters such as Constable Zuvio who were not revealed in the teaser trailer, nor mentioned ever before, leading to speculation among fans.

But toys are only a small part of the film’s marketing. In collaboration with Del Rey Books, a series of novels are being released with the banner “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The one Disney wants us to care about the most is a book by Chuck Wendig called “Aftermath.” Taking place immediately after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” the story follows a group of rebels fighting back against power-hungry Imperial forces trying to ensure the survival of the Galactic Empire. Although the story has “clues” about the upcoming film (What is the Fulcrum?!), the book itself is languid, poorly written and, in terms of pacing and character development, one of the worst “Star Wars” books I’ve read. (Yes, I’ve read other “Star Wars” books and yes, I am currently single.)

Another book, a young adult romance called “Lost Stars” by Claudia Grey, follows a Romeo and Juliet-type relationship between a rebel fighter and an Imperial officer. The sappy story ends during a massive space battle above the planet Jakku — the desert planet seen in the trailer. Again, the book seems rushed and stuffed with random information that is either a clue to the movie, or a poorly executed plot point imagined by the author.

The plot of “The Force Awakens” has been kept secret, as have the last names of the main characters Finn and Rey. I think what makes this marketing push both super successful and very bizarre is that it’s advertising the existence of a film that we still know so little about. We know that main characters from the original trilogy are back, and that people like the cross-guard saber guy and the silver stormtrooper are the villains, but other than that there’s only been speculation as to what the point of it all is. It makes you wonder if with all this hype and various books filled with clues (all of which has been clearly planned out for a while), will the final product be worth it?

Disney will continue to make bank with the release of each film. But, it is yet to be determined if this whole upcoming trilogy will be a cash cow of epic proportions like the prequel trilogy, or if, like the original trilogy, it will cement a sense of wonder and excitement in our hearts for generations. PJH

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