After seeing “Rogue One,” I am kind of numb and needed to process it for a couple days. Oh, it’s fun and badass and everything it promised: A real “Star Wars” WAR movie. But I don’t think I’ll be taking my youngest son to it. Too much. Too many deaths. And frankly, a plot that would bore him. My son is seven and I think that is too young for this one. Too many dads are going to want to share another Star Wars memory with their kids and just blindly take them to “Rogue One” because “hey, it’s Star Wars.” But after “Rogue One,” “Star Wars” can mean many things and parents need to be aware of that. Just be warned. Star Wars does NOT always equal “kids film,” and I’m getting tired of that assumption.
The darkness and intensity of this recent film gave me a bit of an epiphany: certain brands reach a status where they can diverge like the spokes of a wheel and become an “uber brand.” The brand is able to take on many versions of itself. Many creatives recoil from big IP that dominates today’s landscape, but here’s where a big brand is wonderful…
I really enjoyed “Rogue One” and I’m going to see it several times. But it’s not my favorite Star Wars film. And with a brand as big as Star Wars, that’s okay! I actually prefer the brightness and broad heroism of “The Force Awakens” to the bleakness of R1. And now I realize that once a brand grows to the expanse of something like Star Wars, Batman, Ninja Turtles or The Avengers, every single thing that comes from that brand does not have to please every single fan. Don’t like the live action Michael Bay-ish Ninja Turtles? There’s a super fun series on Nickelodeon for you. Don’t like the “Transformers” movies? Don’t watch them. You can still enjoy Transformers as they exist in their many animated forms. After “Rogue One,” I see that the Star Wars brand has reached a new status: There may be some Star Wars things you don’t share with your kids. There can be MANY flavors of Star Wars at the “Star Wars Buffet” and you can choose. There are enough flavors to go around.
A producer put it in perspective for me a couple years ago when I was meeting about a particular mega-brand. He pointed to BATMAN. A grown up can enjoy a much darker, deeper, politically allegorical Batman in “The Dark Knight” while their kids can enjoy the sillier, lighter Batman of “The Lego Batman Movie.” Neither project negates the other. They both can even have their own “universe” and set of rules. It’s kind of amazing. This makes the brand almost bullet proof. There is no single version or product that will “hurt” the brand. And fans need to get on board with this idea too. No one can “ruin” your childhood or any version of a thing you hold sacred. If the original “Ghostbusters” movie is the ONLY movie that counts, then you go watch that and be happy.
As storytelling happens in more and more divergent formats, our characters can survive in a multitude of forms. That’s the good news. I’m rooting for an Indiana Jones Animated series myself.