The last thing The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DISD) likely wanted ahead of the premiere “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” was controversy. Controversy, however, is what it got thanks to a (now deleted) tweet from Rogue One screenwriter Chris Weitz.
Weitz called the Empire a “white supremacist (human) organization” and has also repeatedly expressed his opposition to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Weitz later apologized for “connecting an innocent escape to ugly politics,” but in the minds of many – especially in the alt-right movement – the damage was already done.
Some in the alt-right movement have tried to organize a boycott of Rogue One by tweeting #DumpStarWars. Asked about the boycott, spokespersons say the Star Wars franchise has become too politicized and anti-Trump.
Star Wars as political statement may be generally true say some observers – in the sense that many movies have a political theme. It’s also true that some Rogue One writers and cast members have spoken out against white supremacy and hate.
Disney’s Comments Ring Hollow
As many critics have noted, attempts by Disney CEO, Bob Iger, to paint the Star Wars saga as neutral and apolitical simply don’t hold water with most observers. Said Iger, “Frankly, this is a film that the world should enjoy. It is not a film that is, in any way, a political film.”
This flies in the face of George Lucas’ intent when creating the original series of a story about a rebellion against a totalitarian government. Rogue One is good guys against bad guys, just as Star Wars has always been.
The Spinoff Approach
Politics aside, Rogue One is technically considered a spinoff and as such shows Disney is borrowing from its Marvel Studios playbook, releasing movies that feature characters from the same “universe” to see which can stand on their own.
This approach has also been done by studios like Comcast Corp.’s (NASDAQ:CMCSAC) Universal Studios. Universal plans a classic monsters universe beginning with The Mummy next year. Time Warner Inc.’s (NYSE:TWXC) Warner Bros. has done the same with its DC Comics universe featuring Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and next year’s Wonder Woman.
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Rogue One follows a group of rebel fighters plotting to steal plans to destroy the infamous Death Star and takes place just before the original 1977 Star Wars.
While the movie is not expected to match the $248 million taken in at the debut of The Force Awakens in North America, analysts do expect it to be a huge hit.
The country’s largest theater chain, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. (NYSE:AMCD) hopes analyst are right and said presale figures are the highest of any release so far in 2016. It is generally thought that North American debut ticket sales plus overseas grosses could add up to a worldwide debut of more than $300 million.