Craft

The world had to wait three years, from summer 1977 to summer 1980, to meet these guys ... and it was worth it.

The waiting is the hardest part, no argument there.

But there's also something to be said for that suspended state of being known as anticipation.

Looking forward to, in other words.

Over the past three Christmas movie seasons, the waiting has given way to the sating.

Like clockwork: We don't have to anticipate, we merely have to expect.

On cue.

Right down to the day of the week of the month.

Or:

As many "Star Wars" installments have been churned out in 2015, 2016 and 2017 as it took George Lucas half a dozen summers or more to achieve for the first trilogy ... not to mention its slightly stunted millennial offspring of 1999-2005.

And that seemed just about right, more so for the first triad than the second, of course.

But with the Disney takeover of the franchise, a quick return on the investment was the priority.

When "The Force Awakens" turned up in mid-December ’15, it had been 10 years since "The Revenge of the Sith," a narrative black hole from which no one expected to see a Phoenix rising any time soon.

So the world was primed for rebirth, especially with the series' promised return to basics, complete with three long-missed, much-beloved original characters/actors.

Mission accomplished: J.J. Abrams' film was faithful in all the right ways and places, just short of groveling at the altar. No one left the theater feeling cheated or bamboozled.

In fact, the Force-fed karma was strong enough that it would have kept our goodwill for the next three years, eased along by all the franchise's co-existing media tiers, from video games to graphic novels and beyond.

But, nope: the well-oiled House of Mouse was running the galaxy now, with those big ears attuned to engineering an annual cash cow along Marvel universe lines.

Thus, in a quick 12-month turnover, Disney had ready a second "Star Wars" entry, "Rogue One," the first in a series of self-contained adventures designed to stop the gaps between official series entries.

It was warmly embraced, too, along similar fan/critical/box office lines.

At the same time, one could sense that a certain assembly-line regimentation was starting to set in. 

It suggested that the former three-year absences that made hearts automatically grow fonder might not have been such a bad thing ... even if the series was, let's face it, partly inspired by the serial aesthetic of George Lucas' "Flash Gordon"-infused youth.

One new chapter a week at a theater near you.

But if you've ever tried to watch one of those 15-chapter serials in one sitting, with no breathing room between cliffhangers, you know how numbingly repetitive and formulaic they can become. 

Which brings us to the third "Star Wars" outing in 24 months, "The Last Jedi," which opened last weekend to glowing reviews and more mega-returns on Disney's investment ... but somewhat muted audience approval ratings if knee-jerk exit polls and social media dither are to be taken to heart.

It's surely too soon to say whether this sudden disturbance in the Force is a consequence of familiarity breeding a strain of contempt, or merely some tonal/narrative misjudgments on much-touted director Rian Johnson's part.

What is for certain is that Disney's announced takeover of 20th Century Fox, which came just days after "The Last Jedi's" opening, only means that the machinery has been ramped up to a further level of efficiency, as the acquisition brings the Fox-owned originals into the fold.

Maybe the new Disney-enabled annual groove will be settled into comfortably, for both fans and for the series' growth.

And perhaps the result will be a feast of riches in that galaxy far, far away brought much, much closer to home.

Even so, the waiting of yore, whether it was the hardest part or no, is something that made the overall experience seem more rarefied.

And we'll miss it.

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com.

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