December 31, 2016 – As we bid “Good-bye” to 2016, Star Wars fans will remember some of the high points of a rather tumultuous year.
For starters, we entered January on the tailwinds of the phenomenally successful The Force Awakens movie, which had premiered on December 18, 2015. TFA became the fastest film to gross $1 billion USD. It also had the largest worldwide opening weekend and single weekend gross at $529 million combined.
Yes, TFA had its faults, particularly its lazy cribbing of the plot from A New Hope (“Not another Death Star!”). But by year’s end, fans had moved on and found redemption in director Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Rogue One gobsmacked fans and more than a few critics for its original storytelling, adept use of CGI (welcome back, Governor Tarkin), and seamless introduction of the “Rebel spies” we first heard about four decades ago.
Once you have watched Rogue One, it will alter the way you see A New Hope as you harmonize both movies. That is the impact and hallmark of a brilliant true prequel.
In its first 13 days, Rogue One has hauled in an impressive $358M domestic (U.S.) and $654M worldwide. Domestically, the prequel’s 13-day total is the fourth-best ever behind The Avengers ($395M), Jurassic World ($436M) and The Force Awakens ($629M).
For fans lucky enough to attend Star Wars Celebration Europe in London in July, the three-day convention was full of all the high points you would expect: A pre-screening of some of Rogue One‘s contents and a stage show with some of its stars; meet-and-greets with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Kenny Baker and a bevy of other Original Trilogy and prequel actors; and the usual assortment of vendors, exhibits, panels and exclusive collectibles.
San Diego Comic-Con followed up the next week with its own panels, seminars, and workshops. However, overcrowding, a current lawsuit against expansion of the convention center, and lack of construction funding, mean that the venue may have to be moved to another city sometime after 2018.
The third season of the animated Star Wars Rebels began on Sept. 24th and met with mostly positive reviews. The appearance of Grand Admiral Thrawn gave high hope to fans that Expanded Universe characters and storylines might still be incorporated into Star Wars canon. Ezra’s dance with the Dark Side and his interactions with Darth Maul continue to enthrall.
But then came the low points: The deaths of Erik Bauersfeld (voice of Admiral Ackbar and Bib Fortuna) on April 3rd, Kenny Baker (R2-D2) on Aug. 13th, and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) on Dec. 27th, felt like an assault on our childhood. Against the backdrop of numerous other celebrity deaths in 2016, many of us wanted the curtain to fall on 2016 and to escape the grim news of the past year.
As far as collecting news, not much has changed over the past year. Hasbro still has a tin ear when it comes to longtime collectors’ requests. Playsets seem to be a thing of the past. Vehicle releases are met with a groan, whether it’s Nerf-firing TIE strikers and U-Wings or the grossly overpriced Rapid Fire Imperial AT-ACT’s at $300 each. (Some retailers, such as Target, have begun to mark the AT-ACT’S down to as low as $150 in order to move product.)
2016 action figures did excite part of the fan base. Walmart couldn’t stock the 3.75-inch Emperor’s Royal Guard fast enough. The 6-inch line of figures is growing on us with their super-articulation and better paint apps, including all the Scarif Stormtroopers, Scarif Stormtrooper Squad Leaders, Death Troopers and other figures you manage to find. And the announcement of a 6-inch Darth Revan (at last!) is giving fanboys and fangirls reason to hope for better things to come in 2017.
And finally, a look back at some website metrics. According to WordPress, here are the Top Ten Articles readers of this site have been reading all year long:
The numerical data (not shown here) are important because they reveal there is intense interest in articles about Star Wars collecting, curiousity about Boba Fett’s fate and future (No. 1 most-read article), and even a morbid appeal as to a charred Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Go figure.
Happy New Year, everyone. See you in January!