We’re only a little over a month from the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first non “Episode” theatrical release.
The story is set in the period leading up to 1977’s A New Hope and involves plans by the Rebel Alliance to steal the Death Star plans, which by the time of Episode IV were already in Princess Leia’s hands. That effort is lead by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a young woman whose father was instrumental in the creation of the Empire’s ultimate weapon and who may therefore be important to stopping or destroying it.
Much has been written over the years about the role Star Wars and its subsequent sequels played in the expansion of licensed movie merchandise. The modern action figure market largely owes its existence to the franchise, which had kids of all kinds begging parents for Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C3PO and other figures. Just as important has been the market for other consumer goods bearing the characters and marks of Star Wars. Stocking caps, bed sheets, pet toys and more have allowed all ages and genders to find something that allows them to show off their fandom in some manner.
Sometimes those products have been a bit...baffling. Certainly the Jar Jar Binks candy tongue dispenser should have gone through another round of user experience testing. And someone should have looked at the design for the C3PO tape dispenser a bit more closely before it went to production.
Even Rogue One isn’t immune from tie-in products that are a bit questionable at best. So let’s take a look at some of the more eyebrow-raising products hitting store shelves to help promote the new movie.
There’s only one situation this is suitable for and that’s having all your Star Wars nerd friends over for a marathon viewing of all seven previous movies (or the “Clone Wars” or “Rebels” TV series) before heading out to see Rogue One. This is a great example of taking an existing product - a hot air popcorn popper - and throwing a Star Wars design of some sort around it in order to mark the price up by $10 or so. It’s fine, though, so long as you’re not the guy making a joke about how each popcorn kernel is exploding like Alderaan while it’s running.
Let’s just be honest and say this is a tad insensitive to where we are in the larger society and culture. Every Star Wars movie, for the most part, has come up with some new variation on the original’s Stormtroopers and this is clearly meant to continue that trend. But with so many high-profile instances of police violence in American cities and other troubling stories, choosing to parade your kid around in a “Death Trooper” costume seems like an odd child.
Remember when you asked your parents for the AT-AT Driver figure from Empire Strikes Back (even if you didn’t have the AT-AT vehicle to put him in) or the blond-bearded Endor Rebel trooper from Return of the Jedi? There’s a long history of background Star Wars characters getting action figures, even if they never received names of their own. Sometimes they did and you can probably find an Elan Sleazebaggano carded figure at your local comics shop. But a figure for ground control staff may be the stretchiest of stretches.
I’m getting old so maybe my eyes are going bad. But I don’t detect a single bit of Star Wars general, much less Rogue One specific, branding on this shave kit. At least not on the products themselves, though the box it apparently comes in features the image of a Death Trooper. Slapping a photo on a box and calling is “Star Wars” is a great example of the lowest possible effort being put into a licensed product.
You can just imagine any dog draped in this looking around at the people it passes, desperately hoping one of them will rescue them from the fate they’ve been consigned to.
Chris Thilk is a freelance marketing writer specializing in movie marketing.