Up until twenty fourteen, the Star Wars universe had forty six years worth of expanded lore that spanned multiple forms of media: video games, novels, comic books, and table top RPGs. Many of which chronicled the history of the galaxy far, far away not just from the story in between the films, but also what happened long before the Battle of Yavin and even decades after episode six. Even when the prequel films had emerged in the late nineties, many writers and developers helped to go beyond the silver screen. However, when Disney acquired the Star Wars IP, they scrubbed away all former content besides select material. From that point forward, all that I had known literally became Legend.
One pervasive issue that I have with the Star Wars saga is that so much of the story revolves around this one blood line of the Skywalkers. With such a massive galaxy, and universe, why has there not been more venturing away from the past, and the answer is because it is familiar. This Sequel trilogy fails because of this, but the Disney Plus series, The Mandolorian, does the same. In my eyes, the Disney Plus series is a far superior Star Wars property than the recent silver screen counter parts. Why is that; let me try to cut through this Durasteel of an opinion.
Let me first say that I enjoyed myself at times during The Rise of Skywalker, but that does not mean that the movie was good in my eyes. Episode Nine relies on your familiarity of the saga from the soundtrack stings, to imagery, familiar plot lines, to past characters being ret-coned into this trilogy that were very much dead for the sake of having a proper antagonist. A cohesive vision throughout this trilogy was lacking, even the prequels, as flawed in their own right as they are, have a consistent tone, feel, and story arch. TRoS tries to payoff past plot lines in the previous films, making the story feeling cramped, and not allowed to breath and just be the conclusion to the saga. The sad thing of this new trilogy is that I understand where the conceptual path was headed.
The end point of the new trilogy was to move beyond the old cast of characters, and prepare the galaxy for a new generation of heroes. For all the mistakes of the old guard to be purged, and for the new to realize their potential and rise to the occasion. That is a much needed message that can be told until the end of time, and would ring very true for today’s millennial generation. If the timeline would have been pushed maybe another thirty to fifty years, where Luke, Leia, and Han would have naturally passed on, and would be out of the picture so to speak, and this story could have been told properly. However, mentioned previously, familiarity is comfortable and gets butts in seats.
Familiarity does get butts in seats, but fleshed out cool concepts gets the word out, which The Mandolorian executes flawlessly. The familiar aesthetic draws you in the beginning. The mystery of the protagonist draws you into the character. The culture of the Mandolorians draws you into the Universe. What is astounding about the Disney plus series is that it takes Star Wars goes back to basics, serialized pulp fiction.
A quick history lesson about the galaxy far, far away, its inception was born from George Lucas’s love of the black and white Buck Rogers serial. So while George isn’t at the helm, the creators behind the Mandolorian know why people fell in love with Star Wars in the first place. There is so much I want to know about characters, places, and events, but the show knows that they just have to give you enough to want more of it. The best part is that there is no reference to the Skywalkers, to the Emperor, just enough reference to establish this is before Force Awakens, and a few years after Episode six. That is so much better than what the main line movies have been doing to bring fans back to the screen.
This is not to say that there have been no good films of the Star Wars lineage in recent years. I really did like Rogue One for how it expanded the cast of characters. While the argument can be made for why did this movie needed to made, I would ask the same of the Solo movie. I would also retort with, Rogue One gave interesting characters that gave deeper dimensions to the factions of the Empire and the Rebellion. The film also gave a plausible reason for the biggest joke in Star Wars, the obvious flaw in the Death Star.
Outside of that one movie, the new Star Wars trilogy and saga that has spawned from it has let me down, because all it has been is reactionary to itself. Episode seven was structured as to gain appeal to old fans by being beat for beat episode four, as if J.J. Abrams is saying, “Look at me, I remember when Star Wars was cool”. Episode eight, dropped all of the set up in seven, and subverted expectation thinking that this makes an interesting plot when all it did was assassinate or oversimplify characters. Episode nine, back tracked on episode eight and tried to cram as much it could to trying to make a fulfilling conclusion. The conclusion was never going to be satisfying, because for what J.J. setup in Force Awakens, Rian Johnson did not carry through to The Last Jedi, and even J.J. did not have a plan throughout the sequel trilogy, hence why The Rise of Skywalker feels so unsatisfactory.
I am glad that Star Wars is back in the pop culture zeitgeist and kids can have a similar experience to me. My hope is that through this trilogy, kids will go back and watch the other movies. For example, my sister recently watched the entire saga and she realizes the drop in stark difference between the prequels, OG trilogy, and the sequel trilogy. My feeling about Star Wars is that it should stick to the shows for consistency, but every once in a while make a one off film like Rogue One. While I do realize that puts a monthly pay-gate for most people versus a one and done type for the films, they can do more with story and use a lower budget. Star Wars has returned for the newcomers, but the Star Wars that I remember has also returned in form of The Mandolorian. Please check it out, “This is the way”.