I’d feel pretty justified in saying that Star Wars, as a brand, has had a bit of roller coaster ride of fortunes since Disney’s big money purchase of the franchise. To say opinion of Star Wars has become decisive since they’ve taken the reigns would be a massive understatement.
No amount of frustration or anger at George Lucas’s creative choices around the special edition or the prequel trilogy would come close to the white-hot rage some parts of the fandom would feel about the direction of the franchise under Disney’s guidance.
As I write now though, with the second season of the Mandalroain having (kinda) recently ended, and the prospect of a whole slate of new Star Wars shows on the horizon, it feels like Star Wars is on the mend. Not just for the insense/insane fan, but for the casual one who felt their passion for the series lapse after a very underwhelming sequel trilogy.
It’s because the direction Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have taken Star Wars in has been met with almost unanimous positivity, using Clone Wars, Rebels and The Mandalorian as the launchpad for the continuing tone and content of the franchise. But what is it about the guidance of these two men that has succeeded where the sequel trilogy failed so catastrophically?
The most obvious reason would be a unity of vision and a confidence to follow through with the original plan, two things the episodes seven through nine lacked. Unlike the sequels, it feels like there is this singular vision at the core of this current brand of Star Wars, driven by people (rather than a conference room) who actually have a hot passion for the franchise, as well as a clearer understanding of the franchise’s legacy from a fan’s perspective.
Just using the second season of the Mandalorian alone as an example, the series manages to weave both old and new aspects of the franchise together to give fans of all eras something to get excited about. Old fans were bouncing around over the reappearance of Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker, while a newer generation of fan who might have started with the animated series were much more excited to see Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan.
The creators managed to bring both eras of the franchise together seamlessly, making it accessible to everyone and introducing new aspects of the franchise to those who might not have known about them before, all without making it feel like it was forced in there. Which had always been the best thing about the old Expanded Universe; it all felt like one organic, living universe where these characters all exist at the same time.
Where sometimes characters would encounter one another during their stories, others didn’t. Readers of my episodic reviews of the Mandalorian might have seen my rant upon watching episode eight about the inclusion of Luke Skywalker. Upon further reflection, I have come to like the choice a little more since then, but I still feel like it was a movie driven by the knowledge of the powerful fan reaction more than in being an organic inclusion within the series.
That being said, my only genuine issue with the choice now is that it’s one that keeps the Star Wars universe feeling small. Keeping the stories revolving around the Skywalker clan like some dense black hole in the centre of the galaxy. Honestly, it does make the most sense that it would be Luke who responds to Grogu’s call, but it also makes it seems like the franchise can’t escape that same collection of characters no matter how hard they try.
Of course, thinking about it for a moment or two, you realise how many new series there are out there getting announced. All of them using the Mandalorian as a launchpad for this new, soft-rebooted version of the Star Wars story.
I hardly have to finish complaining about the creators returning to the well of easy wins when I think about the ten new Star Wars shows/movies on the horizon. Within which we’re guaranteed a ton of new characters, locations and adventures. All of which are going to spiderweb out into their own, unique corners of the galaxy. One that spreads so broadly that eventual character crossovers will feel far more exciting than it might have when there were only a small handful of characters possible to show up and take Grogu away.
While I might not have been totally in love with the choice of having Luke Skywalker show up at the end of the Mandalorian, I am totally assured that both Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have future plans for him and Grogu both. It’s a confidence I never had when it came to the sequel movies and how quickly they backed down after the response to The Last Jedi.
Which brings me back to my original point and how this version of a new Star Wars works where the new Star Wars of the sequels failed. The whole idea of jumping 30 years into the future felt like it was almost entirely based around the fact that the studios wanted the original actors to return and the time skip served the purpose of accounting for their age. But so much had changed that it felt them being there was to the detriment of the newer actors who were being introduced to “replace” them.
It was depressing. Plus, it felt like there was so much story around these characters I wanted to see. A probable side effect of all of those old Expanded Universe stories that eventually painted a much different, and preferrable older Luke Skywalker.
Now though, that timeline has been boxed up. Not forgotten, but placed up on a high shelf, to mature and have the dust blown off it when the time is right. Until then, we get to return to a time shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi. Before Luke was a haggard, embittered old man and was still the new hope.
Like with the prequels and Clone Wars, we have a timeline with a predetermined endpoint, we know where we get in the end, as much as some of us might not like it. But with this new vision shepherding us forward, we can have new context leading us to those three movies. Which might not be the worst thing.
Like how Filoni retroactively made Star Wars fans love Anakin Skywalker through the Clone Wars series, there’s every opportunity that seeing how we get to the First Order and how Luke becomes the man he becomes makes those movies much better in retrospect, having the context and actually giving us some time to see Luke as a badass Jedi for a while before having him bow out.
Although that’s all a far ways off and there are a lot of promises that need to be fulfilled before then. All of that being said though, I feel more contented as a Star Wars fan now than I have since I got swept up in the hype of the Force Awakens, although this time I feel like the shine isn’t going to wear off after the hype dies down. You just need to know that anything new and Star Wars related is going to be showing up on this blog as soon as humanly possible.