At the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi—the polarising eighth chapter of the Skywalker saga—we see a little boy use the Force to pick up a broom then look off into the stars. As simple and familiar as that image was, it promised a bold new future for the Star Wars franchise—one that wasn’t ruled by a family dynasty. Anyone could use the Force, and the galaxy far, far away might have new stories to tell.
What was so exciting about that scene in particular is that it seemed to suggest forward motion in Star Wars—a story that would relinquish its grip on the past and move this timeline, finally, forward. This mantra of “kill the past” was exactly what polarised so many Star Wars fans. Many didn’t want to see change. For more than four decades, the Star Wars empire has largely been built upon the same group of characters telling the same story. It’s understandable that for some fans, deviating from this familiarity means abandoning the core tenets of Star Wars itself. This conflict has crippled the franchise. The follow-up to The Last Jedi is the perfect example of this ideological clash. The Rise of Skywalker is a movie that is neither forward-thinking nor appealingly familiar. In the end, it was just another Star Wars story, the likes of which we’ve seen for 43 years now.
With the completion of the Skywalker Saga and the Clone Wars animated series this summer, Disney seemingly brought this era of Star Wars to a close. In February, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that the priority for the next few years of Star Wars is in television. This seems like a clear reaction to the hugely positive response to the first season of The Mandalorian, which launched on Disney + in late 2019 to massive numbers and glowing critical praise. “[The company is exploring] the possibility of infusing The Mandalorian with more characters and taking those characters in their own direction in terms of series,” Iger said. The Mandalorian and shows like it are the future of Star Wars, he proclaimed.
The next TV shows Disney has in development are an Obi-Wan Kenobi series starring Ewan McGregor, and a Cassian Andor series starring Diego Luna. Both are characters who lived and died within the timeline already explored in previous Star Wars movies. Both series will presumably fill in some of the gaps of a story that has been told for the last 43 years. Like The Mandalorian (which I really enjoy, mind you), they are not the future of Star Wars, no matter what corners of this vast galaxy they trot.
This is a safe next step for Disney. Movies are expensive (the shows are, too, for sure, but don’t have the same risk and expectations). If they’re going to keep this IP alive, TV shows starring familiar characters are an easy way to continue to cash in on our deepening thirst for nostalgia. And that’s what The Mandalorian does to a brilliant degree. Baby Yoda is perhaps the single greatest Star Wars invention since R2-D2. And even Baby Yoda is not new. Sure, Disney wants you to call it The Child—but Baby Yoda is what he is, a baby who is also a Yoda creature. With Baby Yoda in tow, a man in familiar armour goes to familiar bars, talks to people who use familiar language, and fights familiar foes. He’s presumably fighting the same battle Star Wars has been fighting since the beginning. This is not a bash on The Mandalorian (again, I love it), but it would be foolish to say this show is anything new or different. (I should note that Disney does have some fresh ideas with its High Republic books, the only auxiliary entries in the new official canon that explore different eras of Star Wars, but even those are loosely tied to more of the same, as they do feature Young Yoda.)
The Mandalorian does not kill the past. The Mandalorian basks in the past, offering a slightly different perspective on it. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy living in the Star Wars universe, to soak in it like a warm bath.
But we should also demand more from Disney. This is one of the biggest entertainment conglomerates in the known universe. They have every single tool imaginable at their disposal to write and produce a new story within the Star Wars framework. There are almost entirely no boundaries of the human imagination they can’t explore. Should we give them a pass, and let them hand us leftovers and call it a gourmet meal? Or should we thank them for making us happy for now and ask nicely to cook something new next time?
I understand that this is just a transitional period as Disney reassesses what it did right and wrong with its Star Wars trilogy. But this is also the time for us to be clear about the expectations for what comes next for Star Wars, in the actual future of this IP.
Right now, Disney has a number of possible next-era projects in the works: There’s a Taika Waititi movie, a JD Dillard movie, some Kevin Feige movies, a Rian Johnson movie trilogy, among other rumoured projects we know almost nothing about. Though details are scarce, it looks like most of these will not take place in the same part of the timeline that every other film and show has been set so far (or at least many creators have promised as much). This is the real future that Star Wars fans deserve, as long as Disney doesn’t take the easy way out and rely on the same tired gimmicks that have kept the IP afloat in the modern era. I have the utmost faith in Waititi, Dillard, Feige, and Johnson, but I do worry how the powers that be in the Disney machine could stifle creativity in fear of the bottom line.
Now is the time to demand more from Disney, to not accept the bare minimum from a corporation that has the means to make a Star Wars movie in actual space. Right now, we’re all the little kid staring off into the night sky wondering what would come next. Let’s just hope Disney can deliver.
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