The Skywalker Saga. These are the mainline movies which tell the story of the Skywalker family through a trilogy of trilogies. Additionally, the multiple TV series, video games, and comic books popping up in between the release of these continue to entertain and draw in millions. As a result, the community has clearly grown to be substantial, and of course always hungry for more content. Obviously I am one of these people, alongside author and face of Paragon Standard, Nathan Burton. I love the Clone Wars TV series, Rogue One (which I reviewed), and the more recent The Mandalorian to name just a few. So imagine my reaction when Disney, who own Star Wars, just had a shareholder meeting this year releasing teasers and trailers for a tonne of new Star Wars related content.
That’s why it comes with a heavy heart to say that I believe the franchise has become noticeably dull and more stagnant in recent times. And it all comes down mostly to what the universe centres on. The Skywalker Saga.
Now of course this is just my opinion, but I’ve been feeling a disturbance in the Force for a while now. It’s been nagging at me whilst recently rewatching the latest Star Wars movie, Rise of Skywalker, and like a TIE fighter on my six I just can’t seem to shake it. What is starting to become more apparent to me is that, in regards to the mainline movies, Disney and Lucasfilm are afraid to take a leap of faith. They fear the responsibility of having to come up with new ideas (just like Hollywood) despite the fact that it is an extremely rich universe.
The movies just seem to rely on the constant repetition of its own tropes to stay relevant, with glaringly obvious patterns that have nothing necessarily to do with theme, aesthetic, or the branding of Star Wars in general. How can an epic sci-fi space opera that brought pure wonder to generations start to come off as lazy and even clichéd at times?
“Fear is the path to the dark side.” - Master Yoda
You might find my lack of faith disturbing, but I want to reiterate that I truly enjoy Star Wars. I always have and as a sci-fi fan it holds a special place in my heart amongst all the movies and TV shows the genre has produced over the years. However, I am not bound to blind loyalty like some fanatic Imperial. As a fan I can recognise flaws when I see them, and that change, when handled with careful consideration can make things better. I may not understand why Lucasfilm have approached their movies in the way that they have, but for my own sanity let’s go over a few things.
Before I go into the specific problems I’ve noticed, as a disclaimer I’ve immersed myself in a lot of Star Wars content, but at the same time I’m yet to get around to reading the comics and extended universe novels so I’m sure my opinion isn’t fully informed. And before I also rant, it’s good to acknowledge that as an audience we need to remember to occasionally suspend our disbelief. Force healing for example has been brought up before so it shouldn’t be that surprising or controversial to finally see someone like Rey use it, even if it is a full on revival. And transporting objects across time and space is... really strange and out there (literally), but so is using the Force to see visions of the future, so I guess it’s within the realm of possibility.
There are things that can be overlooked as those who have watched the prequels are all too familiar with, but when you see something that’s a bit off, it’s hard to unsee it. With that being said, where do I begin?...
The first movie of the latest trilogy, The Force Awakens starts off more or less the same way the original, A New Hope did. Whether:
The journey begins on a desert planet like Tatooine or Jakku.
There is always a Rebellion/Resistance with low odds fighting against the totalitarian fascism of the Galactic Empire/First Order.
A droid like R2-D2 or BB-8 has important information for the plot.
There is a weapon of unbelievable mass destruction with some sort of critical component to be destroyed.
Destiny calls upon a seemingly nobody like Luke or Rey to become Jedi, the only possible hero the galaxy is reliant on.
After a while it’s all so... unimaginative. Obviously elements and events from the originals should not be ignored and pretend as if they had no influence on the universe. They’re what make Star Wars iconic and great after all, but... are there really no other hero archetypes to rally behind, no other themes important enough to explore, no other stories worth telling in a vast ever-expanding galaxy?
It can be argued that this approach is reincarnating the franchise for a new generation who didn’t experience the originals in the same way older fans did. That’s fair and all, except for the fact that it seems there are no signs that the mainline movies are going to adapt or deviate from any of the aforementioned any time in the future.
You know what really inspired this article though? Retroactive Continuity or better known as-
"Retrospectively revise (an aspect of a fictional work), typically by introducing a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events.”
That’s right, it was the dismissal of Snoke, shifting Rey’s parentage, and the it was actually all part of Emperor Palpatine’s plan twist and definitely isn’t uninspired retcon stance Star Wars took. This isn't what I meant when I said we needed change to renew life in the franchise! Only Sith deal in absolutes and this is as extreme as you can get. I mean come on, don’t act like the Emperor was alive the whole time and that you knew you were going to put him in... *sighs*
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that everything about Star Wars is “bad” or “wrong”. There are silver linings to the new trilogy too and I’m sure there are plenty I have still yet to discover. There is one in particular though that I didn’t notice initially and came to appreciate much more recently.
It’s the idea that even though reincarnating/recycling the Empire into the First Order might seem lazy, the organisation’s transformation is actually pretty relevant. In the same way the totalitarianism of the First Order was born from the ashes of the defeated Galactic Empire, to a certain extent I see this as an allegory for what’s happening right now in the real world.
After everything that had happened in WWII and the Nazis were finally defeated, their ideas were reviled, and the enforcement of their ideology was shut down without hesitation.
Cut to: The Present. The year is 2020 and we couldn’t be further from this. If you pay any attention to the world around you then you’ll know that Right Wing politics have gone awry and consequently stirred up hatred, anger, and division that is unprecedented. Hitler and the Nazis lost in an all out war to end all wars... and yet, The First Order somehow survived. Beyond all expectations the Dark Side thrives clouding all sense and judgement we once had.
It might not be great to see the real world leak into the movies that we use as escapism from exactly this, but in these times it is so important to acknowledge what is right and what is wrong regardless of opinion.
On a lighter note, as it turns out they actually are addressing everything I’ve been talking about, it’s just exclusively outside the mainline movies for some reason. If you look, there is a decent amount to work with and appreciate (which is always the case with any movie or TV show by the way).
In animated TV such as Star Wars: Rebels, there are storylines that have finally been concluded like Darth Maul’s, as well as lore that has been expanded upon including the Mortis gods (Father, Son, Daughter) and their connection to the Force. This even mixes in with live action TV through The Mandalorian which gives a fresh take to the universe. It adds new characters with their own arcs plus some intriguing plots that bridge gaps between the original movies and the latest trilogy. And because one main movie every few years isn’t enough we now get additional movies which are being called Star Wars Stories. Through stories like Rogue One and Solo we at least get attempts to look at characters, important events, and the galaxy in general from a different perspective. What a refreshing welcome!
This ‘extended’ content Lucasfilm, and now Disney+ put out, evidently retains the familiarity of the galaxy far far away that we’re so fond of, and yet also manages to take it in new and exciting ways. Whether it’s giving more of a spotlight to things that need it or watching a new story unfold, maybe Star Wars isn’t in as much danger of becoming irrelevant as I initially thought.
What Can Change?
As I’ve mentioned before, my opinion isn’t fully informed, nevertheless I think there should be some good things any fan can take away from this article even if it is just food for thought. Now there is no one definitive way to “fix” a universe like Star Wars, not that there is anything wrong with it on a fundamental level, but like many struggling, up and coming screenwriters I have a few ideas:
In regards to the overall approach of the franchise, they shouldn’t be afraid to adapt and add to what’s already present. We’ve done the chosen one arc too many times so can we please just move on? I think in this example, heroes come in all forms and shapes so why can’t someone other than a Jedi save the galaxy for once?
If a story is going to be told across multiple movies through a trilogy format then have a defined and thought out plan before you start the first one. With the latest trilogy it didn’t feel like this was the case since there was no subtle foreshadowing or obvious setup for future story arcs which is basic storytelling. And even though they can’t account for unforeseen circumstances like Carrie Fisher’s death, they should already be able to adapt because they have thought through and plotted out the metaphorical jump points on the nav computer.
Have someone prominently in charge overseeing the trilogy from start to end like Kevin Feige has for the MCU. You can have different directors come on board adding their touch and style to an individual movie, but have a framework for them to work within for the sake of overall consistency.
Hire people who are genuinely passionate about Star Wars and not just interested about the opportunity to work in a major franchise. Rian Johnson treated Last Jedi like he did not care about the universe or any of the characters whatsoever from my point of view. He did things that he thought were interesting for the movie he was making, but it had fundamental repercussions that he didn’t have to deal with.
I could spend a lifetime on any nerdy topic if you let me, but these are just some of the thoughts I had. I’m also certain you have opinions of your own. There are those of you that probably love the latest trilogy along with others like myself who have mixed feelings. Then there are the people who are more... “passionate” about their stance on what is good and bad content, but to each their own.
I still enjoy Star Wars regardless of the points I’ve mentioned and think it still has a lot going for itself. Personally, I would like to see some incremental change, even if it can be scary, but regardless I’m still interested and more than happy to see the future slate of Star Wars.