It’s been quite a couple weeks for Star Wars.
Season 2 of The Mandalorian has really been something special. On its own, it’s been a fun little window into the world of Star Wars. All the characters Din has interacted with have been a joy to watch, but for those of us who have been watching Filoni’s other Star Wars worlds, it’s been a particularly exciting treat. Bo Katan and Ahsoka making their live action debuts were outstanding, and the lore they brought with them; like the Darksaber, is really cool to see. And then there’s Boba Fett. My goodness, way to make that character shine after all these years.
But there’s more. Disney announced a metric ton of new Star Wars projects coming our way, and while there’s always cause for concern when it comes to Star Wars, I think I can safely say this is the best position the franchise has been in since right before The Force Awakens hit theaters.
The sequel trilogy has endured an astronomical amount of hatred since its inception. Fans had an idea of what they wanted the new movies to be, and when that idea was not met, things got ugly. I will admit that not all of the criticism was unwarranted. The new movies certainly aren’t flawless. But this revisionist history we’re seeing now where the prequels are these misunderstood masterpieces (they aren’t) and the sequels are the among the most unwatchable, awful movies ever to grace the screen (they aren’t) is a really rough hill to get over.
Last year I traveled down an insane Star Wars franchise rewatch in order to prepare for what was set to be the final chapter in the Skywalker Saga and investigate any possible merit to the loudest voices on the internet. I went through the entire franchise chronologically, including all the movies and TV shows, and I wrote about it here on Geekade. I intended to review Rise of Skywalker after its release too, but I decided against it because I have a serious blind spot when it comes to this franchise.
Back when the prequels released, I had convinced myself that I loved them. After several years though, the things I didn’t like about them became a lot more obvious. The fog of overwhelming fandom had lifted and I stopped trying to convince myself that they were good and judged them on their own merits. In time, I made peace with the fact that I really don’t care for episodes II and III. I wish I did, but no matter how many times I try to like them, the bad VASTLY outweighs the good. Episode 1, on the other hand, is pretty okay in my book.
So for the sequel trilogy. I can’t help but carry this fear that I’m diluting myself again into just thinking they’re good movies when I actually don’t enjoy them, but no matter how many times I go back to them, I can’t stop loving them. I understood why people didn’t like the prequels when they came out. They’re legitimately awful movies in many respects, but I was able to internally justify their flaws thanks to my ridiculous love for the franchise. With the sequels, they aren’t perfect, but they’re really fun and emotionally effective.
But now that those movies are behind us, the face of the franchise has changed. Disney seems to be taking a couple of pages out of the MCU’s book, and if they play it right this time, it could turn out to be something really special. They’re letting the franchise breathe a bit before jumping into an onslaught of interconnected content, they’re focusing on stories that exist in the same universe and timeline but don’t necessarily feature the same characters, and they might even be leading up to some sort of Avengers-style crossover event centered around a unifying threat. But I might be getting ahead of myself.
If Mandalorian has proven anything, it’s that people don’t need there to be Skywalkers to love Star Wars. Mandalorian has its fair share of tie-ins to the existing Star Wars mythos, but at its core it’s a show about this guy who exists in this world with these absolutely legendary characters, but none of them play as anything more than side characters who help Din and Grogu complete their quest. Even Luke Skywalker himself is just a means to an end.
Now, let’s not forget, Disney tried their hand at annualizing Star Wars movies before and they wound up creating franchise fatigue. Rogue One worked because it was a really freaking good movie, but Solo, while not a bad movie by any means, pretty much tanked at the box office because well, that’s not a story people were clamoring to hear, and it messed with the “event” status that Star Wars movies had had over the years. Star Wars movies weren’t Marvel movies, and there needed to be an intrinsic shift in the way the franchise was viewed before they could turn it into something that was capable of sustaining interest on a more regular basis.
So after pumping the breaks and focusing their efforts on a new set of characters and a streaming episodic show instead of a big budget blockbuster, Disney struck gold. It certainly didn’t hurt that they figured out what it was that people actually like about Star Wars in the first place.
So the ship has been righted. Prequel haters, sequel haters, OT loyalists, and lovers of all things Star Wars all seem to agree that the secret sauce of The Mandalorian is the way. And Disney has heard them loud and clear.
Now we have a cavalcade of upcoming Star Wars projects, and I’m surprised to say that I’m not concerned about fatigue this time around. Foremost because the bulk of these projects seem to be very different from one another. Some are shows, some are movies, some are animated, some are anime. I’m probably not going to watch all of them. Heck, I never went back and finished Star Wars: Resistance. I just didn’t care enough. Show wasn’t bad, but it didn’t hook me, and you know what? That’s okay. Not everything has to. Not everything Star Wars is going to be for me. But there does seem to be a Star Wars for everyone now, and that’s a pretty awesome thing.
So here I am, cautiously optimistic about the future of one of my favorite fictional franchises. It could all go very wrong, but I have a good feeling this time. Nothing on the slate looks like the next Solo, and that can only be a good thing for Star Wars.
So let’s see what the Galaxy has in store. If I’m right and this is all building to one big interconnected MCU-style set of stories, I’m going to be thrilled. If that villain happens to be Grand Admiral Thrawn and we get the fabled Thrawn Trilogy retold in live action, that would be unbelievably cool. And who knows? Maybe they’ll pull even more old EU stuff in, Maybe Shadows of the Empire is in our future, who knows? All I do know is that Disney finally seems to understand that there’s a bottomless wealth of creativity (and profit) to be had in telling Star Wars stories that aren’t directly related to the Skywalker Saga, and I couldn’t be more excited about where we go from here.
The thing is, Dave Filoni has been doing this for e very long time, and after finding his footing with Clone Wars, he’s been absolutely killing it. With Favreau and the mass appeal of live-action on his side, the future couldn’t be brighter. If season 2 of Mandalorian is any indication, I think we’re all in for a heck of a ride.