Hear Us Out is a semi-regular column in which guest contributors and editors venture forth a take that’s sure to get fans talking.
We’re mere seconds away from The Rise Of Skywalker. And sure, we’re excited – but also, if you love Star Wars and want it to continue, you might also feel that the end of the Skywalker Saga can’t come soon enough.
That may seem counterintuitive, but hear us out. The franchise is in urgent need of renewal if it is to continue in the long term.
While The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were box office smashes, they were also divisive among adults and didn’t have the mythical quality that turns children into lifelong fans. Kids understand goodies vs. baddies – but the more nuanced modern characters don’t easily lend themselves to games of Goodies versus Baddies so much as Superpowered Person With Opaque Past versus Ambiguous Villain With Veiled Agenda. Fascinating for many, but a little over-the-head for the younger Jedis out there.
We’ve had nine films exploring a single Midi-Chlorian–stuffed bloodline, and often it’s been like racing along a highway past crowded, colorful side streets without being able to jump out and explore. Bounty hunters! Exotic beasts! New cultures and species! Spaceship makers! Gambling dens! Criminal syndicates! Can’t we go sightseeing a bit?
Well, now with the Saga done, we have the opportunity to do just that. And let’s be frank…
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
He was our surrogate, the eyes through which we were introduced to that galaxy far, far away – at least, until he became the Jedi master upon whom the fate of the universe depended.
And the more he fulfilled his destiny the less engaging he became as an avatar for the viewer, which was a problem for the now-non-canon Expanded Universe, which too often followed plots that were endless reimaginings of Luke The Super-Wizard Defeats Yet Another Imperial Superweapon.
However, that same Expanded Universe also held the possible solution to Skywalker fatigue, which was to explore the universe rather than find new challenges for the core heroes to overcome.
Whether in the “Tales From…” short story collections that fleshed out the lives of background characters from the movies, or the Rogue Squadron novels and comics that followed relatively minor film characters building a new elite fighting force, or the Knights of the Old Republic games, which explored the early Jedi and Sith millennia before the Empire, all of them told fresh stories in different genres and showed just how magnificently versatile Star Wars can be.
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Who doesn’t want a happy ending to conclude a long, challenging hero’s journey?
We had decades during which we assumed our heroes lived happily ever after following Return of the Jedi’s Ewok dance party, and it’s been undercut now that we know relationship breakdowns, parental failure, political turmoil, isolation, Rathtars, and green breastmilk are just around the corner. The Rebels saved the whole galaxy, for crying out loud; is it too much to hope they earned a bit of peace in the process?
Similarly, it’d be nice to feel that Rey, Poe, Finn and/or whoever is left standing get a chance to enjoy their lives without we fans growing anxious that they’re going to be immediately plunged into some desperate new struggle for freedom before they can even grab a shower. And speaking of not getting downtime…
(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Lucasfilm Ltd./Courtesy Everett Collection)
We’ve been assured that Leia will still get a narratively satisfying send-off following Carrie Fisher’s shocking, untimely, heartbreaking death, but with her gone, Luke and Han already knocked off, and the trailer to The Rise Of Skywalker suggesting that Threepio is headed for brain wipe, the bench from the original trilogy is getting awfully thin.
Sure, we’re getting return visits from the Emperor and Lando Calrissian (and Wedge Antilles, if there’s any justice in the universe). But when even Admiral Ackbar gets killed offscreen, Star Wars needs to look forward rather than back.
Solo and Rogue One were ambitious attempts to shove new ideas into the classic format, and for all their charms, they still felt like they were forcing a longer story into the confines of a two-hour runtime. In 1977, that was the only way to do it. In 2019, that’s not remotely the case.
While Star Wars video games have been, to be generous, a bit hit-and-miss over recent years, it’s reassuring that Respawn’s recent Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has shown that having time and breathing space can be a satisfying experience, a creative triumph, and also sell through the roof (since it’s currently on track to be the fourth-biggest physical release of the year).
And for all the technical advances since, now-non-canon games like The Force Unleashed, the Dark Forces series, and the aforementioned Knights Of The Old Republic proved that letting us discover how this galaxy works at our own pace makes for an immersive, engaging experience sometimes superior to the headlong rush through settings, characters, and plot points to which the movie format is increasingly forced to adhere.
But most of all…
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)
Which brings us to The Mandalorian or, as the world knows it, Baby Yoda And His Boba Pett.
There had been TV outings for Star Wars before – Rebels, The Clone Wars, Forces of Destiny… um, Droids – but for viewers hesitant about animation, the offerings were limited to two made-for-TV Ewok movies and the legendarily awful Star Wars Holiday Special. So it’s no small deal that we just got a TV show that is not only great and Certified Fresh, but is the same Western-set-in-space that we fell in love with back in 1977.
The world of The Mandalorian feels dusty, itchy, and uncomfortable, just like the Tatooine of A New Hope, and follows through on the promise we got with our first view of the Mos Eisley Cantina: this is a dynamic universe in which every scumbag and villain has a story.
And we know that this is just the beginning for Disney+, with the Rogue One backstory explored in the upcoming Cassian Andor series and the recently confirmed Obi-Wan series starring the prequels’ MVP, Ewan McGregor.
Will they be as successful without the meme-worthy cuteness of The Child, though? Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.