At its best, Star Wars is a world (or, more accurately, worlds) to get lost within—places and people with incomplete backstories, sci-fi saloons where every dented cantina cup tells a new tale... And it’s all peppered with some occasional, anachronistic laser-sword battles thrown in for good measure. At its worst, it’s Jar-Jar Binks, green screens, soulless IP cash-ins, and overused memes. Really, it shouldn’t be too hard to create the feelings often evoked in the former examples... and yet, here we are a few years later, still steaming over Rise of Skywalker.
There are a lot of factors to blame for the varying, generally tepid output of Star Wars material over the past decade or so, but it’s much more fun to lay the blame on a single, monomaniacal evil empire, so let’s do just that:
Disney. It’s all Disney’s fault.
At least, that’s largely what The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber argues in his recent article for the magazine, which lays out what Disney has so often gotten wrong since acquiring the rights to George Lucas’ universe almost a decade ago.
“The Star Wars franchise offers action and escapism, but re-enchanting our own world was always its greatest trick...Star Wars immerses you in the awesome knowledge that peripheral things—the neighbors you don’t understand, the buildings you don’t notice—have their own sagas,” Kornhaber writes, arguing that the franchise has always been at its best when it leaves in the mysteries and unexplained aspects for its fans to fill in with their own imaginations.
“Many a mediocre Star Wars product has arisen from trying to define every entry in the galactic glossary. The original films work precisely because of the holes,” he later adds, something often missing in the latest trilogy and spin-off films. So, is there no reason for a (sorry) new hope?
...Nah, The Mandalorian has got us pretty well covered so far, says Kornhaber. With its old-school sets, dingy worlds, and open-ended mysteries, Disney’s first foray into live-action Star Wars television often precisely captures what makes the beloved universe work so well. “This episodic, open-ended style of entertainment is a hallmark of dramatic TV—but it’s also very Star Wars,” Kornhaber argues, while conceding that it remains to be seen just how long Disney can manage this without caving to fan service and unnecessary tie-ins (recent episodes suggest this unfortunate outcome will happen sooner than later).
But hey, even if The Mandalorian eventually (inevitably) succumbs to a fate similar to so many Star Wars titles before it, there are still a ton of other in-universe series coming our way in the near future, whether we like it or not. Surely, the laws of probability imply at least one of those won’t be half bad, right?
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