The Galaxy Needs Our Help
Fixing Star Wars
We're now a year and a half removed when the "grand" conclusion to Disney's first Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same. trilogy, dubbed the "Sequel Trilogy", came out in the form of Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. With the time between then and now, it's fair to say that the movie is generally hated by just about everyone. Yes, it was a money maker at the time, but then it's rare that the name "Star Wars" can't sell anything (sorry Solo: A Star Wars Story). General cultural opinion is that the sequel trilogy was a half-baked affair that needed vastly more time in the hopper (and a lot less J.J. Abrams) to actually function properly.
I wouldn't say that Star Wars is at a crossroads. Even if the sequel trilogy is not beloved by fans it still made oodles of money (and that just with tickets sales, saying nothing about, as Yogurt put it in Spaceballs, "Moichandising!"). And even if Disney is trying to figure out what to do with the films going forward, they do have a number of TV shows that have been generally well received by fans: Rebels, The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch, with even more on the way. Star Wars is alive and well, in a way, and likely will be for some time.
That doesn't change the fact, though, that it feels like the franchise needs a swift kick, something to shake it out of a bit of the rut its in (and has been in since George Lucas put out the Prequel Trilogy). Think about it: for the most part the series has been obsessed with a 75 year (give or take) window that spans from Episode I: The Phantom Menace to Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Every live-action movie, live-action show, and cartoon currently in continuity fits into that chunk of time. And every story told, without exception, eventually ends up bringing in the characters we see time and again: the Skywalkers, the Solos, the Palpatines. As far as fans know, the Galaxy Far Far Away starts and ends during the period of time, and everyone in the known universe seems to know each other (and is sucked in by the gravitational pull of one family).
It seems like the obvious step, to shake up the franchise and give it a solid boost (especially if and when Disney elects to pursue new movies in the franchise) is to finally find a different time period for the series to explore. This has, of course, been done before -- the video games revolving around "The Old Republic", for example, or the recent publishing initiative for "The High Republic" -- and I think these are great ideas. Problem is that those eras haven't yet been seen in live media, movies and shows, for the general fanbase to enjoy.
For a while I thought that the Old Republic would be a great era to explore in a film. It might still be a great place to explore, but the MMO based during that era has certainly mined a lot of material from that time period so, at this point, it feels like well enough should be left along. Meanwhile, although I know it has its fans, what I've seen of the High Republic books and comics has left me cold. It doesn't have the spark and zest of good sci-fi media, and if we're going to bring an era to film and TV we want it to be good.
So, instead, I think we should look ahead. We should be focused on a new era down the line, maybe a hundred years after Episode IX, maybe even thousands of years later so even the "Skywalker" name has faded from minds. We need something far enough removed that the "incestuous" feel of the current era, where everyone knows everyone else and all the adventures seem to coil around each other, can be shaken loose. This needs to be fresh and different, with a technological jump ahead and a shift of ideas that make this ear feel brand new.
Let's propose that whatever Republic is formed after Episode IX is still technically going 1,000 years later. Our hero, who for the sake of argument could be male or female, but we'll just give them a generic sci-fi name... Zandar, is a freight hauler on the edge of space, trucking supplies from one ass end of the Galaxy Far Far Away to the other. They don't have any aspirations to joining the Republic, and there's no stirrings of some evil Empire or First (or Second) Order or whatever. They just go about their business, dealing with concerns on a much more local level.
What's important here is to establish their normalcy. They work to make ends meet, but they're neither an analogue for Han Solo nor a secret Luke Skywalker. They're somewhere in between if we aligned them between Ruffian and Noble Hero, mind you, and when a ship in need comes barreling into the area of Zandar's ship, he/she feels compelled to help them. This survivor was running from space pirates (not the Metroid kind), and Zandar gets sucked into their life, forced to help then run and stay hidden while they are pursued by these bad dudes.
Note that never once are we talking about Force powers or concerns of a larger war. This is a grounded film following a couple of people as they deal with a much smaller, and more personal, adventure. It's a chase film that sees the heroes bouncing from one planet to the next, searching for aid, finding ways to escape their pursuers, and then finally leading to a confrontation on a planet that sees Zandar grow into the kind of hero we actually expect from these kinds of films. Only at the end so we find any hint of larger mystical stuff, like maybe the planet for the "last stand" sequence was also an ancient Sith outpost, one that housed an old and crumbling library. Zandar could stumble in, find their books, and maybe he thinks, "these are the ancient Knights that used to protect the universe."
I think a story like this (and I'm just spit-balling something far removed from what current is going on in the 'verse) has the potential to open up Star Wars in new ways. One, if you make the hero pick up the Sith texts, what does that say about them? Were they secretly Sith all along, or maybe it's that the philosophies of both sides, Jedi and Sith, could be used for good or evil entirely based on the person that accepts them. With 1,000 years from when the Jedi and the Sith even mattered, perhaps it allows for a deeper study of the Light and the Dark of the Force, a way to change perceptions and alter our ideas of what the right is in the universe.
Plus, as far as a trilogy goes (since this series loves trilogies), you can then set up a second film where the hero tries to figure out the powers these books are teaching as they battle with the Light and the Dark inside, all while they have to help their new friend and, maybe, protect a home-world from invaders. It would finally lead to a bigger, third film where our new "Sith" creates a small order of people they can trust, creating a new era of "Knights", all while taking the fight to the space pirates. Maybe then they have to battle within themselves if they annihilate the bad guys or show mercy. Do they stay a hero of become the villain of their own story?
Again, this is just an idea, but what's important is that it's not impossible to create new stories in this 'verse that don't have to revolve around the same locations, the same characters, the same ideas. There's no need for some new Emperor, a new Death Star-like ship, a new Cult of Skywalker to show up. A fresh era, with new ideas, is possible and can still feel like Star Wars. That's what I want to see from the series: new ideas that don't leave me feeling like I'm watching the same old story all over again.