Imagine being called to play the main characters in a completely new Star Wars trilogy, and everything was going well. The first film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is a gigantic success, complemented by incredibly positive reviews, and you feel like you’ve scored absolutely career-defining roles. And then with one fell swoop, the next film in the trilogy exposes the sheer incompetence of Disney and Lucasfilm that still haunts the franchise to this day. I swear, almost every time any of these actors are asked a question about Star Wars in interviews, they just sigh in painful disappointment first before uttering any words. And then there is the fanbase, which is as angry, divided, and volatile as it’s ever been. I have watched every film, played every game, and binge-watched every TV show, and yet it’s not that I’m burned out. But I am frustrated to see the empire of a once-great franchise crumble down right before my eyes because of a company that must be out of its mind.
As much as Marvel is in the dumps these days as well (not a coincidence), if there is one thing they deserve praise for, it's that they’ve done some extensive and detailed planning that provides a sense of structure regardless of whether the film is good or bad. But I guess Star Wars wasn’t worthy enough to enjoy the same privilege. Seriously, how do you announce that you’re bringing back one of the most influential franchises in film history to the big screen without having a clear-cut plan for where it begins, where it ends, and how it gets there? It almost seems like they met with the creators and just said, "Here’s money, make whatever film you want, bye."
The sequel trilogy even achieved something that seemed completely impossible at one time – getting people to appreciate the prequel trilogy. Yes, people would rather take three movies of hollow political talk and Jar Jar Binks than sit through the sequel trilogy. Regardless, it seems like Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, the movie that most people blame for the current state of Star Wars, wasn’t horrible by any means, but it was a catalyst for the downfall of Star Wars and was also an exposé on how maybe Disney acquiring the IP wasn’t a massive win like fans thought it would be.
A Disturbance in the Force:
It is also important to acknowledge that Star Wars hasn’t always been bad under Disney. Star Wars: The Clone Wars is genuinely one of the best animated series on television, and yes, again, despite being way too similar to A New Hope, The Force Awakens is an absolutely amazing thrill ride from start to finish. Spinoff series/movies like The Mandalorian, which was heralded as the best on-screen rendition of Star Wars since the original trilogy, as well as Andor, which has some of the best writing in anything Star Wars in my opinion, immediately come to mind. Even Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an underrated film in my opinion, even if the discrepancies between the trailers and the actual film showed that it probably could have been much better than it turned out to be. Not forgetting the gaming space, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order rejuvenated hope for more great Star Wars games in the future. But these moments of brilliance exist like stars in the night sky.
The last three big Star Wars movies that we got were The Last Jedi, the movie that broke Star Wars, Solo: A Star Wars Story, which was completely forgettable, and Rise of Skywalker, which was laughably bad and a complete mess from the first frame till the last. It really thought that it could get out of the slump that Star Wars was in by playing a nonsensical nostalgia card that risked undermining the original trilogy. Disney even thought it was a good idea to sign an exclusive licencing agreement with EA, a company with one of the worst reputations in gaming, for Star Wars games. This spawned some mediocre games and also Star Wars: Battlefront II, which arguably became the single biggest microtransaction scandal in the history of video games.
A New Worse Order:
Now you might have thought I have forgotten some other TV stuff, but I have not. I wanted to mention them separately because I believe they perfectly embody what’s wrong with Star Wars today, and it's all related to that big elephant in the room – Disney+. I am all for the democratisation of content that OTT platforms enable, but not at the cost of damaging IP. Similar to Marvel, it seems that Disney is just milking Star Wars and pumping out content without caring for quality. Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Bad Batch, Boba Fett, and Visions are all series with great concepts and sky-high potentials but they end up feeling rushed and just dumped as advertisements for Disney+. Heck, Obi-Wan Kenobi legit looks like a low-budget fan-fiction TV show. Even Mandalorian’s latest season shows a degradation in quality, and that has reflected in its low viewership. In fact, all of these aforementioned shows have failed to garner the accolades or the success that shows based on one of the biggest entertainment IPs should be able to easily achieve. In fact, even a great show like Andor is set to be broadcasted on TV because of the sheer level of low viewership. It's because Star Wars content drops have stopped feeling like events like they used to and instead feel like products being churned out by a mindless machine.
In Search of a New Hope:
It just breaks my heart to see what Star Wars is today, knowing what it can be tomorrow. But there is just so much work to be done to get to the point where it would feel like Star Wars is on the right track, because currently the path ahead couldn’t be more uncertain. There is a shift in ideology that’s needed at Disney, and they know it. They’ve even promised to reduce the output of Star Wars content and instead focus on producing quality content. They’ve also made LucasFilm refocus fully on Star Wars and nothing else going forward. But, in reality, we don’t know what fruits this approach will yield. We don’t even exactly know when the mainline Star Wars trilogy is coming, what it’s going to look like, or who’s going to be making it. All we have are rumours and logos of stuff coming to Disney+. But all hope is not lost; I think the franchise just needs that one big win in the form of a mainline film, that one spark that will ignite the flame that lights up a new path full of brilliant stories from the galaxy far far away. But, more importantly, it needs to take that win and not drop the ball again.