The Star Wars franchise has to begin advancing the story and not retreading the same struggles.
“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.”
That quote from The Last Jedi, spoken by Kylo Ren, offered a promise to fans: get ready for a new age of Star Wars. Five years later, that promise has been largely cast aside.
After The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker concluded the sequel trilogy of the Star Wars movies, fans have been kept in a time vortex of shows stuck in the past.
The two Star Wars anthology movies, Solo and Rogue One, are also set in this time period.
All of this leads to one question. If the sequel movies were so insistent on letting the past die, why does Star Wars seem so unwilling to leave it?
The confusion of canon
The biggest problem that Star Wars has had to grapple with, particularly after the sale to Disney, is what can be considered canon in the universe.
After the original trilogy, Star Wars media exploded with animated shows like The Clone Wars, Rebels, The Bad Batch, and many more. Authors flooded the market with books like the Star Wars Legends stories.
Some of this media would eventually be considered canon to the Star Wars universe, while others like the original Thrawn trilogy were not considered canon.
This created a problem for Disney and Lucasfilm, because making all this extra media canon would make Star Wars fandom overwhelming and complicated.
Unfortunately for fans, the two companies decided to split the difference, adopting some parts of some of the existing media, rebooting and retooling, to create an even murkier hodgepodge of content within the extended universe.
Even the anime series, Star Wars: Visions, which is the only non-sequel trilogy property that is set after the Rebellion (at least many episodes are), the series is not canon to the overall story.
This is likely the reason the franchise has stayed on so many pre and post-Empire stories, trying to clarify exactly what happened during these crucial time periods in the saga. While it’s understandable, it has also impeded the franchise’s ability to grow.
Star Wars is stuck in time
Series like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, along with movies like Solo: A Star Wars story, all received positive, albeit tepid reception from fans and critics.
While the acting and set designs are often praised, a common criticism of these new projects is that they can be predictable, or not open the universe to more expansive storytelling.
For instance, although fans and critics were thrilled to see Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen return to their roles from the prequel series in Obi-Wan Kenobi, many critics wondered if it was necessary to revisit the two characters, particularly when the show left them in nearly the same position they started in.
Now, The Mandalorian has managed to avoid these issues by introducing brand new characters and also by putting most of its focus on the character of Mando and his relationship to the Child. But even The Mandalorian, as brilliant as it is, still has the flaw that its events seem completely irrelevant to the larger Star Wars universe.
The sequel trilogy problem (and solution)
Undoubtedly, the fan response to the sequel trilogy – which was mixed at best to outright hostile at worst – has played a role in Star Wars playing it safe, revisiting familiar characters and settings.
Even the new characters that have been introduced outside the sequel trilogy like Mando, the Child, Fennec Shand, Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Qi’ra, and Reva Sevander all have their origins tied to the Empire or the Rebellion in some fashion.
The problem with this approach is that these characters are then all tied to events that we the audience have already seen play out, reducing the stakes and making all this content seem unoriginal.
And that’s a shame, because these are dynamic, interesting characters who should be tempting audiences with ideas about what the Star Wars universe could contain, not what we know it already has.
But even though the sequel trilogy may have made Disney a bit gun-shy to stray from the known, it should provide an exciting opportunity.
Because fans were so disappointed in the sequels, Star Wars can go in entirely new directions without needing to be wholly-tied to the existing canon.
The shows and movies could be free to explore all new galaxies and characters, examine the political upheaval following the fall of the First Order, tackle stories of day-to-day life on distant planets, all without having to shoehorn in characters or a rebellion dynamic. The possibilities are endless.
What does the future hold?
Does Disney have a plan for the future of Star Wars?
It’s difficult to answer that in the affirmative, given how reluctant the studio has been to produce any content that takes viewers away from the nostalgic content they already know.
Compare this to Marvel Studios, which just revealed a three to four year plan that will conclude a Multiverse Saga. The MCU, though it may be flawed at times, continues to advance in one direction: forward.
Even individual shows and movies, though focused on the main heroes, introduce elements that will prove to be important in future installments.
Fans attach to shows and movies because they want to see what will be introduced to the Marvel universe next. They can discuss and theorize about each new piece of the puzzle as it leads down the road to an Endgame-type event.
By contrast, was there ever really a chance that Obi-Wan Kenobi was going to reveal something new that was never revealed in the original trilogy, sequel trilogy, or the other movies and shows set after it? At best, doing so would introduce a continuity issue.
That’s not to say that there’s never room for a nostalgic lookback, certainly Marvel has done it, but Star Wars seems stuck in the era of the Empire, totally uninterested in what comes after.
It’s disappointing, then, to know that the upcoming Andor, followed by Ahsoka, will both continue this pattern of staying right in the era of the Empire and the Rebellion. As good as the shows may look (and Andor does look interesting), neither offers anything for the future, just new tidbits that were already in the Star Wars universe.
Whether it is due to a lack of a long term plan, timidness by fan response to the new content they actually released, or something else, the time has come for Star Wars to truly let the past die.