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STAR WARS Films Need to Show Us Something New, Soon

STAR WARS Films Need to Show Us Something New, Soon

The public’s general love of Star Wars after the prequels was at an all-time low. I sold all of my DVDs; I was done with it. I didn’t need any more half baked stories about characters I once loved. Of course, by the time The Force Awakens “began to put things right,” I had warmed back up to the iconic franchise like everyone else and was ecstatic to have another great in-canon film, an A New Hope for a new generation. But in the midst of the biggest Star Wars renaissance ever, I am beginning to worry that we’ll never see anything new again, that history will repeat itself. I hope that Star Wars learns to take risks, and trust that an audience will follow.

The recent announcement of an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie was something I’d hoped for; Ewan McGregor was the one saving grace in the prequels and to see him older, assaying the role again in perhaps a good film, is a really fun prospect. But new reports say that Lucasfilm is developing standalone movies for Boba Fett, young Yoda, and even (unconfirmed) one-note villain Jabba the Hutt. It makes you wonder if Disney doesn’t have faith in creating new stories in the Star Wars universe. Hiding behind existing I.P. is safer after all.

For as good as The Force Awakens is, and as compelling as Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron are as heroes, the movie was incredibly beholden to what came before, from being joined at the hip to the original characters to even the basic plot structure. That’s fine for one movie; reestablish what people love about the franchise, and move forward. We obviously haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet, but after Rogue One‘s new characters were incredibly underwritten, and the next rash of spin-off films focusing solely on characters we’ve already met in the original trilogy, we’re not confident Rian Johnson’s film won’t just be like The Empire Strikes Back with different ships and planets.

The only property actively creating new characters within the existing universe is Star Wars Rebels, Disney XD’s excellent animated series. While Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Lando, Grand Moff Tarkin, and other known characters have appeared in the show in various levels of importance, they mostly came later on, after the brand new crew had been established. Sure, there was a Jedi and a Padawan, and a Mandalorian, and a sassy droid, but they were all new, and they approached the Rebellion in an entirely different way. They could interact with the old, established characters without forfeiting the spotlight.

A young Han Solo movie on the other hand, risks being hollow nostalgia. He was an amoral guy who became a hero in the course of his initial film appearance. That’s his arc. To go before his arc is to just watch him be less than the character we sympathize with. Yoda is a mentor; that’s his function. He’s already had a prequel trilogy where he was still a million years old but fought with a lightsaber. And Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt? Why? Just because we’ve heard of them? Obi-Wan has the only potential to do something even slightly different–a hero in hiding still trying to do good–and his story would be better served by movies that enhanced the Star Wars universe, not just filled in backstory.

If Disney wants to capitalize on characters we’ve already seen, why not give us a movie about people in Maz Kanada’s speakeasy, or Poe Dameron’s origin in the early days of the Resistance, or some noteworthy Clone Wars or Rebels characters? Certainly it’s because none of those characters have the kind of decades-long name recognition that Disney probably thinks it needs to ensure a certain box office take. But that shallow of a business and marketing plan underestimates its audience’s imagination and/or their own ability to meaningfully expand their most beloved universe.

Focusing on existing properties is a company-wide strategy for Disney (and virtually every big studio), which continues to make live-action versions of all of its classic animated films. But reinterpretation is not the same as shallowly mining the side characters and villains from the original movies. You’re Disney. You bought Lucasfilm. You have the ability to make actual additions to the most inconic universe of all time. Stop just making big budget fan fiction. Our imaginations are bigger than your budget.

For more about Star Wars, check out info about the new Captain Phasma novel, a theory about why Porgs might be the key to The Last Jedi, and keeping General Leia’s legacy alive.

Images: Lucasfilm

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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