Why bother with the disappointing cinematic outings when the small screen versions are far more satisfying?
Look, I love Star Wars. There’s a lot to love: space wizards hitting each other with laser swords, space ships shooting each other with lasers, Carrie Fisher largely without lasers, it’s all pretty great. But there’s no denying that the Star Wars franchise has had its ups and downs in the near half century that it’s been around.
Or, more accurately, the Star Wars films have had their ups and downs. The general consensus being that the original trilogy is good, the prequel trilogy is bad, and the sequel trilogy even outs to mostly fine, with the two films in between (Rogue One, Solo) being regarded as “pretty good” and “mostly bad” respectively.
You know what’s regarded as mostly great? Star Wars TV and games.
First, let’s look at Star Wars on television. The animated series (The Clone Wars, Rebels, Bad Batch) were critically acclaimed, while The Mandalorian’s first season garnered more Emmy nominations than you could swing a womprat at. The Mandalorian’s success has led to the development of a whopping seven further live action series, with The Book of Boba Fett (eh) and Obi-Wan (fun!) already having made their way to our screens.
Meanwhile, the games have been fairly consistently successful, both commercially and critically, from Jedi Academy to Rogue Squadron to Knights of the Old Republic to… you get me. They’re all pretty damn great, for fairly obvious reasons: it’s fun to hit people with space lasers and/or The Force.
The generally warm reception these works have enjoyed shouldn’t be surprising. A single Star Wars TV series or game is allowed to narrow its focus to just a sliver of the rich Star Wars universe. Obi-Wan’s allowed to be about Obi-Wan being sad. Jedi: Fallen Order is allowed to be about a lone padawan making his way after the fall of the Jedi Order. Boba Fett is allowed to be about… local politics, I guess? These additions to the canon zoom in on what was originally only glanced at, and it’s fun to see more colour and texture being added to a universe that, by necessity, was painted with pretty broad strokes in the films.
A Star Wars film, on the other hand, has to be a “meaningful” addition to the canon. It can’t just colour inside the lines of what’s already been set out by previous films. It has to draw new lines entirely, building on the already dense lore of the Star Wars universe. And the results are invariably the same. The hype for each new film builds and builds until it becomes unbearable… and then people watch it, and are disappointed when they realise that it’s sort of, but not really, like the Star Wars they remember from their youth. It’s a predictable situation that could have been avoided if the films didn’t need to form one continuous story and instead could focus on creating something wholly new.
This need to stick to a single overarching story not only sets a near impossible bar to clear, but puts a huge pressure on any new Star Wars film. It can’t just be a good film, it has to be one that is so good it justifies adding a whole new era onto the franchise, like grafting on a whole extra limb. Even Solo, whose only goal was to fill in the backstory of sci-fi’s favourite bounty hunter, wasn’t free of this pressure. It tried to add so much onto the franchise that it forgot why we actually loved Han Solo; he was kind of a dick just because.
If a Star Wars film is bad, it’s a sin against the franchise, worthy of excommunication. That’s why you get the absolute career deaths of the actors who played Jar-Jar Binks and Anakin Skywalker in the prequels, the slew of online hate against people of colour in the sequel trilogy, and the complete cultural disappearance of Rise of Skywalker mere weeks after it comes out.
However, if an episode of say, Boba Fett, isn’t so good, who cares? There are more episodes to watch, and entire new series to look forward to. If Star Wars: Battlefront II isn’t so great, wait around for another Star Wars game that’s better. It’ll come, because Star Wars sells, regardless of what form it’s in. Star Wars fans can be real babies, and not the fun Yoda kind, and they tend to throw their toys about the films more than anything, although the recent outrage about Moses Ingram simply existing in the franchise sadly suggests that the hate is now reaching the smaller screens.
I don’t hate any of the films. I think they’re all pretty much fine, even the “bad” ones. I can’t hate too much on the prequel trilogy, because it gave us ‘Duel of the Fates’. I can’t hate on the sequel trilogy, because it gave us Laura Dern in a purple wig. But I think we’re at the point now where any film is inevitably going to disappoint by adding a whole new story, cast of characters, or entire era that the canon didn’t need, and couldn’t even support.
So to the overlords of this galaxy far, far, away: just give us the good TV and the great games. Forget the rest, and give us what we really want, deep down: space wizards hitting each other with lasers.
This is part of The Spinoff’s “Hear me out” series. Read more of our 100% correct opinions here.