Disney kicked off the Star Wars renaissance with the Skywalker saga’s sequel trilogy. But now that’s over, their TRUE Star Wars era can begin.
Now that the Star Wars sequel trilogy is over. The franchise’s Disney era can truly begin. While a plethora of new Star Wars content has come out in the years since Disney acquired Lucasfilm. The main attraction has undoubtedly been the Skywalker saga’s sequel trilogy. Bringing back fan-favorites and introducing audiences to a new generation of characters, the films looked to continue the story decades after Return of the Jedi, ultimately culminating the overarching narrative with last year’s The Rise of Skywalker. It goes without saying there was a great deal of excitement for the trilogy. Years before Avengers: Endgame, The Force Awakens was the cinematic event of this era.
Despite being under a tremendous amount of pressure. The Force Awakens largely delivered. Earning the franchise’s best reviews since The Empire Strikes Back. The movie rewrote the box office record books and earned more than $2 billion worldwide. Following those incredible heights, the trilogy was unfortunately a mixed bag. The Last Jedi was another critical and commercial success. But polarized viewers due to its creative choices. And The Rise of Skywalker earned the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score for a live-action Star Wars film. And was the least-profitable entry in the trilogy. By the numbers, it was a financial success, but was hardly the grand finale everyone was hoping for.
The Star Wars moves are going on hiatus for the next couple of years, but Star Wars itself isn’t going anywhere. Lucasfilm has a number of projects coming through the pipeline, including multiple films, a full slate of live-action TV shows, and a brand new publishing initiative.
Star Wars’ Sequel Trilogy Held Disney Back
Again, there’s no denying the three films of the Star Wars sequel trilogy were successful. Each one grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office and has plenty of supporters (despite the divisiveness). However, the series has some shortcomings. One of the more common critiques – which particularly applies to The Force Awakens – is that the modern films were very beholden to what came before (especially the original trilogy). The sequel trilogy looked to bridge the old and the new, but struggled to find the perfect balance.
Some of this is understandable. In the wake of the prequels. Lucasfilm made a concentrated effort to try to recapture the magic of the “old” Star Wars. The studio made practical visual effects a major part of the marketing campaign, selling the look and feel of Star Wars as much as the film’s story. This was an effective strategy. But none other than George Lucas expressed disappointment in The Force Awakens not offering anything new.
Star Wars’ sequel trilogy was soaked in nostalgia, almost to a fault. Whenever there’s a long-running pop culture franchise, homages and nods to its history in new installments are to be expected. That said, Star Wars may have gone too far in a few places. Force Awakens openly aped plot points from A New Hope. The central conflict in the trilogy is another scrappy group of underdog freedom fighters battling against a well-resourced tyrannical enemy (that was revealed to be spearheaded by Emperor Palpatine). There are obviously a number of differences between the sequels and the originals. But the trilogies still have similar endings; a Rebel fleet launches a desperate attack on Palpatine’s planet-killing weapons while a young Jedi faces the Emperor.
The one movie in the sequel trilogy that attempted to break the mold. The Last Jedi, inspired heated debates and scared the studio into course-correcting for the third movie. At times, it felt like the filmmakers were handcuffed to Star Wars’ past rather than innovating. People can debate the execution of the prequels, but they introduced fresh concepts to the franchise that expanded the lore.
Star Wars’ Disney Era Can TRULY Begin Now
Lucasfilm had no choice but to make a sequel trilogy. That was the ideal way to kick off Star Wars’ new chapter, and there would have been riots if Episode VII-IX weren’t part of the plan. That’s not to say J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson didn’t channel their passion for Star Wars in their films, but there’s a feeling the sequel trilogy was something mandatory Disney had to get through. It’s well-known the sequel trilogy was just the tip of the iceberg for Disney. They didn’t spend $4 billion on Lucasfilm just to release three movies and be done with it. Star Wars is a huge part of the company and will be for a long time. One only has to look at the wide variety of Star Wars projects in the pipeline.
Disney+ set to be home to several Star Wars TV shows. The High Republic publishing initiative will take readers back in time (200 years before The Phantom Menace) and detail an entirely different era of the Star Wars timeline. Now that Lucasfilm is done with the Skywalker saga, they have the freedom to really unleash and take advantage of the expansive sandbox George Lucas created more than 40 years ago. They can take steps to make the universe feel larger and not just dedicate resources to a continuation of a story fans are inherently familiar with.
It’s unfortunate the sequel trilogy delivered mixed results. But Disney Star Wars has earned more favorable marks in other areas. The Mandalorian was a breakout hit on Disney+ last year, winning people over with Baby Yoda. The show still features plenty Star Wars Easter eggs fans have come to expect, but it also delivered some surprises and went above and beyond the expectation of being the “bounty hunter show.” Another pleasant surprise last year was Jedi: Fallen Order, a video game telling a canonical story.
The narrative has many classic Star Wars hallmarks (ragtag crew, themes of destiny, a cute droid). But it also got fans invested in a new cast of characters and didn’t rely on callbacks to the movies as a crutch. And the aforementioned High Republic books are exciting, since they can really open up the mythology and not have to tie into movies or TV shows. All of these show Lucasfilm is more than capable of using Star Wars as a foundation for new and interesting things, delivering on the promise fans envisioned when Disney acquired the studio.
Can Disney Really Let Go Of The Skywalker Saga?
Of course, The Mandalorian,. Fallen Order,. Clone Wars,. And just about every other piece of Star Wars media are still tangentially connected to the Skywalker saga. They may not be numbered episodes in a film series, but there is a relation. The same goes for the upcoming Disney+ shows about Cassian Andor and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Hopefully, these can accomplish what The Mandalorian and Fallen Order did and expand upon the Skywalker saga in ways that captivate fans. However, there is something to be said about Lucasfilm’s apparent unwillingness to definitively leave the Skywalker saga (and the roughly 67-year period it covers) alone. On one hand, that makes sense.
The Skywalker saga is Star Wars;It since 1977. The franchise set in a galaxy far, far away. But in some ways the universe is smaller than Marvel (which has an abundance of characters with their own series). Wandering into uncharted territory is a daunting proposition. But it’s a leap Lucasfilm is going to have to make if Star Wars is to be viable moving forward.
The High Republic will be a good litmus test. But won’t be enough. While die-hard fans love to pour over the Star Wars books for extra details. The target audience for those is only a fraction of what the movies and live-action TV shows draw in. People will probably get a better idea of how Lucasfilm will operate outside the Skywalker saga when the Disney+ Star Wars show set in a new era comes into fruition. Based on the (admittedly thin) description. As much as everyone loves this general time period in the Star Wars galaxy, there’s so much more to explore. If Lucasfilm can turn that new era TV show into a smash success. Then they’re really on the right track and Star Wars should flourish for years to come.