In five years, Star Wars will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. That's an incredibly long time for a franchise and IP to live and still put out new content. After reading a piece by fellow writer Gerald Petschk, I got to thinking about his solid point about a new villain.
The more I thought about it though, the more I realized there's a dilemma that arises from that, and it's one that's at the heart of much of the debates involving the new Star Wars content. It came to the forefront during The Book of Boba Fett, in the last episode of season two of The Mandalorian. It's come up again as Obi-Wan Kenobi continues to unfold on Disney+. It's the source of internet gatekeepers that constantly pass judgement on the new content.
What makes something Star Wars?
It's a question that we have to grapple with as more content is released. Sure, there are your usual explanations. Star Wars is about hope, or it's about friendship, the struggle against fascism, etc. But what about the content of the stories? Does there have to be a lightsaber for it to count as Star Wars? The movie Solo would argue otherwise, but that one also raises another question. Does the show or film have to have an iconic character in it?
I think that's the more difficult one to answer because at the moment, I can't think of a single medium in the Star Wars universe that doesn't have a returning character in it. Even The High Republic has Master Yoda, and it's set 400 years prior to the prequel movies. That may change, however, as the second phase is set to go even further back, approximately 150 years before phase I, but as fans all know, Yoda is 900 years old when he dies in Return of the Jedi, so he's very much still alive 550 years prior to the prequels. So there's still a chance he can show up, at which point the original question remains unanswered.
Sure, there are a lot of new characters introduced, but they always seem to find a way to interact with the big-name characters we've come to love. It's understandable, but the problem from a storytelling standpoint gets bigger as time goes on, and begs the question: can an original story within the Star Wars universe stand on its own without a character to identify it as Star Wars? There's a whole galaxy out there, and Luke Skywalker or Boba Fett haven't explored every inch of it. There's an entire galaxy of stories out there worth exploring that could be entirely separate from the overall Skywalker influence that is worth exploring but does that make it Star Wars if it's devoid of any familiar character? Ultimately, there has to be something there to identify it as within the Star Wars galaxy, like a race of people or technology or location, because otherwise at some point people would have to say "why does this have the Star Wars label if there's nothing recognizably Star Wars in it?" At that point, it's just a sci-fi movie.
These are important questions that writers and Lucasfilm need to start asking themselves as they continue the franchise. I think The High Republic is a great start. Set so far in the past that one single character from the original films and shows appears in it is a start, though that's not going to be the case in phase II, with Maz Kanata making a return (she's old too). The other thing The High Republic has going for it is it is detached from the main timeline in the sense that it's free of the gravitational pull of the major events of the main timeline.
That main timeline presents another part of the dilemma: does a story always have to be tied into the major events of the main timeline? There are a lot of events that occur over the course of the prequels to the end of the sequels. The Clone Wars. The fall of the Republic. The rise of the Empire. The growth of the Rebellion. The destruction of the Death Stars. And so on. Outside of The High Republic, every story in some way, shape, or form is pulled on from the main events of the timeline. Do they have to be? Could a story take place during the same time as the main events and not have to be influenced by them in some way? Again, there's an entire galaxy of stories out there, and, as far-reaching as these main events are, they can't control everything that happens throughout the galaxy.
Maybe that's just how it is going to be. Maybe that's what ultimately makes something Star Wars: proximity. Proximity to characters we know and love. Proximity to the main events and the ripple effect of their occurrence. But could we have more? We've seen bacta used throughout Star Wars stories, but what about a story involving its discovery? What about smugglers? Those scoundrels have always been a mainstay of the Star Wars universe, what about a story involving smugglers? So much of Star Wars has been galactic in scale, perhaps it's time to take out the magnifying glass and focus on a story that doesn't have galactic implications and has more personal and local impact. What's more relatable than that?
Written by Jeremy Brown
Source(s): Culture Slate
Syndicated from Culture Slate