Star Wars Still Feels Stuck In The Past

I’m convinced Star Wars will never leave the past behind. Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi was built upon the mantra of putting our treasured memories aside, letting them die in order to allow something new to grow in its place. Black and white moral conflicts were revealed to be far more ambiguous, and the classic narrative of a hero prevailing was abandoned in favour of a tale far more nuanced. At least until millions revolted.

The sequel trilogy is a mixed bag, but The Last Jedi felt like it had a desire to change Star Wars forever, subverting our expectations by analysing everything that came before and what should be left to die in favour of serving a new generation. So many still come to the franchise for a sense of comforting nostalgia, hoping to see the same heroes and villains duking it out in situations that always end in the same way. Good guys win, and if there isn’t a Skywalker, Fett, or Solo in sight then it’s all gone terribly wrong. I wish Disney and Lucasfilm had the ambition to broaden their creative horizons, but I've all but given up hope.

Shows like The Mandalorian made a demonstrable effort to differentiate itself from the established canon, exploring a different aspect of the universe that wasn't obsessed with The Force. It got so close, but it wasn't long until Boba Fetta appeared and a cameo by Luke Skywalker became one of the most talked about aspects of the entire narrative. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi aren't going anywhere, and are available to watch at the touch of a button, but still we feel an obligation to revisit them on a near constant basis in fear their influence will be forgotten.

The same can be said for The Book of Boba Fett, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and so many other films, shows, and games situated away from the main films. They have the capacity to distance themselves from their progenitors, but there's such a massive fear of mainstream fans turning sour that no such risk is ever taken. It's exhausting, and the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi show on Disney+ feels like the climax of this tiresome pattern. Please make it stop.

I love Ewan McGregor's turn as Obi-Wan Kenobi. While he's a wet blanket in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith turned him into a charming, sarcastic and considerate Jedi who wasn't afraid to have fun while standing up for what's right. All of his lines were carved into memory, a legacy so beloved that it encouraged Disney to bring him back and helm a show all his own. But they did so out of popularity instead of artistic merit, which is a sword Star Wars has fallen upon so many times.

The trailer is as contemplative as many of us expected. After the enactment of Order 66 the majority of Jedi across the galaxy are eradicated, sending those who remained into hiding. Obi-Wan spent decades hiding out in Tatooine, calling a dusty cave home and becoming a social outcast too afraid to make himself. I imagine that the established canon is now subject to change, with the reveal trailer teasing new villains and supporting characters. That makes sense, you can't hinge an entire show on dossing in a cave for several episodes, but it also feels like Disney is trying to fill a void in the storyline that nobody ever asked for.

Star Wars is one of the biggest media properties in existence, so perhaps I'm asking too much for it to be more unpredictable, or to take risks that wish to expand on this universe and try something new. The original trilogy began in 1977, and almost 50 years later we are still relying upon it to tell stories that have long outstayed their welcome. Despite its polarising nature, The Last Jedi was a groundbreaking testament to the fandom's problematic obsession with repeating the past, happy to see the same stories recycled over and over again so long as the core tenets remain untouched.

That leads to stagnation, and a shallow admittance of how slight the Star Wars universe really is. All of its new stories and characters could stand for something, but they forever linger in the shadows of legends we are already well aware of. Stakes are lessened, and it becomes so easy to stop caring.

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