I can still remember that day in 2012. It was a Tuesday and I was playing Dungeon & Dragons with my then regular group when my phone started pinging. News alerts, Facebook notifications, text messages and emails all proclaimed the same news.
Disney had bought Lucasfilm.
In those early days, there was a lot of speculation as to what that might mean. It was known that George Lucas had wanted to mount a live-action TV series but projected production costs had proved prohibitive and so the project had been shelved. The Clone Wars TV series was still on and after a shaky start had delivered some incredible stories set in that period of the timeline.
I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a shaky road since then! However, in this post I will look to pick out, what I think, are the key moments from then to now. This post will be spoiler heavy, proceed at your own risk!
Note: The majority of this post had been written before the announcements of the Investor day in December 2020.
April 2014: Extended Universe (EU) Cancelled
The Star Wars canon had carried on post Jedi in a series of books, comics and video games. This had famously started with Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn and published in 1991. Like most fans, I would buy this and subsequent books and read voraciously. Despite introducing some intriguing characters (including Grand Admiral Thrawn) I felt the books never captured the ‘magic’ of the original characters. I also felt that the initial sequel book trilogy ended limply after a great setup. My favourite Star Wars books from that era were the Rogue Squadron series by Michael A Stackpole and Aaron Allston, but I found the last one of those to be very hard going.
It’s not hard to see why Disney would want to establish their own ‘canon’ for stories moving forward and not be tied down by material that could be contradictory or have events that might go against what they want to do. I still think this was the right thing to do and I’d have done the same in their shoes. It basically boiled down to if it was on screen, then it was canon. However, Disney would begin to cherry-pick items, people and events from the EU and incorporate them into their new canon.
December 2016: The end of Rogue One
No mention of Force Awakens or Han Solo getting killed? No, they telegraphed that several times in the movie so by the time he meets Kylo Ren on that bridge I knew what was coming. Rogue One was the first of the “Anthology” series of films that told stories set in that universe but with different characters or a different viewpoint. This was the first of those and is probably my favourite film yet from the house of mouse. Nostalgia was undoubtedly a part of this film as it accurately recreated the imagery from the first film I saw back in 1978. This was a typical men-on-a-mission film, along the same lines as say “The Guns of Navarone” (which I would seek out and rewatch in the aftermath of this). As is typical for films like this, not all of the characters would survive to the end credits, what I wasn’t expecting was that none of them would survive!
It was a bold ending and then the final shot of that film still brings a massive lump to the throat. It obviously resonated as a TV series focused on one of the characters, Cassian Andor, is currently in production. It seemed a shame that the anthology movie experiment seemed to have ended with “Solo” which I still believe did not deserve the drubbing it got (almost certainly in the aftermath of “Last Jedi”.
December 2017: Kylo Ren and “that line”
Whichever way you look at it, The Last Jedi was a divisive film. Some loved it, most hated it, arguably this contributed to the lower box office returns for Solo that was released 6 months afterwards. My view hasn’t overly changed, there’s a lot to like about it such as the return of Luke Skywalker and the relationship between Kylo and Rey and the final lightsaber fight. But I don’t like Canto Bight (why didn’t they bring Lando back here?) and the treatment of General Organa amongst other things. But the key part of this film is a line of dialogue delivered by Kylo Ren, that felt like it was the Director (Rian Johnson) talking directly to the fans: –
“Let the past die, kill it if you have to”
That felt like Johnson was talking directly to the fans (and to me by association). It felt like he didn’t want to feel beholden to the past and wanted to make his own mark in the Star Wars universe. I also wonder if Chris Chibnall (current showrunner of Doctor Who) took this line to heart as well if the end of his most recent series is anything to go by.
I’m still curious if Johnson does do his planned trilogy as he is a gifted storyteller, his other work proves that. I just don’t think he wants to work with other writers material or even universes. The Force Awakens felt like a typical JJ Abrams set up, lots of plot hooks for potential films to explore. One of the more intriguing ones was around Rey’s Parents, Johnson dispatches that with an almost off the cuff comment that Abrams would then go onto massively retcon in The Rise of Skywalker. This overall lack of a cohesive arc was one of the biggest failings of the sequel trilogy.
November 2020: The end of The Mandalorian, series 2, episode 1
If the Last Jedi was all about cutting ties to the past, then this one firmly put a foot back in. I am of course referring to the return of Temeura Morrison as an aged and scarred Boba Fett watching the titular Mandalorian at the end of that first episode of the second series. For fans (and me), this was huge, mega. The Mandalorian had arguably been the one thing that had united fandom since The Last Jedi. For the majority of series one, you didn’t need to know any other background around the characters, arguably that changed when Moff Gideon produces the Black Sabre. Fans knew the significance (from both Clone Wars and Rebels) but I don’t think it detracted from the episode as a whole.
I wrote the above before that last episode of the Mandalorian and as absolutely amazing as the ending was, I still think that first glance of a returning Boba Fett was more impactful as it heralded a series that would both respect and build upon what had came before. Fett would go on to have quite the impact throughout the series and has rightfully earned his own spinoff.
Does the future of Star Wars lie on streaming media, if Disney can maintain the calibre of what we’ve seen so far then I believe we may be entering a new golden age of a galaxy far, far away.