The Mystery of Star Wars

The season finale of Andor came out Wednesday. Superb. Just an amazing all around story, with absolutely stand out performances, writing, music, cinematography and weight. I’ve been thinking a lot about why this series is good, and I’ve got ideas.

First though, there are “blocks” of content, if not better articulated as “eras”.

  • The original trilogy
  • The Expanded Universe
  • KOTOR
  • Prequel trilogy
  • Clone Wars
  • Sequel Trilogy
  • The Disney Universe

The beauty of the original series is that it dealt much more with the mystical, the portions that were not shown on screen. The final arc of a large and mysterious world. You remember the characters much more than the action.

The expanded universe was largely inaccessible to the public. Unless you were a super fan, Thrawn means nothing to you. Mara Jade even less. These books/comics focused primarily on the recesses of the universe, and there was some insane junk delivered in those years. There’s a reason that all of this was retconned when Disney bought it…a right mess with some minor bright spots.

KOTOR decided to just ignore every movie and most of the EU to time travel to the “wizards everywhere” phase. The best parts of here are not related to the Jedi, but the power struggles and lore of the Sith, as well as the overall good/bad aspects of the universe. Understanding why Revan took his path is truly amazing.

The prequel trilogy is quite bad, with a few exceptions. It’s a spectacle for the eyes, no doubt, and the stunt work is practically a dance. And the pod race never disappoints. Yet the writing is atrocious and the editing even worse. Midichlorians are a ridiculous addition to the mystery, and by the end you’re actively rooting for the Jedi Council to be wiped out due to ineptitude. The need to explain everything in logical terms goes counter to reason people liked Star Wars in the first place – fantasy.

Clone Wars provided a medium to tell the hidden stories of the world, which effectively became Expanded Universe part 2. It’s somewhat ironic that the Anakin character in these stories had more complexity than the films, given the budget and attention. This is pure fanfic and goes to great lengths to focus on the characters rather than the events. You could tell this was led by passion.

The sequel trilogy is a pure money grab, and a reskin of the original trilogy. The Force Awakens is a bad attempt at remaking A New Hope and skipping all the bits that made you invested in Luke and the rebellion. Then again, it’s set up as a mystery box from a director known for mystery boxes – you want to know what comes next, not so much what’s going on now. The Last Jedi feels like an alternate cut of an existing movie, more to prove a point about how the universe keeps moving and how insignificant the rest of the stories are. It’s a movie of extremes, purposefully testing assumptions. Rise of Skywalker is like Marvel’s Avengers but with Star Wars paint – where you simply have to put your brain in a drawer and let the spectacle go forth. The teleporting lightsaber still makes me want to vomit.

The Disney Universe is much more complex. Rogue One is fascinating because for the most part you can’t really tell it’s a Star Wars movie. It focuses on the little people doing big things and paying a tremendous price for it. Solo didn’t work because it was telling a story no one really wanted to hear, about a character everyone thought they knew, with details that removed the mystery surrounding them. Obi-Wan barely passes the bar here because the same actor played the role, but it’s fundamentally flawed for the same reason as Solo. Mandalorian works because it’s not about things we know about, and goes to great lengths to not explain things, letting the practical and logical story just flow. Star Wars is the setting, not the purpose (with some exceptions). Andor is very similar, in that the story isn’t so much about him, but the people around him. People will remember the Ferrix brick because it’s not a prop, but a believable part of that world’s culture. It’s focused on the people and the reality of their actions – not on some hand waving space wizard.

I’m hopeful that we can get more grounded stories from the Star Wars universe, where the threat is ever present due to their size, not their magic sticks. Where a person can try their best and still fail. Where the bad guys are hard to tell from the good. Guess we’ll see.

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