I have been a Star Wars fan for all of the nearly 40 years it has been around. Like any good fan, I have had the toys (even still own a few originals), read the comics and Expanded Universe novels, owned nearly every version of the movies, and more. Star Wars is a franchise that has touched every corner of the globe with a diverse fan base and yet…it feels stuck in its own past.
I grumbled my way through the prequels because I questioned the necessity of them as we already knew the outcome of the Skywalker family. That part of me has this same trepidation as I prepare to see to see Rogue One. Even as flawed as The Force Awakens was, one of the reasons why I liked it was because finally after over 30 years, there was a story that was canon that moved us past the events of Return of the Jedi that we didn’t know. There are still many things that the present state of the Star Wars universe that need to be covered, but more on that in a moment.
As I said: like some fans, I am excited to see Rogue One. I am almost sure it will be an opening weekend viewing for me. Let me repeat, however, it’s with trepidation. It’s not the same excitement I had with TFA. My enthusiasm is dampened because it’s another story meant to fill in a hole and tell us more about a story whose conclusion we already know. While on one hand, it’s exciting to get a film that does not feature the original characters so prominently, there are still constants in this story that are unchangeable. Darth Vader appears and then there is the Death Star being built. As a Star Wars fan, I did not ask for this story however I will accept that there are others out there who did and will love this movie. It’s when the franchise does these things that I want to ask those in charge, “whose advice did you take when creating these stories for the visual media?”
For myself, and maybe even for a few others, the lack of any meaningful story progression has been the biggest failing of Star Wars. When the movies stopped, all we had left were the comic books and the smattering of cartoons that were more like cash grabs at the time because none of it was canon. When the final credits of RotJ rolled, many of us assumed that was the end for Star Wars and whatever came out was mostly for nostalgia’s sake. The release of Timothy Zahn’s novels was a small sign that there was enough interest to read stories about the aftermath of RotJ, and before we knew it there was a whole Expanded Universe. All of these stories were coming while many of us were praying and hoping for George Lucas to consider bringing along more movies.
I was disappointed when the prequels came along but, for many of us, some Star Wars on the big screen was better than none at all. Who really needed three more movies to tell us how Darth Vader came to be? Fans tolerated it in hopes that if the prequels were successful, then some of the brilliant ideas coming from the EU novels would have also eventually make its way to the big screen. Alas, it was not to be. Prior to TFA, we had been treated to two renditions of the Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels and a few others. Then, once Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars from Lucas, they completely wiped out the EU. Now, for better or worse, the EU was getting unwieldy in its own right. Yes, I realize it was done to ‘fix’ what was broken but all the same, not much has progressed since. Mind you, this is not to disparage anyone from liking different eras from Star Wars, because personally I would have liked to have seen more stories from those 20 or 30 years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. The issue is that there has been a hodgepodge of stories within certain eras that have served more to simply fill in the blanks than actually progress the overall Star Wars arc.
Dare I even say it, if you were to compare just the visual mediums with Star Trek, there is a clear line from The Original Series to what’s now known as the Kelvin Timeline. Even when Star Trek has stories that may fill in the gaps at certain places, there is still an uncertain sense at how future stories will end. Sadly, I feel that we aren’t getting this with the Star Wars franchise. The franchise has been stuck for so long with telling us how Anakin became Vader, how the Rebels destroyed the Death Star or how the Old Republic fell, that very little has been done to actually progress the story beyond what we have known for years. While Marvel Comics (and remember that Disney owns them now as well) has also done a good job of presenting the comics after reclaiming the license from Dark Horse, we are still getting the same results. There have been many stories still set in between A New Hope and the Empire Strikes Back, with the Poe Dameron book actually shedding some new light on events after RotJ.
As much as I like Star Wars, I really would love to see more of the universe instead of the story plot holes being filled in. Star Wars sparked many of our imaginations for what happened in between, and it would be nice if a lot of what happened could be inferred without having a big budget movie filling in the gaps. When the EU was available, the early books did a great job of giving us an idea what the Star Wars universe could look like. With it gone and with what’s in place, however, I feel like the franchise is still spinning in place and trying to take baby steps after being around for nearly 2 generations. I may be one of the few, but I don’t need back stories on Han Solo, Boba Fett, or Yoda pushed on the main screen. I don’t need more stories on what happened after the destruction of the first Death Star because it’s still going to lead viewers to Luke getting his hand whacked off and Han frozen in carbonite. It shouldn’t take big screen productions to fill in those holes. Sure, the next big film will tell us more after The Force Awakens, but if you have to force more prequels down our throats (yes, there is the option to not watch), how about filling the gaps where the EU books are no longer filling? How about giving us the 411 on what happened on Coruscant after Palpatine fell? What did some of the principal characters do weeks and months after the war? What about the reformation of the Senate? Oh sure, the Aftermath books are supposed to cover that but this would be a good time to put those stories to visual media than another pre-ANH movie.
To conclude, after so much time, I as a fan feel like I am at a crossroads with this franchise. There is still so much I want from this series and to see it succeed. This is a franchise I have grown up with and am watching kids and people’s grandkids come up with. Heck my wife gets mad when I quote lines or hum the music when it’s on. It still means a lot to me but I want so much to see it progress forward instead of giving me a feeling that it’s still fenced in, like someone who refuses to color outside of the lines. Yes, again as a dutiful fan, I will trudge off to see Rogue One because from the previews, it looks visually stunning, but there’s still the weight of it being a story that’s just filling in a hole that we already know the ending to. Truthfully, I am just hoping that Star Wars VIII will exceed expectations.