Why The Star Wars Anthology Films Are Better
The recent Star Wars saga episodes are great, especially for longtime fans who've been around for years (and even those who are only now dipping their toes into the galaxy far, far away), but the anthology movies are also great for franchise newcomers and fans of old. Why? Because they feel... new, to put it plainly. There's a sense of freedom associated with the Star Wars Story spinoffs because they can go where the saga episodes have never gone before: to various corners of the galaxy where the overarching Skywalker story arc doesn't reign supreme. Moreover, there's a lack of expectation associated with the anthology movies, not in terms of quality but with regard to preconceived notions about the story (e.g. who Rey's real parents are, etc.) - and that all translates onto the big screen.
While the two Star Wars Story movies that have released so far have taken place between the prequel and original trilogies, what's interesting is that they both feel like old school Star Wars movies but for modern audiences. That's evident in many ways, including the movies' story structure as well as their more grounded nature compared to the saga episodes. For instance, Solo: A Star Wars Story's brief action sequence on Mimban shows exactly what a live-action Republic Commando or Clone Wars movie could look like - and it's spectacular; the small-guy perspective on a galactic scale is certainly worth celebrating, especially for a gigantic space opera franchise like Star Wars, in which everyone has some sort of divine purpose.
A truly astounding aspect of the Star Wars franchise that may be overlooked by more casual moviegoers, however, is the respect to previously established lore (canon or not) as well as an adherence to stories already told in other mediums, such as comics, novels, and/or television. Right now, the Star Wars anthology movies are clearly doing more justice to Star Wars TV than the MCU has ever done for their TV properties. Lucasfilm - and especially Solo: A Star Wars Story screenwriters Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan - successfully brought Maul back into the fold on the big screen. For years, his existence was relegated to the small screen on The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels TV shows (in which his story arc played out beautifully), but that meant an entire section of the Star Wars fanbase was unaware of Maul's existence. Now, by introducing him, even in what is arguably a shoehorned cameo/connection, has done more to bridge the gap between the big and small screen properties than ever before.
What's more, the inclusion and mention of Star Wars Rebels' Ghost crew, the Hammerhead Corvettes, and various other things in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story further illustrates this notion of justice to non-saga films. Ultimately, it's not about advancing a narrative, exploring exotic locales, or even subverting expectations that have been built up for decades. In the end, it's about giving audiences an adventure story - "A Star Wars Story" - for them to experience from the ground up, and that is certainly worth continuing.
Why Lucasfilm Should Invest More In This Medium
For years, the Star Wars franchise has been focused on the Skywalker family - and that's wonderful. That core struggle between the dark and the light - whether that be between the Jedi and the Sith, the Empire and the Rebellion, or the First Order and the Resistance - has always been at the forefront of the Star Wars saga. That's one of the franchise's biggest draws, and it's not something that should go away anytime soon. But, then again, there's much more to the Star Wars franchise than a handful of heroes and villains leading the charge. After all, not everyone can be the chosen one, and there are real stories out there for the studio to show audiences on the big screen, not just on TV. Lucasfilm's off-shoots present more opportunities to explore characters and stories in greater detail, not to mention experimenting with different genres (i.e. a heist movie, an adventure story, etc.). Of course, in order to succeed, Lucasfilm will also need to push the envelope beyond what audiences are already familiar with (hence the "necessity" argument). Playing it safe will only get them so far.
Again, with the Star Wars anthology films, it's not always about advancing a pre-established narrative and hoping to satisfy all corners of the Star Wars fandom but rather delivering a galactic adventure that all moviegoers can enjoy. While the domestic and international box office grosses may not show it, the existence of these Star Wars spinoffs allow Lucasfilm to attract newcomers to the franchise without requiring people to go back and watch every Star Wars movie that came before in order to have some semblance of understanding behind everything that's going on. And with the Skywalker storyline seemingly coming to an end with Star Wars: Episode IX, there are plenty of opportunities to tell one-off stories within the franchise, some of which don't need to connect to one another. While focusing on characters or groups, who perhaps deserve more screentime, may be warmly welcomed by many (but not all) fans, it's something that should certainly consider doing more of down the line.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019