The Obi-Wan Kenobi finale provided a thrilling end to a series that was merely decent and lacking much in the way of imagination. And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with Disney's time running Star Wars.
As much as I liked Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of a tired Jedi, the series as a whole didn't feel like a compelling must-watch. It simply boiled down to a rescue and escort mission punctuated by bouts of nostalgia, something we basically got with The Mandalorian. And that series itself felt more of an expansion of the mentorship-style story lines seen many times with Luke and Obi-Wan, Luke and Yoda, Luke and Rey, Obi-Wan and Anakin, and so on.
When Disney isn’t exploring the mentorship and escort mission trope, it’s not doing any better. Or at least that's how it feels when it stimulated the nostalgia glands of Star Wars fans by offering a Disney Plus series out built around once two-dimensional side characters.
Don’t get me wrong, Boba Fett is a slick bounty hunter, but his story didn't need to go any further after he fell into a Sarlacc pit. Yet Disney decided to take this character, who really worked best as a muse for cosplayers, and make The Book of Boba Fett series.
As such, Disney took an enigmatic character and tried to tease a story out of him. The results were a mostly dull, plodding story, until the last few episodes pulled a screaming turn and brought in Din Djarin, Luke Skywalker, Ahsoka and baby Yoda for a weaponized nostalgia hit. They basically popped in to say "hello there" to Star Wars fans across the generations.
Not the stories I am looking for
The same broadly happened in the last clutch of Star Wars movies.
The Force Awakens was a great Star Wars movie, but walked well-trodden ground tapping into a reboot rather than a revolution. The Last Jedi tried something a little different, but was a a bit disjointed in many places. And The Rise of the Skywalker was an utter mess, seemingly hellbent on bringing back the Emperor for no good reason, while ignoring fleshing out new characters like Finn and basically retooling Rey as Luke 2.0 rather than her own thing.
Rogue One was solid. But what started out with a darker, intriguing tone eventually ended up with a modernized take on the Battle of Endor; great to behold but nothing new. And while the use of Darth Vader in Rogue One was great, he’s popped up so much since then he’s lost a lot of that scene-stealing menace.
This reliance on established characters, mentorship plot lines, and mostly similar story beats, as well as a desire to set a lot of the action in desert-like planets, especially Tatooine (now less a backwater planet and more like a prime destination for anyone with a Star Wars movie credit), has turned Star Wars from a scintillating setting into a safe space for middling stories.
As a result, I’m no longer feeling excited about upcoming series, such as Ahsoka or Tales of the Jedi, or indeed any new Star Wars movies.
I know there is good in you, Disney hasn't driven it from you fully
I love Star Wars as a pseudo sci-fi fantasy setting, but I don’t really need any more stories centered on space-wizards or stoic warriors, going about relatively mundane A-to-B journeys, punctuated by wafer-thin cameos. Yet there's a real feeling that Disney doesn't want to take risks and be brave with making a Star Wars movie or show that subverts expectations.
What’s annoying here, is we’ve seen how Disney can be creative with the MCU, with the more serious Avengers movies being contrasted by the colorful and comic Loki and Thor: Ragnarok, and a willingness to draw upon all sorts of source material.
That’s something the Star Wars universe, both canon and Legends, is hardly lacking. It’s packed full of interesting and odd places, characters and creatures, factions and groups, which could drawn upon to give us something fresh from the galaxy far, far away.
For example, I’d love to see a series explore more of Daiyu, the cyberpunk-style city that the Obi-Wan series took a short pit stop in. Or perhaps one that follows the life as an Imperial spy tasked with track down rebel cells, exploring how they view the Alliance as terrorists not freedom fighters.
I’d like to see a series look at how the Imperial Remnant tried to survive as the New Republic was established, say from the perspective of a Republic task group sent to hunt down the likes of Moff Gideon. Or perhaps we could forget sides, and follow the journey of an explorer seeking new worlds on the Galactic Rim; think Star Wars meets Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Even if Disney wants to keep an eye on established characters, then I’d love to see it take the Solo approach. Solo (which I'd argue is an underrated film) showed another side to living under the Empire’s yolk, as well as offering captivating action without any lightsaber clashes or Force powers, all wrapped up in the lived-in galaxy feel that Star Wars often nails.
Outlook: A new hope on the horizon
I’m hoping Disney manages this with Andor, giving the series intriguing settings and new characters, rather than wheeling out yet another Vader scene. But I’d also love to see Disney go darker with Cassian Andor, showing him more as a Rebel Alliance assassin than hero character (as was hinted at in Rogue One).
Even if Disney wanted to keep the force powers and lightsabers, then it could pull inspiration from the Rebels series. It offered not only a bevy of new characters, but made returning ones — such as Darth Maul — more intriguing.
Or Disney could look at the Knights of The Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic 2 games and set a Star Wars series or movie way before the Battle of Yavin, at a time when there were more Sith and Jedi and shades of Force users in between. An exploration of force users who are neither Dark or Light would be one way to go (KOTOR’s Jolee Bindo being a good example).
There Is a new hope for all of this to happen, as Taika Waititi wants to take a fresh approach to the Star Wars movie he’s apparently working on. And given the Skywalker saga has come to a close, the director is in the perfect spot to do something daring and different.
I really hope Disney gives Waititi that freedom, as it needs to mix something fresh into the Star Wars recipe. I fear its sameness might see Star Wars fall slowly to the beige side.