Film,  Television

The Mandalorian is Exactly What Star Wars Needed

Hello there, it’s been a long time. A lot has happened since we last talked about Star Wars. We had the release of Episode IX, and it wasn’t pretty. We also had the launch of Disney+, meaning we got to see the first live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian. This is not a review of Mando, I’m sure one of my teammates will get to that eventually. This is just going to be a mini analysis of why Star Wars needs to lean into new territory instead of dwelling on the past.

So, we need to go back to the beginning. Star Wars has always been special. The original trilogy (OT) was a smash hit when it debuted in the late 70s. The prequels (PT), while not well received, still impacted all of pop-culture in the early 00s. Then in 2015, with the release of The Force Awakens, it was Star Wars Mania. Every time Star Wars happened, it was an event. Everyone knew it was happening, and everyone was excited, even if they weren’t a fan. It was like the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and Christmas but with more space ships and glowing swords. Other franchises just didn’t have the mystique that Star Wars did. It was more than a film series, it was a phenomenon.

So when did this all change? When did Star Wars fall? Well, over-saturation is definitely the main issue. A movie has released every year since Episode IIV. Not only that, our action/sci-fi fix has been fed quite well for the last 10 years. With the MCU, Star Trek films, and others, we didn’t really NEED Star Wars. Lastly, each generation came in at a different point in time. Some love the OT, others grew up with the PT and Clone Wars, new fans came in during the sequel trilogy (ST). Each group is a fan of Star Wars, but for different reasons. Leading to each group thinking they know what Star Wars is supposed to be. George Lucas intended for Star Wars to be ever-changing. He wanted each story to tell us something different. The OT was about fathers and sons, the path to redemption, and the hero’s journey. The PT was about destiny, subverting the chosen one trope established in the OT, and the rise of the Empire. While the ST was about returning to Star Wars’ roots. The hero’s journey, the redemption arc, and the rise/fall of the First Order. A condensed version of what came before.

The ST was so focused on pleasing all of the different sides of the fandom that it lost any sense of identity by the time Rise of Skywalker came around. How does The Mandalorian fit into all of this? Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni chose to take a different direction with Star Wars. There’s no lightsabers, no Empire, no Skywalker’s, or Palpatine’s. Aside from locations, there were no ties to the rest of the series. They decided to shrink the scale, and it rejuvenated the franchise. We follow an almost silent protagonist in Mando, as he tries to protect a force-sensitive child from a remnant of the Empire. Going from galactic genocide to protecting an infant was a significant tonal shift, but it was precisely what the doctor ordered.

Star Wars has had 5 films in as many years, and while none of the movies were bad, it lost its mystique. It became just another blockbuster. The community is fractured into fractions because Star Wars doesn’t have an identity. Each series wanted to be something new, and the latest attempted to give everyone what they wanted, resulting in no one being truly satisfied. Looking back, Star Wars is nothing more than a feud between Skywalker’s and Palpatine’s. A feud that resulted in countless lives being lost, many Death Stars, and three different “chosen ones.” No one wanted this, and it got stale fast. The Mandalorian came in and told a story about finding your place, learning to care for your new-found friends/family, and gave us westerns in space. It’s the true successor to everything George Lucas wanted out of this series. It was that new life every fan was longing for.

The Mandalorian does have its own set of issues, but the problems aren’t a big deal if you’re enjoying the adventure. The characters are likable, and the world is something new. The show mostly takes place on Tatooine, but it’s nothing like we remember it from the other movies. It’s dark and gritty because we see a different side of it. The bounty hunter’s world is much more grey, compared to the black and white presentation of the films. The Mandalorian is still Star Wars, but they added enough new elements to keep things engaging.

Star Wars was always meant to evolve. Fans and more importantly, Disney seemed to lose sight of that. The Mandalorian came and reminded us that Star Wars is at its best when it introduces new themes and characters arcs. Mando will not radically impact the Skywalker Saga, and it will not aid in either side of the battle between the Empire and Resistants. It will, however, give you fun adventures and good supporting characters. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want from Star Wars?

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in my other musings, check out novicecinephile.com or my podcast Mike and John at the Movies. For more Star Wars features from the fantastic crew here at WOBAM! Entertainment, stay tuned. I have spoken.

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