Disney Shouldn’t Give Up On Star Wars

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I’ve got a bad feeling about this… 

Why Disney shouldn’t be giving up on the Star Wars anthologies.

With Disney announcing that they’re going to be putting a hold on their Star Wars anthology films I’ve found myself doing a lot of thinking about what I would have actually liked to have seen from this new run of Star Wars movies.

It’s a shame to see the anthology films going down the pan, really, because for me that would have been the more interesting avenue for Disney and Star Wars as a brand to take. Truth be told I’m not all that interested in new episodes of the Skywalker saga. I’ve got the original trilogy and that does me just fine, and I’m just not that interested in learning anymore about the big, grandiose stories of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Maybe that’s just me, but the prequels proved, at least as far as I’m concerned, that the story doesn’t really need to go anywhere else. We don’t need to know the build up to Luke on Tatooine and, while I’m actually in the minority who seem to prefer The Last Jedi to The Force Awakens, I’m not sure I really needed to know where Luke ended up, either.

For years, as far as I was concerned, that was the story done and dusted. The fact that they were episodes 4, 5, and 6 was more like a cool touch than it was promise of more. It gave the impression that the universe was more expansive and fuller that simply those three films, but I didn’t ever find myself wishing that Lucas would one day go back and fill in the backstory.

The prequels were what they were, and there’s been more than enough written about them for me to suddenly weigh in like I know what I’m talking about, but it certainly seemed like, for a while there at least, Star Wars was destined to live on in video games and comics and the odd cartoon show than it was ever to be a major blockbuster franchise again. And you know what? That was okay. I don’t remember anyone clambering for more, what we had was enough.

When Disney announced that they’d bought Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars universe there was a lot of worry – “does that mean Princess Leia is a Disney Princess now” some idiot would say as though that somehow both made sense and was a negative – but the honest fact is that, actually Disney is as good a home as any for a film series about… wait for it, Space Wizards!

When I fell in love with Star Wars I was six years old. It captivated me at that age and I fully bought into this world of magic and spaceships and smugglers and aliens and all the other crazy and insane stuff that’s going on in the original trilogy. I loved it because it was… well, kind of childish. That’s what I enjoyed about those films. And as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to notice issues with them. It doesn’t mean I love them any less, they’re still an integral part of my life and who I am, but they are most definitely movies aimed at kids. The fact that so many people spend so much time picking apart Star Wars “lore” is kind of weird, right? It’s not Lord of the Rings, it’s… y’know, for kids!

But none the less I was kind of pumped about the idea of new Star Wars movies from the House of Mouse. Remember the first Pirates of the Caribbean? Well, I like that movie for the exact same reason I like Star Wars; it’s a dumb, goofy adventure with cool characters and great visuals – and that film came from Disney, so maybe they are the right choice.

I’m explaining all this because I want to explain where my headspace was at when they announcement first came, and I want you to understand that I was genuinely excited by the prospect. New Star Wars movies from Disney sounded (and still does sound) like a good idea as far as I’m concerned. Disney are hardly going to take such a beloved franchise and inject Donald Duck into it, are they? It just wasn’t going to happen.

And then they announced their plans, and I felt… well, to be honest with you I felt disappointed.

More episodes? Really? This is where we’re going with this? We’re going to sequelise the original trilogy now? You know, that set of three films that tell a complete story? We’re going to just make more of them, are we? Why? Who actually wants that? I know I don’t.

I enjoyed The Force Awakens when it first came out, and yeah, maybe that is what Star Wars needed to be reinvigorated, but man does that movie not hold up to repeat viewings. It doesn’t even make sense, and the plot is… dull. It’s not a good film, it just isn’t. And I’m not going to go into why I think that in great detail, but truth is it kind of lurches from moment to moment, appeasing to base level nostalgia and never really doing anything. It’s all set-up and no pay off.

But I only went to go see The Force Awakens because, and get this, it felt like a big deal for a lot of people. If it were up to me I probably wouldn’t have bothered – at least not in such a grand, “first showing first day” kind of way. I’d have probably waited. I’d have probably done what I did with Solo. Because I really wasn’t all that interested in the prospect of new episodes.

You know what I was excited for? Rogue One.

When Disney made their announcement, they didn’t just announce sequels to the original trilogy, they announced a slate of anthology films as well. The idea, as far as I remember it at first at least, was that there would be a Star Wars movie each Christmas, alternating between episodes and anthology movies. And it was the anthology movies I was interested in.

A slew of films set in the Star Wars universe that only serve to explore previously unseen or unexplored aspects of the franchise? This is epic, right? A film noir set on Tatooine! A Star Wars thriller! A weird arthouse film that just focuses on a day in the life of one of the non-speaking droids (okay, that one’s a joke)! But, c’mon! Screw the Force! Screw the Jedi! Let’s do that!

I don’t understand where it’s all gone wrong. That’s a much more interesting idea. I really don’t care about the exploits of Rey and Finn and Poe Dameron, and that’s not because of The Last Jedi, I didn’t care before those movies had even come out! I want to see parts of the galaxy far, far away that I’ve literally never seen before. Rogue One was a promising start, and Solo, for all it’s issues, isn’t that bad a movie either (although I’m not sure we needed a Han Solo origin story since that’s literally what A New Hope is), at least it still goes to new places and shows us new things! So far we’ve got four new Star Wars movies and the best one has nothing to do with the episode narrative.

Disney shouldn’t be pulling the anthology films, they should be wrapping up this trilogy and lay that to rest. Solo didn’t fail because people aren’t interested in the anthologies, it failed because people didn’t like The Last Jedi (a part of the episode narrative) and they released it two weeks after Infinity War! This isn’t rocket science!

And what’s more, you’re on safer ground with the anthology films as well. Fans don’t like one? Oh well, it’s not like it involves their beloved heroes from the original trilogy, just sweep it under the rug and jump onto the next one.

The possibilities are literally endless. Zip back and forth in the timeline, jump from planet to planet. They don’t even have to have that big a budget. Just set one entirely on Hoth and it’s not exactly going to cost you a bomb, is it? I mean, really? Am I the only one who sees this and thinks its basically money in the bank?

Those people who were angry with The Last Jedi were mostly angry because of what Rian Johnson did with Luke (not me, I thought that was an interesting direction to take the character in, but whatever), if he was directing some standalone anthology film you wouldn’t have that problem, because they characters aren’t characters people are attached to in any way. They’re BRAND NEW!

So, please, Disney, don’t give up on the anthologies, that’s where your focus should be. Keep hiring interesting writers and directors to create Star Wars stories and don’t be afraid to take a little risk here and there but lay the episodes to rest now. Let’s explore this universe, let’s see a different side to it, let’s make a freaking horror movie set in the Star Wars universe, that would be awesome! But don’t just give up. That’s the part with the most potential!

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Alex Secker is a writer/director/editor. His debut feature film, the micro-budget thriller Follow the Crows, won Best Independent Film at the Global Film Festival Awards, while his stage-play, The Door, won the People’s Choice Award at the 2017 Swinge Festival.