In the 21st century, Lucasfilm has failed to deliver a Star Wars movie that has been unanimously loved by fans and critics alike. From the failed Prequel Trilogy to the divisive Sequel Trilogy, Lucasfilm has overall let down the franchise.
However, Star Wars is making a comeback. Sadly, that comeback isn’t on the big screen. Since 2019, the best Star Wars projects have been on the Disney+ streaming service. However, live-action shows aren’t enough for fans of the galaxy far, far away. They want to watch Star Wars movies. However, the slate of Star Wars movies isn’t looking well.
The upcoming Rogue Squadron movie that was supposed to be helmed by Patty Jenkins has been delayed. And Jenkins herself has left the movie. Right now, there are only rumors of an Old Republic movie doing the rounds. As such, it truly feels like the era of fantastic Star Wars movies is over. It seems like continuing to hope for films set in the galaxy far, far away is pointless. After all, actually satisfying movies set in the universe are rare.
And we genuinely think that Disney should give up at this point and never make another Star Wars movie ever again. We know that you must have said No by now and are now moving on to perhaps close the tab of this article. But before you do that, let us show you the math.
Let Us Do The Star Wars Math
Know that there are precisely two universally appreciated and loved Star Wars movies. Everyone in the fandom agrees that Star Wars (A New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back are excellent movies. Some fans feel like Return of the Jedi, part of the beloved Original Trilogy feels less complete and sure of itself than the previous two movies.
As early as 1983, many agree that Star Wars had started recycling its tropes of hidden family connections, superweapons, etc. This can be proven through the Rotten Tomatoes score as well. So let us compare the 3 movies of the Original Trilogy:
- A New Hope: It has a critics score of 92, and an audience score of 96
- Empire Strikes Back: It has a critics score of 94, and an audience score of 97
- Return of the Jedi: It has a critics score of 82, and an audience score of 94
Now, Rotten Tomatoes scores don’t really mean anything substantial. But it’s a site that every film professional does refer to. And by now, it has become an almost-benchmark that’s used for judging a film’s performance.
So we are using it as a reference. Now, these above numbers only get worse in the Sequel Trilogy:
- The Force Awakens: It has a critics score of 93, and an audience score of 85
- The Last Jedi: It has a critics score of 91, and an audience score of 42
- The Rise of Skywalker: It has a critics score of 52, and an audience score of 86
(The same can be said about the Prequel Trilogy too. But the less said about those movies, the better, especially here.)
Regardless of the Star Wars Trilogy, you grew up with, and the math is clear: Any Star Wars film that isn’t A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back has not been completely positively well received by the fandom. But the question is- why?
Star Wars Will Live In Streaming
Imagine something with us.
Imagine that Disney+ existed back in 2018. So instead of flopping at the box office that summer, Solo debuted as a five-part Disney+ miniseries. And just like that, all criticism about this movie evaporated like water in the desert planet of Tattoine. Now, the main issue with Solo wasn’t that it was a particularly bad Star Wars movie. It was a pretty decent one.
However, we are not saying that Solo would have been universally loved the way The Mandalorian was. But, if Solo was put on Disney+ as a tv show, then expectations regarding it would have been lowered.
Now, let us imagine The Mandalorian as a film. It’s easy to see why the movie might have worked. And it’s also easy to see how the movie might not have worked as well. After all, no one knew who Din Djarin was, and if Baby Yoda were hidden from the trailers, then not many would have bought tickets. Also, it’s possible that Grogu might have even backfired like Jar Jar Binks.
Worse, he might have become unmemorable like the Porgs of Last Jedi. Fans of the galaxy far, far away don’t talk about Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s droid L3-37 in Solo and just how great it was. However, if you imagine Solo as a Disney+ show, then L3-37 flirting with Donald Glover’s Lando for multiple episodes becomes exciting.
Why Does Star Wars Work Better On Disney+?
The reason why The Mandalorian and other Disney+ Star Wars shows work is because of the opposite reason why people get hyped for Star Wars movies. Know that these films need to be events. As such, they need to do everything that the previous successful Star Wars movies did while also being their own thing.
The best and most clear example of this is Rogue One. This was a well-received movie. But even it had to undergo a reshoot with Darth Vader to punch up the lightsaber ending. This is why Star Wars: The Last Jedi isn’t so transgressive. It rehashes some of the major Star Wars tropes, even though Rian Johnson did spin some of them. Now, imagine The Mandalorian on the big screen in 2015.
That certainly would have been transgressive! However, it also might not have worked. Now, The Mandalorian, or Star Wars, works on the small screen because audiences keep their expectations low. People are willing to accept the inevitable narrative stumbles. After all, they know that the next episode or the next one will set things right.
Also, big scenes like that of the Luke Skywalker cameo at the end of season 2 of The Mandalorian can be accepted as divisive without bringing the entire franchise to its knees. Of course, this isn’t exclusive to just Star Wars. The very nature of mainstream cinema means that audiences expect more bang for their buck. After all, the wait between installments is very high.
This is why the movies in the Skywalker saga were segmented into “Episodes.” This was inspired by serialized storytelling like that of Flash Gordon. Lucas was trying to take the commonly known serialized medium and then use that for his movies. He wanted to put us right into the middle of a show to see if it worked. And It did.
However only for a short period of time. The success of the franchise ruined the artistic experiment that Lucas wanted to do. Instead of people having low expectations regarding his goofy and funny space opera, those grew higher. The scarcity of Star Wars movies created quite an unfair and pretty much unattainable standard. But those expectations get lowered in TV and streaming.
Due to this, Lucasfilm can release multiple low-stake stories on a regular basis. You might think that this is a new idea, but it isn’t actually. Animated shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels worked because the stakes, whether culturally or plotwise, were way smaller.
Each show has its place in the canon without being strictly full of ‘Star Wars’ things all the time. But due to Disney+ and also thanks to Baby Yoda, streaming is very quickly taking over from movies as the very center of the Star Wars franchise.
The most visible example of it is the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi show. Originally, Ewan McGregor’s Jedi Master was going to return in a film. But after Solo didn’t do well at the box office, Lucasfilm changed tactics. And as a result, instead of a movie, an Obi-Wan Kenobi show was thought of. As you might expect, the stakes are lower here.
So even though two of the franchise’s biggest stars (Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen) are coming back, there’s less pressure on the team to deliver an earth-shattering project.
And Lucasfilm is right. After all, why would they take a risk with a film when they can place lower bets on the small screen? Star Wars movies are shackled by unmeetable expectations and nostalgia. This thing pretty much ensures that every new idea is destined to fail. Now that Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron has been shelved, it is almost making us ask- why not develop it as a tv show?
Another thing to note is- Star Wars: Visions. It has proved that the characters and ideas of the franchise are exciting and diverse enough to sustain multiple narratives. After all, it’s hard to imagine episodes like “The Twins” and “The Ninth Jedi” being made into live-action movies.
Maybe that’s with good reason as well. Visions represent where Star Wars is headed towards and not where it has been. Overall, Star Wars makes it seem like the very best versions of the franchise exist in those cinematic moments. But now, with Ahsoka, The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi coming soon, Star Wars isn’t restricted to the cinema. And so, it’s time to adopt a larger view of the Force.
After all, from the looks of it, Star Wars will live and breathe not in cinemas but on the streaming service Disney+. On the streaming service, you can check out the next Star Wars Disney+ show, The Book of Boba Fett, on December 29, 2021.