The MCU and the Star Wars saga are two of the most successful film franchises currently releasing new films. One of the most fascinating aspects of these two properties is their different approaches to world-building. Despite some shared decisions, like the two franchises’ shared foray into television with Disney+ shows, it’s become clear that Star Wars couldn’t and shouldn’t use the same world-building strategies as the MCU.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown tremendously with each new installment. These days, every new movie or TV show provides a piece of a jigsaw. Although some movies, like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, offer enormous clues to what’s to come in the future, others, like Eternals, have provided tiny titbits that will be explored later, but regardless of the project, each has provided something fresh that will likely play a larger role in the future, similar to how comics set up events years in advance.
Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has used its expansion phase to surpass all other franchises, Star Wars has never had to worry about expanding its world. Once the Original Trilogy was released, fans were suddenly transported to a completely different universe. The stakes of those movies were the relationships between the heroes, like Luke and Leia, and the antagonists, like the Empire and Darth Vader. Since then, each new Star Wars installment has added to an already established world. Thus, works like The Bad Batch and Obi-Wan Kenobi simply exist for the protagonists and to explore a universe that functions more like a playground than a constantly developing entity.
As a result of the MCU’s policy of constant expansion, nearly all of its products are now considered must-sees. Although most viewers haven’t yet found the constant stream of content too much to handle, the prospect of having to keep up with releases to grasp the next big film may seem daunting to those on the outside looking in. This approach has, in recent works, mirrored that of contemporary comics.
What happens in one series may not have any bearing on what happens in another, so readers aren’t obligated to read every book in a series. However, each project in the MCU is important because it often leads to a greater resolution. It’s not terrible storytelling, but it might be too much for some people.
The sheer quantity of Star Wars content, any part of which could suddenly prove more timely, is the franchise’s biggest flaw. For instance, the pre-Clone Wars era of The High Republic has expanded into a new era in comics and novels. The upcoming series The Acolyte has been confirmed as a story set during the High Republic, which may pressure fans to read and research a time period they may not have the bandwidth to explore fully.
The new live-action Obi-Wan Kenobi series is the first to feature Sith Inquisitors. Star Wars Rebels fans have always been familiar with these characters, but new viewers will need to watch the show to learn more about the antagonists. That goes double for the upcoming show Ahsoka, which will serve as a sequel to Rebels. It’s not terrible if viewers need to rewind, but it may annoy those who can’t.
While the series’ world-building has caused some minor backtracking issues, the series’ greater benefit of uniting media into a single, consistent continuity is nothing short of impressive. However, Star Wars wouldn’t do nearly as well if it ever adopted a more high-octane strategy for world-building like the MCU. The beauty of the Star Wars franchise lies in the possibility of these various storylines intersecting with one another, and the stories that have been built within the franchise reflect this.
Having said that, the MCU’s approach isn’t flawed either. Instead, it stands on its own as an example of storytelling and serves as further evidence that there is more than one story to be told successfully.