Generations, spirituality, and heroism. Those are some of the pillars of the Star Wars Saga. With Disney pumping out a new film each December, there’s no shortage of new content. The endless supply of TV shows, novels, and comic books ensures fans remain engaged.
At the same time, Star Wars canon isn’t perfect. Within the last few years, the Lucasfilm Story Group adopted oversight of the Saga’s continuity, while also jettisoning the Expanded Universe. Is the current framework of Star Wars doomed to fail? Let’s examine whether the Saga needs a new direction.
Star Wars Is Retroactive
Friends who haven’t seen Star Wars often ask why the original trilogy takes place after the prequel trilogy, even though the original trilogy premiered first. Without getting into George Lucas‘s creative mindset, the answer is that Star Wars is a retroactive series. Lucasfilm tells many stories out of order, with the most famous example being the original and prequel trilogies.
Other popular franchises like Star Trek and the Marvel Cinematic Universe tend to be more linear in their storytelling. By contrast, the real-world release order of Star Wars stories usually differs from their chronological order. This provides creative freedom to filmmakers, authors, and artists to explore the Saga’s different eras. However, it can also be confusing, since fans must figure out a story’s place in the timeline. (For curious readers, Wookieepedia maintains a timeline of canon media.)
Star Wars is nonlinear because first and foremost, it is a cinematic series. On a creative level, Lucasfilm gives precedence to the Saga’s films. That means that recent novels, comic books, and TV shows are based on the Saga’s films, not the other way around. Lucasfilm also saves the largest revelations for the films. Fans had to wait until The Force Awakens to find out that Luke Skywalker became a hermit, and that Han Solo and Leia Organa had a son, Ben, who turned to the dark side.
Because of the Saga’s retroactive structure, LucasBooks’ recent novels have expanded on specific parts of the films and TV shows. Examples include Bloodline and The Aftermath Trilogy, which set up various plot points for The Force Awakens. It makes sense that Lucasfilm uses its novels to fill in the blanks for the Saga. Still, that means there may never be another book series like The New Jedi Order.
The Gap Between the Films and TV Series
The creative hierarchy of Star Wars, which prioritizes the Saga’s main films, has pros and cons. On one hand, this is how Star Wars has always been made. Since the Anthology Series begins with Rogue One this December, Lucasfilm is clearly open to having nonlinear content. Hopefully, Rogue One will prove that Star Wars films can be compelling, even if they diverge from the main cinematic trilogies.
On the other hand, prioritizing the films means placing limitations on other stories. The TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars led into Revenge of the Sith, while the currently airing Star Wars Rebels leads into the original trilogy. To preserve continuity, there are some things that the TV shows simply cannot do. The prequel trilogy faced similar boundaries since it took place before the original trilogy.
Having limits certainly isn’t a bad thing. Fundamentally, stories cannot exist beyond the parameters that they set for themselves. At the same time, series like The Clone Wars and Rebels lose some freedom by being ancillary to the films. Perhaps Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a creative model that’s worth considering. The TV series takes place in the “present” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet, although the show ties into current Marvel films, it still maintains its own creativity and independence.
The real question is how Star Wars can bridge the gap between its films and TV shows. A TV show set during the sequel trilogy could generate hype for the Saga’s future, while also offering potential roles to film characters like Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron. We’ll just have to see what Lucasfilm’s next TV project will be after Rebels.
Star Wars TV is Animated
As the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas had an integral role in shaping the Saga. One of his most influential decisions was to use animation for Star Wars television, instead of live-action content.
Previously, I wrote about the impact that The Clone Wars had on the entire Saga. On a real-world level, Star Wars Rebels could not exist without The Clone Wars, which created the infrastructure of Lucasfilm Animation. As a result, it’s likely that animation will continue to be the medium of choice for the Saga’s future shows.
At the same time, ABC is thinking about making a Star Wars TV series. Such a show would probably be live-action, which means Lucasfilm would need to build an entirely new TV division from scratch. Live action can be more expensive than animation, which prevented George Lucas from going forward with Star Wars: Underworld. Still, fans have been clamoring for a live-action show for years. It remains to be seen whether ABC’s discussions will materialize into a tangible product.
Should Star Wars television be live-action instead of animated? Live action would directly evoke the aesthetics of the films. Nevertheless, computer-generated imagery has been a staple of Star Wars since the prequels. CGI is far from cheap, so Lucasfilm would need to integrate it in a practical manner.
However, a benefit of animation is that it appeals to younger audiences. That’s why both The Clone Wars and Rebels could usher in the next generation of Star Wars fans. A live-action show would have a different impact given that its content might skew toward older viewers. Still, it would be a fascinating new direction for the Saga, as long as it’s financially feasible for Lucasfilm.
I’m not completely dissatisfied with the current framework of Star Wars. Nonlinear storytelling and TV animation have been essential to the Saga’s widespread success. Regardless, Lucasfilm can only do so much before fans feel like they’re retreading old ground. My only hope is that as Lucasfilm crafts the future of the Saga, it will give fans new reasons to love Star Wars.