The Skywalker Saga had to Die for Star Wars to Live
The Rise of Skywalker is said to have finally shut the book on the saga that defined pop-culture for the past 40 years that saw George Lucas’ creation turn from a seemingly indestructible cultural phenomenon, to what is essentially at best described as a soulless, corporate husk of what once was.
I never actually went to see The Rise of Skywalker. I read the reviews, I read the synopsis on Wikipedia and realized that I, a person who as a child—in what I can now only describe as an act of emotional cruelty—forced his father to watch The Phantom Menace in cinemas 5 times didn’t care about a Star Wars movie. I somehow cared about this even less than I cared about the Han Solo movie.
This is where it struck me. Ever since I got over the childhood glee of laser swords and magical bearded men, Star Wars stopped being about the story of Anakin or Luke (and later Ben) Skywalker, but instead, it was about the wonderful world it was placed in, a world that was later populated by hundreds of writers, utilizing the unique space opera setting to craft stories far better than those that stuck to the main storyline.
You see, outside of Empire Strikes Back, the best pieces of Star Wars media are either completely disconnected from the Skywalker saga or hold a tangential connection at best. After all, both Knights of the Old Republic games use the galaxy far, far away to craft stories that go beyond the typical dichotomy of the Force and show a nuanced approach to the force that goes beyond “blue good, red bad”. It took another 15 years for Rian Johnson to acknowledge the grey side of the Force in The Last Jedi, an aspect that should’ve probably been explored further than with a few Luke rants, and definitely shouldn’t have been backtracked in The Rise of Skywalker the way it has. But I’m not here to get into another argument about The Last Jedi, which has become the movie equivalent of pineapple pizza for a lot of people.
What I want to focus my energy and attention on instead, is talking about how for about 5 to 6 years in the 2000s, Star Wars games showed everybody the potential of LucasFilm’s universe. From the deep and nuanced storylines presented in the two KotOR games to insanely fun genre titles like Rogue Squadron, X-Wing, Star Wars: Racer, Battlefront and Republic Commando, all the way to post-Return of the Jedi adventure games from the Jedi Knight series, Star Wars showed more quality in its offering of video games than it did in its prequels. I didn’t care much for Anakin Skywalker, however, I did love Kyle Katarn.
The games were a perfect example of what makes Star Wars so great, the sprawling, used-future world filled with scoundrels and scumbags, crime lords and esteemed leaders, the world that you could now inhabit by either being a small part of a bigger picture or a hero (or villain) who would redefine the world around them, without impacting the original story you knew and loved.
Disney seems to have learned its lesson now, having invested some money into products that develop the world instead of retreading it (a much-needed thing, given that they essentially murdered the Expanded Universe’s canon credentials). The Mandalorian is a great example of what the games of yore did so well, a story that showcases the world through the eyes of a hero perfectly encapsulating both elements of the universe. Maybe the reason I didn’t care about The Rise of Skywalker is that I already got my fix of what I loved in Star Wars from the show?
The truth is that out of 9 movies in the main Star Wars saga, 4 were critically panned, at least 5 are disliked by large portions of the fanbase and all of them paint a picture of a disjointed story that detracts from the power of the original trilogy.
“Let the past die,” says Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi “kill it, if you have to.” Perhaps, Disney should’ve done so with the Skywalker saga once they got their hands on Star Wars. Perhaps George Lucas should’ve done it before he started writing about midichlorians. However, perhaps now that both time and a series of fiascos have essentially murdered the saga, perhaps we can get more of what Star Wars fans have longed for for so long—good, nuanced stories set in the most interesting fictional universe ever created.