Ever since Disney purchased Lucasfilm, we’ve been living in the golden age of Star Wars. There has never been more stories told in the franchise’s storied history, but The High Republic may be their most ambitious yet and it’s the perfect direction for Star Wars.
Since Disney’s crown jewel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken over entertainment as we know it, I think it’s fair to call Star Wars from 2012 to 2020 as the studio’s “Phase 1” for the galaxy far, far away. Unlike the MCU, Disney’s Star Wars universe is comprised of various mediums, something Marvel Studios is finally doing with their Disney Plus shows. The Expanded Universe is what comforted fans during Star Wars‘ “dark times” between the original and prequel trilogy. During that time, fan-favorite characters like Admiral Thrawn were born and the stories continued as the prequel trilogy was released with The Old Republic era.
As Lucasfilm was gearing up to develop a sequel trilogy and anthology films, they needed to pave the way for new and exciting stores that wouldn’t handcuff filmmakers. While the Expanded Universe was never considered canon by George Lucas in the first place, 2014 saw those stories placed under the respectable “Legends” banner.
What some people forget is that the Disney era of Star Wars started with the books and comic books, except this time they had just as much weight in the canon as the films and television shows. Because we spent so much time in the prequel era with Star Wars: The Clone Wars beforehand, filling the void in a time when we never thought the franchise would return to the big screen, Disney turned back to a more nostalgic time.
The early days of Star Wars under Disney saw a massive push towards the original trilogy with the vast majority of stories taking place in the age of the Empire. At the time, it made sense because the prequels were divisive and Disney needed to re-familiarize audiences with the legacy characters that had gone on to become myths in the last 30-plus years. Albeit, we got stories like Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One, and other projects that took place in the time before A New Hope. This era wasn’t explored due to George Lucas’ Star Wars Underworld live-action series, but now that story lives on through repurposed ideas.
As we were getting a high volume of Star Wars in every medium, the original trilogy aesthetic started to feel stale. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible seeing Tie-Fighters, X-Wings, practical effects, real locations, and more with modern film technology, but then it started to feel like it was dismissing an entirely different part of Star Wars.
George Lucas’ prequel trilogy introduced audiences to a completely new side to the Star Wars galaxy, with more elaborate planets and new ship designs. The Disney era has played heavily into the original three films and built off of that. With that being said, there have been plenty of great new designs in the Disney projects like BB-8, K2-SO, the Ghost, the U-Wing, and other things that have come under Disney and have felt inherently Star Wars, which kind of proves my point.
Having X-Wings and Tie-Fighters in the sequel trilogy was a definite play to nostalgia. In the thirty years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, not much had changed compared to the jump we saw with the prequel and original trilogies. The prequel trilogy managed to expand our idea on what Star Wars can be while still staying true to the heart of what it is, both in design and story.
I believe it was a missed-opportunity to have those classic Star Wars ships in The Force Awakens because it took away a lot from Rogue One and Solo, which actually took place in the original trilogy era. Despite the step backwards in design, a major plus to come from the sequel trilogy was new characters like Ben Solo, Poe Dameron, Qi’Ra, Orson Krennic, and many others. In phase 1, Disney and Lucasfilm have also shown that they can honor the past and can move the franchise forward, but the remnants of the original trilogy have been holding them back.
This issue can also be seen in The Mandalorian. While there aren’t any original trilogy characters in it, the show doesn’t give us a truly original look to the universe. Instead, we get characters that are too visually tied to Boba Fett and IG-88. In a way, they essentially rebooted versions of those characters. Nonetheless, the live-action series does do a great job of presenting a different tone for Star Wars and for giving us a different sound musically with Ludwig Göransson’s score.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Charles Soule’s Darth Vader run are bright spots in phase 1 for me. All of these stories manage to successfully open the galaxy with new ideas, worlds, and characters. This is where I want Star Wars to go, but I think it needs to go one step further.
It’s no secret that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the most divisive Star Wars film since the prequel trilogy days, and to me, there’s one major reason why. Imagine if you took the new sequel trilogy characters like Rey, Poe, and Ben Solo and told that story without the legacy characters. Not only would the characters still shine, but there also wouldn’t be the need to connect it to the past with legends like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa.
With a film hiatus in place, Star Wars is about to restart with a new wave of books and comics called The High Republic. I still think it’s important to continue stories in the other eras because there needs to be balance. There also needs to be something that pushes Star Wars forward and The High Republic can achieve that.
The High Republic is stripping back Star Wars and building it up in this brand-new unexplored era with multiple talented storytellers like Charles Soule and Claudia Grey involved. Based on the announcement video, the publishing effort will feature all kind of stories with the Jedi at the height of their power, smugglers, bounty hunters, and more of the Star Wars archetypes we are used to. The High Republic will also be ambitious with a villainous group called The Nihl who are described as “space vikings.”
The High Republic is already proving to be a promising endeavor and is what I’ve been wanting to see from the franchise since it was taken over from Disney: a story with completely new characters in a new era and with new designs. Another thing that works in The High Republic‘s favor is the fact that it looks like we are dealing with new characters. While Yoda is around, I really hope they wait on his inclusion because I think its important to see how these talented storytellers craft their own corner of Star Wars.
With no official details on the next Star Wars film, many want to see the time of The Old Republic on the big screen. If Disney and Lucasfilm were to explore that era, which seems inevitable, they need to do what The High Republic is doing by creating original stories. Disney and Lucasfilm would have an uphill battle to face if they were to do a story inspired The Old Republic Legends material because there would inevitably be backlash for not being “true” to beloved characters like Revan and Darth Bane if they used them.
The first Phase the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t perfect either and I believe it wasn’t until Phase 3 where Disney and Marvel Studios truly found their footing. I think the same will happen with Star Wars as the franchise starts to get more ambitious by traveling into the unknown. If Star Wars continues to only play on nostalgia and be too self-referential with stories like The Rise of Skywalker, it will loose its top spot in the zeitgeist, especially with younger audiences. They’ve already proven that they can do it, now all Lucasfilm has to do is take the next step forward and expand the universe. Star Wars needs reinvention and based on everything I’ve seen from The High Republic, they are heading in the right direction.