On the importance of The Mandalorian, the history of Star Wars, and Disney

There’s no point writing about why the latest Star Wars main movie trilogy was garbage. You can find many high-quality video essays on YouTube that go really in-depth on what went wrong with these movies.

Here’s a particularly good series that talks about why “The Last Jedi” sucks, that spans over 5 hours, which is much longer than the length of the movie itself!

The entire critique series spans more than 300 minutes. The movie’s total run time is 152 minutes.

If you don’t have as much time as I do, here’s a quick TL;DR of what went wrong with these movies other than some extremely bad plot decisions, bad story decisions, and logical inconsistencies – they did not feel like they cared for the Star Wars universe that had been developed over DECADES.

Disney had the responsibility of rebooting one of the biggest media franchises of all time and they absolutely dropped it with the main movies. Sure, they hit the right notes with “Rogue One” but we’ll get to that a bit later in this post.

Disney also made some decisions that pissed off a lot of fans (which we’ll also get into later). It all started to seem as if Star Wars under the big mouse wasn’t going to end up well.

However, Disney never intended to give up.

On 12th November 2019, the first episode of “The Mandalorian” premiered on Disney+, Disney’s brand new streaming service.

The series turned out to be everything that the movies were not. Instead of insulting the Star Wars universe, “The Mandalorian” represented it. The show was loved by fans and very well received by critics and just like that, the mouse was back in business.

The second season of “The Mandalorian” ended in December 2020 and it was considered to be just as good, if not better, than the first season.

Responding to its success, Disney announced 9 more Star Wars shows for Disney+, including three spin-offs of “The Mandalorian”. It seems like the tides have changed for Star Wars and fans are finally excited about the future of Star Wars again.

However, in this particular post, we’re going to examine how Disney fucked up with Star Wars, and also the way they managed to have turned it around for now. We also take a look at the history of Star Wars and how the universe has been handled over the decades.

Only a few media franchises are as successful as Star Wars, and it only makes sense to study it in-depth to learn more about media franchises and the right and the wrong ways of handling them.

DisclaimerI’m not the biggest Star Wars fan so I might get some things wrong in the article but just to be clear, this post is more about the executive and business side of Star Wars under Disney rather than a review or a deep examination of the underlying content. Also, plenty of spoilers ahead.

Making Star Wars movies was never easy

My main reason for making it was to give young people an honest, wholesome fantasy life, the kind my generation had. We had Westerns, pirate movies, all kinds of great things. Now they have The Six Million Dollar Man and Kojak. Where are the romance, the adventure, and the fun that used to be in practically every movie made?

George Lucas – The Sunday Post

“A New Hope” was released in 1977. It was the first time the general public saw a Star Wars movie. Getting to this point hadn’t been easy for writer-director George Lucas. Even though the movie would end up as a blockbuster hit and one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, the production had been fraught with many problems.

The principal photography for the film started in the Tunisian desert. During the first week of the shoot, there were several technical problems that caused Lucas to fall behind schedule. Additionally, there was also a rainstorm in the country (an extremely rare occurrence) that interrupted the shoot.

It also didn’t help that most of the crew did not take Lucas seriously. “A New Hope” was going to be the first Star Wars movie and nobody knew how it was going to pan out. Instead of realizing they were working on a movie that would go on to win an Academy Award, the crew thought they were working on a “children’s film” and found the entire project to be ironically humorous.

There’s a princess with weird buns in her hair, a giant in a monkey suit or something, it was weird. It was very, very weird.

Harrison Ford, Empire of Dreams: The Story of the ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy (2004)

It was also problematic that George Lucas was notoriously bad at speaking to actors. The actors often felt as if Lucas expected too much of them while providing very little direction. Most of his notes to actors were just simple words like “faster”.

Near the end of the production, Lucas was given an ultimatum that he was to finish shooting the movie within a week. The cast would often try to make Lucas smile because of how depressed he looked during the stressful times. The stress of the movie would eventually cause Lucas to suffer from hypertension and exhaustion.

Once the production was over, the post-production was similarly difficult. Mark Hamill, who plays the main character of the movie, was involved in a car accident which caused problems for reshoots. There were also various problems during the editing process which eventually led to a rushed editing process.

George Lucas screened the movie in February 1977 to a group of executives and director friends. The early cut had unfinished special effects, the original Darth Vader voice, and missed a lot of space footage. The reaction of all the directors in the room was negative with the exception of Steven Spielberg, who thought the movie would be great once the special effects were added.

What really caught Lucas by surprise was that the studio executives loved the movie with one of them exclaiming – “this is the best movie I’ve ever seen”. Approval from studio executives wasn’t something he was used to.

As history would have it, “A New Hope” would go on to become one of the highest-grossing movies ever made and kickstarted the Star Wars universe that is still strong today. To keep this post short, we’re not going to cover the story behind the next two sequels which were equally well-loved and instead, we’ll jump right into the prequels.

Why the Prequels don’t seem so bad right now

After twenty-two years, George Lucas would return to direct a movie again after “A New Hope”. This time he would be directing the first movie in the prequel trilogy – “A Phantom Menace”.

The prequels follow the story of Anakin Skywalker and how he becomes Darth Vader. However, the first movie wasn’t received very well at all by critics. While the critics would come around as the trilogy progressed, the first movie was often ranked as the worst in the entire trilogy and possibly the worst Star Wars movie ever made.

Even though there was a lot going for the movie, there were several problems with the film such as bad dialogue and weak writing. The criticism of the entire trilogy would continue well after the release of “The Revenge of the Sith” in 2005.

Natalie Portman, who plays the character of Padmé Amidala once stated that – “with the perspective of time, it’s been re-evaluated by a lot of people who actually really love them now.” And I agree with her.

There were a lot of problems with the prequels but they’re still better movies than the latest Disney movies. Instead of writing an entire essay on why this is the case (because everything that’s needed to be said has already been said), here are some quick points:

  • The films still built on the Star Wars universe and did it well.
  • The story was coherent and did justice to the original trilogy for the most part.
  • Given the technology available at its time, the visual effects were also really well done.

And that’s pretty much it. However, compared to what Disney did with the new movies, the Prequels are undoubtedly better Star Wars movies, and here’s why –

Disney ruins Star Wars

After acquiring Pixar in 2006, and Marvel in 2009, Disney would acquire Lucasfilms in 2012 for approximately four billion dollars. As George Lucas signed away the Star Wars empire to Disney, the company announced it would be releasing a new trilogy of the movies which would act as the sequel trilogy in the main Skywalker saga.

Kathleen Kennedy, the co-chairman of Lucasfilms, would serve as the president of the company under Disney and as the executive producer of the new feature films. George Lucas shared the story treatments for the sequel trilogy that he had originally planned but they were discarded and never used.

It was also announced that the Star Wars Expanded Universe, i.e. the Star Wars universe created by media other than the movies, would be considered non-canon.

It meant that the universe that was created by Star Wars novels, videogames, comics, and other media would not be considered as the canon Star Wars universe, with the exception of one animated series. Instead, the main movies were free to pick and choose elements from the expanded universe and reuse them. It pissed off a lot of fans who loved the expanded universe.

“The Force Awakens”, the first movie in the new trilogy, was released in December 2015. It would receive a lukewarm reaction from most fans but audiences were generally just excited to watch a Star Wars movie on the big screen again.

The film is one of the best-looking Star Wars movies ever made but suffered from weak writing and an absolute lack of awareness for the universe it was in. This was even made worse by the fact that they used a number of characters from the original trilogy, who were handled poorly.

The next two movies would also suffer many problems and the box office sales would dip with each subsequent release. A lot of nerdy YouTubers would take it up to themselves to show every glaring error in the movies and how the new trilogy basically ruined the universe and created a lot of inconsistencies.

As I mentioned, there’s nothing new to be said when it comes to the topic of why the new movies suck. After the release of “Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” in December 2019, a lot of hardcore fans just felt disappointed with how Disney handled the movies. There were also a lot of problems during the production which involved many directors working on the three movies, which only made it feel less coherent in terms of story, and tone.

Rogue One” and “Solo” – what’s the difference?

Along with the new trilogy, Disney also released two anthology movies – “Rogue One” and “Solo”. The anthology movies were meant to be single movies about characters other than the main ones in the Star Wars universe.

“Rogue One” follows a group of rebels as they try to get the plans for the Death Star to Princess Leia, while “Solo” is an origin movie for Han Solo.

One of them was well-received and loved by fans while the other wasn’t. Can you guess which one of the two was well-received – the movie that finally showed the Star Wars universe in a new light with new characters in a familiar universe, or a movie that tried to shoehorn an origin story for a character who really did not need it? Exactly.

It seemed like Lucasflims under Disney was just not able to respect the original characters and every time they tried to change something huge in the universe, the fans pulled back. Instead of referencing previous events or playing homages, the new films completely change the past and fuck with the logic of the entire saga.

A lot of the fan service in the movies under Disney was criticized because it didn’t make sense given the context of the story and the universe. However, a new Star Wars TV series released in November 2019 would turn it all around and give Star Wars fans… a new hope.

This is the way

The Mandalorian

“The Mandalorian” is a Disney+ Star Wars television series that follows Din Djarin, a Mandalorian, in the Star Wars universe right after the original trilogy. Jon Favreau, of Marvel’s MCU fame, is the showrunner and writer for the series.

As I mentioned earlier, the series was everything that the movies were not. It focused on a particular aspect of the Star Wars universe that was beloved by fans and had not been explored in live-action ever before. The production value for every episode was like a feature film and most importantly, the series did justice to the Star Wars lore by putting forward an awesome but believable story.

The few main characters that we do see in the series appear at the right times and do the right thing. The universe felt alive and lived-in, it felt as if you were returning to the original trilogy. While the new movies had beautiful visuals, great acting and some actually interesting characters, it did not feel like Star Wars. And whenever you were reminded of the past in the movies, it was either cheap fan service or just something atrocious that breaks the past instead of adding on to it.

Without giving too much away, “The Mandalorian” tapped into the heart of Star Wars in a way that the movies couldn’t even dare. There are no cheap gimmicks, no logical inconsistencies, no terrible writing. Instead of fucking up characters that fans had grown to love over the decades, The Mandalorian brought them to life.

Both the seasons of The Mandalorian were well-received by critics and loved by fans. Capitalizing on the success of the show, Disney plans to release 3 spin-offs and a number of additional Star War TV series on Disney+.

Looking into the future and the double sunset

The last few years must have been pretty weird for a Star Wars fan – two new trilogies were released. The first one was disappointing but redeemed its value when the new one dropped. It felt like Disney’s intention was to provide new fans Star Wars on steroids with stunning visuals at the expense of a good story and universe-building.

George Lucas is perhaps one of the best at world-building and it can be argued that Star Wars was more about its universe than the main characters. It felt like the new Star Wars was going to go a different direction and then suddenly, someone who actually loved the Star Wars universe got a chance to make a difference.

When we look back ten years from now, the importance of “The Mandalorian” would be even more pronounced for the history of the Star Wars.

Yet as we look at the present moment, it is a pivotal era.

Would Disney be able to deliver on so many new Star Wars shows and maintain the quality? How would the feature films fare out? Is this the beginning of another golden era for Star Wars and another chance at building a new Star Wars expanded universe in a galaxy far, far away?

It’s hard to tell so let’s just end this with a video of Mark Hamill shitting on the new Disney trilogy.

The 22nd Street

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