The New Hopes of Star Wars

Gareth Edwards, Dave Filoni, Jon Favreau, and Tony Gilroy have reinvented the Star Wars franchise. They did so by letting go of lightsabers and the influence of the Jedi.

Few Sci-Fi characters have bubbled their way up to the pop culture surface as The Child (Grogu) did in The Mandalorian. One could make an argument that Grogu has been the most notable Sci-Fi character since Yoda. But how did we go from two mostly forgettable trilogies (Episodes I-III and VII-IX) to this force-wielding 50-year old baby?

That path was set in motion nearly 15-years ago when the Dave Filoni breathed new life into The Clone Wars TV series.

Filoni took one-dimensional characters and added layers of depth and complexity to them. He painted in grey areas between the absolutes of light and dark. His version of Anakin Skywalker was not petulant but a caring, gentle, and fearless leader who was the great leader Obi-Wan Kenobi claimed him to be in the original Star Wars film.

This series gave Filoni a long leash and he certainly did not hang himself with it. He expanded the Star Wars galaxy and toned down the focus on laser swords with the series Rebels. Here, we see characters question if what they are doing is right or even worth it. We also see small factions begin to come together into a force powerful enough to form the rebellion. The is the backstory the franchise needed.

It was a new take on Star Wars with solid storylines, where Empirical forces defect to the light side, and some of the franchise’s most intriguing characters, like Ahsoka Tano — who was a major part of The Clone Wars series — are developed.

Since these two shows were animated, too many people wrote them off as shows for kids and that is unfortunate. The storylines and characters that begin to develop in The Clone Wars and through the newest shows are more complex and more compelling than almost any in the movies.

Halfway through the Rebels series, Gareth Edwards released the most underrated Star Wars film, Rogue One. As this movie made its way onto the silver screen, it had significantly more notoriety than anything Filoni had done to this point.

Rogue One ditches the Jedi in order to create a sincere and heartfelt story of those who gave their lives for their greater cause. It also provides an amazing story arc that bridges the gap between the first three films and A New Hope. This is the movie that made me a Star Wars fan, likely because it had very little to do with the prototypical Star Wars characters or galaxy. The tale humanized these intergalactic heroes who were previously little more than secondary characters to anyone from the Skywalker bloodline.

While Princess Leia was clearly a true leader and warrior in the original trilogy, Rogue One was the first to give us a true heroine, Jyn Erso, which became an increasingly dominant theme throughout the rest of the shows and movies.

Rogue One gave the foot in the door it needed for the Star Wars franchise to take over the small screen.

The upcoming series, Ahsoka, allows one of the most compelling small-screen characters her time to shine. The series is being developed by Filoni and Jon Favreau, which is fitting, as Filoni developed the character of Ahsoka Tano.

Tano, who was once Anakin Skywalker’s padawan, leaves the Jedi life behind but quickly matures into someone who is both a wise leader and a badass fighter. 

Filoni toiled away for years to make his indelible mark on the franchise but his partner in the Ahsoka series, Favreau, made an immediate impact with The Mandalorian. The main character, Din Djarin, is a Mandalorian, the ancient enemy of the Jedi, and one of The Children of The Watch which, like the Jedi, is a cult-ish religion.

Despite the past history between the between the two waring religious factions, Mando is immediately accepted as a fan favorite. He forms a strong, reciprocal bond with Grogu, the Jedi child who becomes his foundling, and that softens him up. Since Jedi are forbidden from having attachments, it is interesting to see Grogu form one with Mando and, from what we know at this point, leave the Jedi way behind to be Djarin’s partner and sidekick.

Like the other installments developed by Edwards and Filoni, there is no focus on anyone with the Skywalker name and no real use of lightsabers in The Mandalorian. This is the way, or is becoming the way, anyway.

Let’s just skip by The Book of Boba Fett as it is terrible and the best scenes are ones that do not feature Boba Fett at all.

The nice thing about the approach these directors and producers have taken is that, when we do see someone from the movies, it is exciting and fresh, instead of drab and — and as Han Solo referred to the Jedi religion — hokey.

The light and dark parallel versions of the hallway scenes of Darth Vader in Rogue One and Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian are thrilling for us and reinvigorating for the characters.

Obi-Wan Kenobi attempts to straddle this line to a certain extent but does not always succeed. However, the interactions between Kenobi and Vader are remarkable, even if they are borrowed lines and adaptations of scenes from Rebels. (See: the Vader vs Ahsoka and Vader vs.Kenobi duels.)

Disney continues to push out new Star Wars concepts at a seemingly unsustainable pace but Filoni, et al. appear to be up for the task for both the big and small projects.

The Bad Batch is a newer show that has a very unique concept.  It focuses on a “defective” clone unit with enhanced traits after the Clone War ends. We see how life is for the clones once they are decommissioned. They are treated poorly as veterans with little concern whether they live or die from the Empire.

The clones begin to question if they what they did was right or wrong. We see clones for what they truly are, human beings with real-world problems that do not have easy solutions. Many of them have PTSD from Order 66, when they were ordered to kill all the Jedi. Others stay with the Empire and fight, some because it is the only life they know.

While these directors built a new version of the galaxy, one show slipped under the radar. Andor, does not get the attention it deserves, which seems appropriate (or ironic), as it is the prequel to Rogue One. The show is produced by Tony Gilroy, who turns everything he touches into gold.

The three trilogies left a lot to be desired and these newer developments fill in those gaps and improving Star Wars canon as it does. Edwards, Filoni, Favreau, and Gilroy have brilliantly recreated the stale, aging galaxy and given it purpose once again.