It may be fair to say that Star Wars has had a rough couple of years. Things started off well in The Force Awakens (2015), the first part of a new trilogy designed to conclude a story begun in 1977 that reintroduced the original cast along with a new set of colourful characters.
Inspired spinoff Rogue One followed as a clever prequel to A New Hope, however, things only got worse from there. The Last Jedi divided fans in 2017 with its unnecessary length and questionable character choices while The Rise of Skywalker, the 2019 conclusion to the trilogy, was maligned by fans and critics alike for its formulaic approach and lack of character development.
The biggest science-fiction franchise in the world was in the worst place since the disastrous prequel trilogy more than a decade earlier and this begged a simple question: Should we remain excited for Star Wars in 2020? Enter The Mandalorian.
Director Jon Favreau’s exciting new series arrived in Ireland in early 2020 and served as the poster child for the shiny new Disney Plus streaming service. Supported by a gargantuan budget of 100 million dollars, the first major live-action Star Wars series arrived in massive fanfare and it did not disappoint.
The small screen allowed The Mandalorian to become a very different kind of story than what fans were used to. Where the films wore war movie influences on their sleeves, The Mandalorian was clearly inspired by classic westerns.
The laconic titular character even serves as a recreation of the classic Clint Eastwood roles of the 60s and 70s, with Pedro Pascal portraying a dangerous and reserved gunslinger with a definite moral compass.
Instead of a classic story of good against evil, rebels against an evil empire, this series has a more nuanced approach to its themes of honour and family. The Mandalorian combined careful and considered character development with satisfying action made possible by truly ground-breaking special effects to create one of the biggest TV events of the year.
Now, only seven months later, the second season of the show has arrived with a similar sense of hype. As we watch the universe of The Mandalorian slowly expand, it is interesting to think of the disappointment many fans felt in the cinema only months earlier.
Perhaps Star Wars is still in trouble. No new movies are in sight for a franchise that has had people queuing down the street for a cinema seat since 1977.
Is it right, at least for now, for Star Wars to belong solely on TV and in comic books, video games and novels? Despite the lack of concrete cinematic plans, Disney Plus shows based on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Rogue One’s Cassian Andor are already confirmed to be in the works and, as ever, a steady stream of expanded universe content is readily available.
But the question remains. In 2020, after such a rocky path, should we remain excited at the prospect of future Star Wars content, knowing full well that we risk familiar feelings of disappointment? Well, as Star Wars constantly reminds us, there is always hope.