The problem is Disney’s unwillingness to invest in Star Wars storytelling what involves unfamiliar characters. When LucasFilm first announced the standalone “Star Wars Story” franchise, I was a bit skeptical. After all, what’s the point of cluttering up canon with unnecessary films about unnecessary backstories? I was pleasantly surprised by “Rogue One,” as it genuinely felt like a different type of Star Wars film, while skillfully expanding upon well-known characters. (That Darth Vader scene alone makes the film worthwhile. If you’ve seen the movie, you know know what scene I’m referring to — it’s the one Star Wars fans have waited 30 years to see!)
But truthfully, “Rogue One” was a guilty pleasure; it and the other recent films constitute a troubling pattern.
I did not like “Episode VII: The Force Awakens”; it’s a complete rehash of Episode IV. And though I’ve now watched “Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” five times — I’ve concluded that it spends too much of its time cleaning up the messes of Episode VII. (As it turned out, Snoke’s purpose and Rey’s parents are completely unimportant — tough titty if viewers got emotionally involved in either.)
The one constant with all of these missteps is a reliance on familiar characters and familiar backstories; it’s almost as if Disney is afraid to tell and sell a new story. Even though Han Solo is among the most developed characters in the Star Wars universe, he still got his own movie. And two “Solo” directors were fired because, apparently, they were unwilling to tell the story that Disney wanted.
I’d appreciate a backstory film centered on a mysterious villain, or perhaps on an unknown character completely unconnected to the Skywalker family. But such a film would require creative storytelling, and Disney doesn’t appear willing to risk its formula or its cash-cow just to be innovative. And this is where the fans come into play. Most fans loved “The Force Awakens,” making it one of the top-grossing Star Wars films ever. Stunningly, most fans didn’t care that it was a re-run of “A New Hope” — they liked it all the same. And as long as fans aren’t willing to take a pass on material they’ve already seen, it’s doubtful that Disney will offer up anything new.
So as “Solo” drops May 25, once again, the Millennium Falcon and Chewie will be back front and center in a major Star Wars film. We’ll learn how Solo got his name; and we’ll learn about previously-teased Kessel races — but we probably won’t learn much that’s truly new about the Star Wars universe. And that’s a galactic missed opportunity.