In recent years, Star Wars has made the transition from movie theatres to TV screens, and it’s a much better look on the franchise.
Now firmly in the era of Disney Plus, Star Wars is doubling down on new TV series, both animated and live action. And sweetening that pot is the fact that no one at Disney seems to be talking about Star Wars movies these days as much as they used to.
Star Wars made a name for itself in 1977 when it hit movie theaters with A New Hope. That was quickly followed up with two popular sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. After that, new content largely came out in the form of comics, novels and video games.
Then in 1999, Star Wars returned to movie theaters with the first of three prequel movies, The Phantom Menace. All of the prequels did well at the box office but were largely panned by critics and fans. Time has not been kind to the dominant CGI of these films.
Sequels to the original trilogy would start being released in 2015. While The Force Awakens was largely enjoyed by fans, the next two were divisive at best. Differing approaches by the directors involved created an incredibly inconsistent tone and a rough story that didn’t play out the way anyone planned or wanted. Plus, Luke, Leia and Han never appeared on screen together. Boo.
Other films outside of the main arc like Rogue One were far better received, likely because it removed itself from the Skywalker Saga. Solo didn’t get the same kind of love, which was unfortunate as it was a much better movie than people gave it credit for.
Since Return of the Jedi, Star Wars’ record of releasing truly good movies to theatres has been spotty at best. Television series, on the other hand, have proven to be a far more reliable medium for a story set long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars on TV
Star Wars: The Clone Wars first debuted as an animated feature film. To be clear, it debuted as a terrible feature film that is almost irredeemably bad. But the seven seasons of TV that came after it were incredible. Set between the second and third prequels, The Clone Wars animated series filled in the blanks that those movies had created in the story.
The key thing about The Clone Wars was the quality of the story far exceeded anything that appeared in the prequel trilogy. Being able to actually spend time with the characters and narrative allowed the series to build something bigger than fans had seen before from Star Wars.
This success was replicated again with Star Wars: Rebels, another animated series. It was set in the early days of the Rebellion, just prior to the events of A New Hope. It featured a cast of mostly new characters mixing with classic characters, expanding the story further. Rebels also included the return of both Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex from The Clone Wars.
But it hasn’t all been gold. Star Wars: Resistance was an animated series set in the era of the sequel movies and the First Order. Critics seemed to like it but fans never caught on. It ended after two seasons, likely because the story didn’t fill in any blanks those fans were interested in.
Keeping that in mind, the overall success of the Star Wars’ animated TV series outweigh the one relative failure. And the movies haven’t been as safe a bet as Disney might have thought when they took over LucasFilm. As such, it only made sense to move into live action series.
The Mandalorian launched on Disney Plus in 2019 to rave reviews from fans and critics. Set in the post-Empire era just after Return of the Jedi, it follows a Mandalorian bounty hunter named Din Djarin as he tries to protect The Child from remnants of that same Empire. Season 2 will continue the story, giving characters like Ahsoka her live action debut.
An interconnected narrative that exists in the same world as the movies but is separate from it has been slowly building for a while. This is in large part due to the work of people like Dave Filoni, who was and is a key player behind shows like The Clone Wars, Rebels and The Mandalorian.
It works because Star Wars is better in a series format. Simply put, time is needed to properly lay out a narrative that fans get invested in, as well as building characters that resonate. Din Djarin is one of the most interesting and complex characters that Star Wars has ever produced. That wouldn’t have panned out if they had tried to do that in a movie or two.
This is evidenced by The Clone Wars. The prequel films introduced an incredible range of characters, particularly Clones and Jedi. When Order 66 hit, the moment lacked emotional weight because fans weren’t attached to any of the Jedi who died. Many of them didn’t have names. It was also difficult to be impacted by the betrayal of the Clone since only one of them was known.
The Clone Wars animated series rectified that by giving the essentially anonymous Clones and Jedi involved names and personalities. Feeling a connection to them made the impact of the events of Revenge of the Sith that much more poignant and relevant.
While it’s based on the movies, the world built by the animated and live action series is more engaging than the world that exists in the movies. And the crazy part is that it’s set to get a lot bigger, assuming all the rumored shows get made.
Future of Star Wars
A live-action series focusing on Obi-Wan Kenobi is on the way with Ewan McGregor reprising the role. Additionally, a spinoff of The Mandalorian featuring Cara Dune and potentially Bo-Katan Kryze is in the works. There have also been rumors of an Ahsoka Tano series. And there’s a Rogue One prequel series about Cassian Andor coming which had better include K-2SO.
On the animation side, the recent Season 7 of The Clone Wars served double duty as a backdoor pilot for another animated series called The Bad Batch. It will focus on a group of Clones with different abilities who served during the war.
It’s not that Disney isn’t planning more Star Wars movies, which would be great if they’re as good as Rogue One. But it certainly feels like movies are taking a backseat to the streaming series. No one would be shocked if the films moved to Disney Plus and became more in sync with the series.
The last decade has proven that Star Wars is just too big for a movie to handle, unless the story is focused, well0crafted and well-executed. There is always potential for Star Wars on movie screens, but fans might be more interested in seeing more on the streaming series front at this point. And it’s honestly hard to blame them.
Would you like to see the Star Wars franchise continue on TV instead of film? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!