Star Wars Needs New Characters, Not Infinitely Recycled Characters


The Star Wars franchise is constantly producing a stream of profitable new products and materials, including video games, novels, comic booksand animated shows. But the film and television side of Star Wars seems to be in trouble. Over the past five years, Disney has repeatedly announced plans for New Moviesso canceled them unceremoniouslyor just keep them silently demoted. Disney Plus’ Recent Star Wars Livestreams Continue promising new directions for the franchise, then pull back and mix up messages. There’s no clear vision or cohesive narrative direction for the screen versions of the franchise, even though it’s the most visible and common part of Star Wars. Everyone seems to want something different from this grand, sprawling story.

Polygon is therefore gathering together some thoughts on the future of the franchise under the loose banner of What We Want From Star Wars. These opinion essays explain what we love about the Star Wars universe and where we hope it will go in the future…or a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

It’s become a cliché at this point to note how much time the Star Wars franchise has spent repeating itself – or, to put it more bluntly, hiding behind the past. The original Star Wars trilogy has such a hold on the collective Star Wars imagination that it’s been incredibly difficult for the franchise to top it. Since 1983 Return of the Jedi — in other words, for almost 40 years now — the vast majority of Star Wars material has focused on history rather than the future, filling in the galactic backstory that led to this quirky story arc. Even the stories that pass Return of the JediThe ‘s ending often obsessively mimicked the original Star Wars series, or looped back to it narratively, prioritizing familiar old characters over new ones.

But the new characters are obviously the cornerstone of the Star Wars series. Lucasfilm’s fixation on the prequels like A thug and Solo: A Star Wars StoryOr on building entire series around characters like Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi has become not only frustrating, but downright baffling. Given the expansive Star Wars setting, it’s clear that it could continue to endlessly tap into the past, resurrecting old characters even after the original cast died or retired. Animation, special effects, and prequels that put younger actors in older roles all allow for endless retraining of characters. But it’s high time for the show to step up and focus on its new characters, and seize all the opportunities that approach would present.

Deepfake young Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian
Picture: Lucasfilm/Disney Plus

After 2019 The Rise of Skywalker, fans should probably give up hope that Star Wars would significantly advance its story in time. The next trilogy The Rise of Skywalker shrouded makes a production passing the torch from Luke, Leia and Han from the original trilogy to Rey, Finn and Poe from the next generation. But “moving the story forward” in this case mostly meant pushing it backwards, with a depressingly familiar new version of the Empire to fight, a new, slightly revamped version of Luke Skywalker to fight him, and the same old resurrected Emperor to fight. serve as the villain behind it all.

It’s clear that the Lucasfilm brain trust struggled to come up with a new kind of epic blockbuster-sized adventure story in outer space after the Empire was defeated in Return of the Jedi. It seems surprising – one of the absolute best things about Star Wars has always been the incredible breadth and depth of its setting, and it seems like there would be a billion great life-or-death dramas in all of them. the corners of this galaxy, the ones that have nothing to do with the Empire or the Sith. But even if Lucasfilm doesn’t know how to tell new stories in the franchise’s future, it’s had a lot of success introducing new characters to at least give Star Wars stories a different shape and face.

And again and again, when the series veered away from trying to create new Darth Vaders and new Luke Skywalkers, it created whole new waves of fan enthusiasm. The most obvious recent example is The Mandalorianby Din Djarin and Grogu. This dynamic duo clearly owes some of their creative DNA to Boba Fett and Yoda, but they have little in common with them and don’t read primarily as attempts to capitalize on the old characters’ popularity. Din Djarin’s struggle to uphold a code he considers noble and just, even though most of his own people find it baffling backwards, seems unique among Star Wars screen stories. And Grogu’s endearing weirdness and opacity is something the franchise has long lacked, in its endless run of inhuman creatures that, for the most part, read exactly like familiar types.

These two characters are intriguing because they’re so unusual in the Star Wars setting. They both feel like there’s still a lot to discover about them, even outside of the question of where their story will take them next. And they’ve both garnered much of the widespread cultural engagement that any franchise seeks. (“Baby Yoda” was a real phenomenon.)

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in The Mandalorian wielding two white lightsabers

Ahsoka Tano in The Mandalorian
Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.

The same can be said of some of the fan-favorite characters that have emerged from the clone wars series, including Ahsoka Tano and Asajj Ventress – characters designed from the ground up to have their own unique and engaging motives and stories. There’s a clear nostalgic value to characters like Rey, Kylo Ren, and Poe Dameron, who are meant as narrative stand-ins for characters from the original trilogy more than they’re meant to drive new stories. But Ahsoka and other fan-favorite animated characters have helped animated Star Wars shows open up the kinds of stories Star Wars can tell and the kinds of viewpoints they represent.

Arguably, the characters that have most excited and inspired the fandom over the past few decades have been the ones that broke the most from the familiar story pattern of the original trilogy. Grand Admiral Thrawn, first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel heir to the empire, made the jump to animation, video games, and comics specifically because Star Wars fans were so captivated by his uniqueness as a character. (He can come to The Mandalorian soon too.) New droid characters like A thugthe reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), The Mandalorianthe assassin-turned-nanny IG-11 (Taika Waititi) and Solo: A Star Wars StoryThe extremely angry droid freedom fighter L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) has all gained followers for the way they not only brought humor to their stories, but broadened the understanding of Star Wars. of what the droids might want and do.

Even BB-8, the cute and underutilized R2-D2 re-skin that it is, has been fervently followed throughout the sequel trilogy. Even though people liked BB-8 and wanted to buy toy versions, it lacked the voice or story to be more than a fun visual effect or running gag. Yet even though he never had the space to be his own character, the way fans latched onto him highlights that while so many people enjoy seeing their own nostalgia reflected in Star Wars , they also crave novelty, for anything they haven’t seen a hundred times before in movies and shows.

The Mandalorian crouches in the snow next to Grogu in The Mandalorian Season 1

Djin and Grogu in The Mandalorian
Picture: Lucasfilm/Disney Plus

But for a character to truly become more than just a novelty in Star Wars — or any long-running franchise, for that matter — someone has to put in the time to tell their story and represent their point of view. Someone has to care to see them as story drivers and story generators, rather than just props casually used and casually tossed around for yet more stories about the original trilogy characters.

That shouldn’t be as much of a hindrance as it is. The benefits seem obvious: more fan engagement and interest, a story universe that can feel forward even though it focuses on the past, and stories where fans don’t already know. the end before a show’s first episode airs. . If Disney wants to be ruthlessly practical about it, there’s also more merchandising options in new characters, more spinoff potential, and maybe even hooks that would once again turn new Star Wars movies into events. Star Wars fans may love the franchise’s past enough to get excited every time it highlights an old favorite. But they also love having new things to discover, whether it’s a Thrawn movie, a big reveal about Baby Yoda’s past, or a whole new character that makes them love Star Wars even more. in a way they never expected before.


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