Well the reviews are in, and Episode VII is a bona fide hit among critics and fans. With a healthy blend of new characters and traditional Star Wars flair, The Force Awakens proved the franchise could continue and even thrive without George Lucas. That said, while many fans are celebrating the glorious return of a proper Star Wars trilogy, many fans seem awfully quiet about one aspect of the Disney acquisition that hasn’t generated as much buzz as the new movie. I’m speaking of course, about the Star Wars Anthology spin-off films, which in my humble opinion, are the thing that’s going to make or break the future of Star Wars.
To be fair, the current smattering of canon EU content has been excellent so far, with the animated Rebels, fantastic comics, and lore-rich novels leading the way. And while this all seems well and good so far, whenever I hear rumors of a Han Solo prequel movie or a Boba Fett spinoff, I have to wonder whether or not Star Wars will really benefit from an on-screen Expanded Universe in the long run. Sure, we might get something cool like a film adaptation of KotOR or Republic Commando (Disney PLEASE!), but we might also get something akin to Caravan of Courage or Droids, only on the big screen. Star Wars is a big hit with the kiddos after all, and is it truly that hard to believe Disney won’t milk the franchise for all it’s worth? If you think the endless, nostalgia-bait Star Wars ads this Christmas season have been grating, just imagine how bad things’ll be next year, and the year after that.
While this sounds ridiculous given Episode VII’s 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, who’s to say that in a decade things’ll be handled as well as they are today? What about in twenty or even thirty years? Of all the nightmarish dystopian futures I could come up with, the absolute suckiest is the one where a Star Wars film is nothing special, but merely another ham-fisted annual franchise like Call of Duty or the crappy Scary Movie spinoffs. We’re already starting too see some semblance of this with Marvel, but the MCU benefits from not being tied to any particular storyline or setting, and can produce a sci-fi action comedy just as easily as a superhero flick.
But Star Wars? While it may take place in a galaxy far, far away, the fact remains that Star Wars is intrinsically linked to the Skywalker legacy, meaning that any potential bad movies will directly impact the canon of the new trilogy. While Marvel won’t suffer from another shoddy Hulk film, the effects of a bad Anthology film would be disastrous. Think Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is a really cool character? Well thanks to Anthologies, he’ll always be one bad spin-off film away from being Anakin-ized by an unnecessary prequel film that nobody asked for. Think Disney won’t make a film where a teenage Han fights Boba Fett with the help of gungans, or one where R2-D2 fights a lava snake? Young padawan, you truly underestimate the power of the Dark Side.
That said, there’s plenty of room for Disney to really take this franchise to the next level with these spin-off films. In theory, a movie like Rouge One could really help broaden the horizons of Star Wars’ plot beyond the Skywalker saga, and even the dreaded “Teenage Han” scenario might not be as horrible as one might think. And though some die-hard fans may disagree, I personally feel that if done right, content from the prequels can be used to make some really neat spin-off movies, even if the source material is somewhat lackluster.
So while I still have reservations about the direction Disney may go with Anthologies, I still feel really good about the saga’s new direction overall. The fact that VII plays with genre conventions and focuses on a new trio of characters proves the Disney’s willing to take risks where it matters, a fact that reassures me as both a critic and a die-hard fanboy since childhood. Whether or not this ends up being beneficial to the series in the long run remains to be seen, but I for one feel the force is strong with Disney, at least for the time being.