News Forbes: Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ Has Been Swallowed Whole By Nostalgia


Well-known member
Dec 8, 2020
Arriving one year after The Rise of Skywalker, and coming two weeks after Disney announced a slew of Disney+ spin-off shows (many of which are centered around fan-favorite characters), the events that ended the second season of The Mandalorian, and how they created chatter not about the characters introduced in The Mandalorian but about characters created by George Lucas (and friends) 40 years ago, sends a clear signal about “the future” of Star Wars.
In terms of the show’s plotting, that moment meant nothing to the main characters but everything to the folks watching the show. Like the big “John Harrison is actually Khan” reveal in Star Trek Into Darkness, or the “Christoph Waltz is indeed playing Blofeld in Spectre” twist, the appearance of post-Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker light-sabering his way through enemy robots is entirely about how it affects the audience. Mando and friends have no emotional reaction to Skywalker revealing himself. It’s why T’Challa coming through the first portal in Avengers: Endgame instead of Sam always feels off, because it means more to the audience than to Steve Rogers. Most of the emotional/crowd-pleasing beats in Avengers: Endgame (or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II) mean as much to the characters as the fans. Not so with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
This isn’t the “Marvel-ization” of Star Wars. Kevin Feige and friends took the time and did the work to make sure that the “new to you” characters were entirely compelling sans whatever connections they might have to the larger world. Audiences embraced the MCU because they liked Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff (among many others) and relished the opportunity to see them in their own mostly stand-alone feature films. That their worlds eventually intermingled and occasionally collided in a major event was the icing on the cake, not the main course. The events of The Rise of Skywalker and now The Mandalorian argues that the new characters are only worthwhile in terms of their connections to original trilogy characters. Rey only matters because she’s Palpatine’s granddaughter. Mando is only cool in relation to Boba Fett.
This wouldn’t be more than an eye-rolling annoyance if this specific kind of franchise/IP hadn’t entirely taken over pop culture. Back in 1995, you could take or leave Batman Forever or Jumanji and still relish Apollo 13, Crimson Tide, Die Hard With a Vengeance or Heat. Back in April of 1990, stereotypically speaking, men saw The Hunt for Red October, women saw Pretty Woman and kids saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In 2014, everyone saw TMNT whether or not they had kids in tow. Generational nostalgia has so gripped the culture, especially in terms of what drives media coverage, that adults are now cheering that Luke Skywalker killed a bunch of robots and Hocus Pocus is getting a sequel. Modern pop culture is now dominated by kid-friendly properties aimed at nostalgic adults. Paramount’s PGRE -1.4%Transformers was first, but Disney has turned it into an entire business strategy.
Everything I feared about The Force Awakens, in terms of using nostalgia as the primary selling point (as opposed to a safe launching pad), has come true, just as everything I feared about The Amazing Spider-Man normalizing the “reboot for the sake of reboots” came to pass. Moreover, by trading the crowd-pleasing introspection of The Last Jedi (a film that, again, earned $620 million domestic and $1.333 billion worldwide and sold a butt-load of DVDs and Blu-rays) for the ham-fisted head-pats of The Rise of Skywalker, and continuing that tradition in both the finale of The Mandalorian and at least some of the announced spin-offs, it’s a troubling sign that Star Wars is now defined by generational nostalgia for those first three movies and little else. With Disney giving the most nostalgic fans what they want over and over and over again, well, this is the way.


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