I watched Solo last night. I like these anthology films, these stand-alone, supplemental add-ons to the Star Wars universe. Solo is the second installment, Rogue One (2016) being the first. In many ways, I like them better than the continuing epic trilogies, now numbering eight in total. The filmakers for these big blockbuster trilogy films are putting a lot of effort into trying to finish playing out the George Lucas formula so as to pull themselves loose from the Lucas strings, but while they are busy trying to sort that out, there are the satisfying supplements.
Don’t get me wrong, Solo and Rogue One still stick to the space opera template — actually “space western” might be a bit more accurate genre description — but these films seem to have more freedom for character development and some of the other details that make for a more compelling story. The anthology films, by contrast, feel a bit more intimate; they are less epic, but more intimate.
I’m guessing that this is probably due to the fact that the anthology films don’t have to carry the weight of the Star Wars world on it’s shoulders, taking on big expectations for another BIG STAR WARS hit movie, taking into account the whole sweeping Star Wars narrative with the plot and motifs that Lucas started. The epic trilogy films, at this point, seems a bit overly concerned with making sure they establish their Star Wars street cred, making sure that everyone knows that they are true to the original vision. (I’m sure there is also plenty of pressure from the Disney execs on this count.)
The film makers have to kiss the ring, so-to-speak, while also expanding on the original and doing something interesting that pushes the narrative forward. The results are mixed, I think, but in fairness, it’s no small task to tackle a developed, multi-generational cultural phenomenon like Star Wars.
Of course not everyone likes the anthology installments. After the release of Solo, an online group of devoted freedom fighters issued a manifesto of rebellion against Disney:
I probably just don’t have very high expectations from the Star Wars franchise. As a story becomes a commodified product (whose primary mission is to make money) I generaly expect that it becomes less artistic and creative, and I lower my expectations accordingly. There are notable exceptions, of course, but for the most part I take the Star Wars films for what they are: money makers for capitalist shareholders. Even so, I enjoy following the saga of a universe from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…..Sigh. Childhood nostalgia and whatnot.