Fandom-esqe | Star Wars refuses to let the past die

By Diana Velasquez, Senior Staff Writer

In 2022, Kathleen Kennedy, president of LucasFilm, gave an interview with Vanity Fair and seemingly took the “Star Wars” Skywalker saga out back and put it out of its misery.

When asked how important it was for “Star Wars” to move on from George Lucas’ original Jedi family, she said, “I think it is vital. Just staying within the construct of Lucas’ storytelling, to keep chipping away at that, I think would be wrong. It’s our job to step away now, but still have a connection to the mythology that Lucas created. That won’t stop. But we are moving on from the Skywalker saga.”

And yet, this past weekend at the official “Star Wars” celebration in London, LucasFilm announced a new film trilogy in the works, centered on Rey “Skywalker” building a new Jedi Order after the events of the last film.

Now, Rey isn’t actually a blood-related Skywalker. In “The Rise of Skywalker,” a movie that LucasFilm regarded overall as a critical and financial let-down, Rey adopts the name for herself after everyone else in the family meets their end — including Ben Solo, aka Kylo Ren, who sacrifices his life to save Rey.

But it seems that the Skywalker legacy will continue on while I, and many other fans, continue to cling to Kylo Ren’s wise words — “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.”

What’s interesting about the franchise’s return to the Skywalkers is that they’ve made movies and shows separate from the family that have proved rather successful. The recent “Andor,” a Disney+ show focused on the rebel spy Cassian Andor from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” proved to be one of the franchise’s most critically successful ventures ever. With a 96% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, many consider Andor the most artful piece of “Star Wars” storytelling in years.

“The Mandalorian,” too, which has proved both a critical and financial hit, is another good example. Din Djarin, played by the increasingly popular Pedro Pascal, was not raised with any Jedi, is not Force-sensitive and could not pick out a Skywalker in a line-up if you asked him.

At least, he couldn’t in the first season. In the eighth episode of the second season, one CGI-constructed Luke Skywalker appears to whisk Grogu off to his Jedi training. Truly, there is no reason that Luke has to show up, the cameo is about as subtle to a brick to the face — and it’s not even a real cameo!

“Star Wars” has this problem when they go on the record swearing up and down that they’re going to move on from the Skywalker family — but continue to throw them into all of the new media. Yet they have shows that seem to do pretty well without them!

Sure, the Skywalkers make them money — that’s the crux of this whole situation. If you splashed Lucas’ name across a movie poster next to a young blonde-haired Jedi, chances are the money will come rolling in. Yet, “The Mandalorian” did superbly well in its first season — which overall remained rather removed from the “Skywalker” trilogy.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the first season of “The Mandalorian” amassed 5.42 billion viewing minutes during its seven-week run — a considerable amount of view time, considering that the early days of Disney+ boasted a modest 26.5 million subscribers. As of 2023, Disney+ has 161.8 million.

In general, “Star Wars” could do with more diversification in the universe, both in telling new and original stories and casting diverse actors for their cast. The original and the prequel series do little for BIPOC or queer representation, which is no surprise. The sequel series tried, and fell rather flat on its face.

Many fans take issue with Ridley’s return as the all-hailed Skywalker, because they feel that other characters deserve the spotlight more — like John Boyega’s long-neglected Finn.

Poor Finn. In an interview with Sirius XM’s “Tell Me Everything,” Boyega said that he would not be returning to the “Star Wars” franchise after receiving intense racist backlash from bigoted fans — and more likely than not, having his character sidelined in the second and third films of the sequel trilogy in favor of focusing on Rey and Kylo Ren.

Boyega’s supporters have expressed some interest in seeing him return, now that they know Rey will be making a comeback — but understandably have reiterated that Boyega should not return unless the franchise pays him the attention he deserves.

What’s interesting about the way “Star Wars” treats its BIPOC actors is that it seems like they have a team of artists and writers working hard behind the scenes to actually put the characters they play front and center.

In the original marketing for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” you can see Finn everywhere. In 2015, a promo banner of Finn holding a blue lightsaber was all over the internet — at one point they even had it on one of the big billboards in Times Square.

And yet, Finn’s character after “The Force Awakens” rarely gets tossed a bone in terms of critical plot points. Rey very well could have ended her story off on a melancholy but complete note. Finn or one of the other sidelined BIPOC characters like Rose — played by Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran — have heaps of potential in them. If we’re going to have to reach back into a box of pre-set characters, why not work with characters whose stories were more unexplored?

Well, LucasFilm announced other films at the “Star Wars” celebration that as of now, seem separate from the traditional Skywalker mythos. James Mangold’s film on the Old Republic seems particularly promising — but I’ll be walking into the theater with my fingers crossed against the “Skywalker” name, since Kennedy and Lucasfilm seem eager to go back on their promises.