The franchise feels stuck in the past. Let’s observe this May Fourth by considering the future. Face forward, True Believers.
Star Wars: The first way back in 2004 came the Battle Front. It was an almost instant classic that captured the attention of Xbox, Mac, and PlayStation fans with a frontline battle of the iconic Star Wars battlefields. Star Wars: Since then, the Battlefront has become a cult title, known as a classic early game. For 2004, the battles were of unprecedented importance in Star Wars: Battlefront. A special highlight, which is fondly remembered from game fans, is the pilot of a ship to win the legs of an AT-AT in Hoth. The gameplay is still fairly smooth, and although there’s no multiplayer (as was the case at Battlefront 2005), the A.I combat still offers fun.
The warning is right there on the label: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. That’s how Jedi say “once upon a time;” when Star Wars came out in 1977, those luminous blue words signified that audiences were about to see a bit of a throwback, hearkening to 1930s adventure serials, pulp fiction, Westerns, and samurai movies. It wasn’t just style. The plot of that first Star Wars movie was turbid with nostalgia—Ben Kenobi had fought in something reverentially called the Clone Wars. The lightsaber was an elegant weapon from a more civilized age. The entire tech was broken, beat up. Things in the galaxy used to be better.
Nostalgia has animated the spirit of Star Wars movies (and books and cartoons and Lego sets and videogames and for four decades. Now it might end the whole trip. Star Wars remembers its past so well that it may have forgotten to build a future. Because of a linguistic quirk—barely a pun (and my standards are low)—May 4 is an unofficial Star Wars Day. May the Fourth Be With You! I’ve argued that the ironic (or at least self-conscious) silliness behind that shtick belies something more serious. A belief system is emerging here, if you dig around for it. Nearly five years ago, when Star Wars:
I can do it for Marvel. Even after the finality of Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe looks ready to move on to something new. Comics have long been good at that, anyway—the trick of an illusion of change, of neverending second acts. Star Wars, though? The Last Jedi tried to put away the black masks, the spectral space wizards, and the hot Jedi-on-Sith action. Fans, some of them, pushed back. They wanted to feel the way they felt in 1977. Episode IX looks like it wants to be a counter-revolution.
It’s a toss-up as to which ongoing story universe galvanizes the most toxic strain of revanchism. Most fandoms are mostly great, to be clear. But the DC movies have a Manichean Übermenschen audience segment that insists anyone with power would obviously run right out and kill people. Marvel’s adherents include relentless foes of diversity. And Star Wars has its Grand High Inquisitors, rooting out any hint of what they perceive as invidious Mary Sue-ism wherever it pokes a poorly fabricated eyeball above the waterline.