Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Season 1 of Disney+’s The Mandalorian.
The end of 2019 was arguably the most exciting time for the Star Wars fandom since the lead-up to The Force Awakens back in 2015. Between the debut of The Mandalorian as the franchise’s first live-action TV show and the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, there were some very high expectations. In an unexpected twist, however, the fantastic first season of The Mandalorian combined with my disappointment in Rise of Skywalker ruined my expectations for Star Wars movies compared to TV.
Now, I’m hardly the only person disappointed in Rise of Skywalker. Hopes were almost impossibly high for the final installment in the Skywalker saga, and there was no way the movie would satisfy everybody. The combination of my love for The Mandalorian and my dissatisfaction with Rise of Skywalker just has me more excited about TV as the future of Star Wars than counting the days until the next movie releases.
So, now that Rise of Skywalker is out and the Mandalorian Season 1 finale released on Disney+, the time is right to dive into how The Mandalorian ruined my expectations for Star Wars movies.
The Mandalorian Was A Fresh Take On The Galaxy Far, Far Away
Whether you loved Baby Yoda or not, The Mandalorian and Disney deserve a whole lot of credit for keeping him a secret. Not only did did Disney pass up on what would have undoubtedly been a huge profit on merchandising in time for Christmas, but everybody involved managed to prevent pics of the little guy from leaking. After all, Baby Yoda was brought to life on The Mandalorian as a puppet rather than CGI.
Instead of Baby Yoda’s reveal coming ahead of the show’s premiere, viewers went into The Mandalorian in the dark about the future scene-stealer, and just tasked with enjoying the ride. We didn’t know what was coming, and that was wonderful.
That’s not the case with the movies, as evidenced by the build to Rise of Skywalker. Expectations were sky-high, especially with all the controversy around The Last Jedi. There were leaks and connections and theories, ranging from Reylo’s future, to how Emperor Palpatine was back, to how J.J. Abrams’ vision would depart from Rian Johnson’s.
Where The Mandalorian was a blank slate, Rise of Skywalker was a whiteboard scribbled over, crossed out, and smudged up before it even premiered. Was Rise of Skywalker doomed from the beginning? Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but I for one was almost dreading how Rise of Skywalker was going to wrap up the Skywalker saga, while I’m hyped for all things Star Wars TV thanks to The Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian Didn’t Require Research
The Mandalorian was arguably in a difficult position, as Mando’s journey was directly impacted by the end of Return of the Jedi, and Star Wars fans knew that some of the most beloved characters in the franchise were still alive, well, and perfectly capable of a cameo. Season 1 could have been eight episodes of Easter eggs loosely tied together by shootouts and meme-worthy shots of Baby Yoda. Instead, The Mandalorian was just about the closest thing to a fresh Star Wars story since A New Hope.
Did it enhance the Mandalorian viewing experience to know the original trilogy and animated shows? Sure. Did I feel like I needed to hit up a Star Wars encyclopedia to fact-check myself before forming an opinion? Not even a little bit, and that was fantastic. That’s also not the case with Rise of Skywalker.
Despite Finn repeatedly trying to confess something to Rey, director J.J. Abrams had to reveal what Finn was going to say at a Q&A. The ambiguous connection between Lando and Jarrah had to be explained separately. I’d assumed the medal Chewie received had been Han’s, but I later discovered there was debate about even that! I still don’t understand the point of Dominic Monaghan’s character getting so much attention, especially when Rose was right there.
Perhaps the most egregious plot point left out of the movie, however, was the “broadcast” by Emperor Palpatine mentioned in the opening crawl of Rise of Skywalker. No, you didn’t miss it in the movie. Instead, it came to light in Fortnite. If the Palpatine twist hadn’t been spoiled in the trailers, viewers would have been in for quite a surprise!
The Mandalorian Made Room For Everything
A lot of the problems with The Rise of Skywalker come from the fact that there simply wasn’t enough room in the movie to complete all the stories and close the trilogy. The movie was comprised of big scenes kinda sorta connected, rather than a cohesive story that hit all the necessary notes.
As a TV show, The Mandalorian didn’t have the same problem. Despite his unwillingness to show his face and open up for almost the entire season, Mando’s character and backstory developed without stalling the plot. Baby Yoda isn’t just a plot device. We got to know Cara Dune. Greef Karga was a character rather than just a deliverer of exposition.
Kuiil’s death packed a punch because he mattered as more than just the guy who helped and then died to advance the plot. I cared about Kuiil more than Rise of Skywalker’s Zorii, Babu Frik, and whoever Dominic Monaghan was playing combined. Seriously, was I supposed to care about Monaghan’s character? I’ve seen the movie twice, and I still haven’t caught his name.
Admittedly, The Mandalorian Season 1 ran for more than five hours and Rise of Skywalker ran for just over two, but Rise of Skywalker didn’t have to jam-pack in complicated new story elements at the expense of answering important questions. For me, if Rise of Skywalker wanted to tell the whole story it set up, then it should have been a limited series or split into two movies. Otherwise, the story should have been trimmed.
The Mandalorian Had More Believable Effects
While Star Wars has always been revolutionary when it comes to special effects, the franchise for me loses some of its impact nowadays when it relies too heavily on CGI. I can tell when I’m looking at full scenes of computer-generated effects, and that pulls me out of the story. I can suspend my disbelief for the more practical effects of The Mandalorian, as I do for the original trilogy.
Overuse of CGI can also result in overpowered characters, which I would argue was a problem in Rise of Skywalker with at least Palpatine. Lightsabers, blasters, and space battles are all well and good. The franchise is called “Star Wars,” after all. But telling epic stories with a tighter focus can be more impactful than hundreds of planet-destroying Star Destroyers inexplicably appearing. I cared more about Biggs getting shot down in A New Hope than pretty much any of the losses in the climactic space battle of Rise of Skywalker, and I couldn’t pick Biggs out of a lineup if he wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Additionally, from a personal standpoint: were all those flashing lights in Rise of Skywalker really necessary? It was a sensory overload that left me with more of a headache than sense of satisfaction. The Mandalorian of course uses effects as well, but on a level that leaves me thinking “Oh, this is Star Wars!” rather than “Oh, I guess it’s CGI time again.”
Is The Mandalorian perfect? Of course not, and I’m not expecting either the Obi-Wan series or the Rogue One prequel series to be perfect. And I didn’t hate Rise of Skywalker. You don’t have to love everything Star Wars to be a Star Wars fan, right? The Mandalorian was just so successful in my book compared to Rise of Skywalker that my expectations for the future of Star Wars TV are far higher than whatever the next movie brings.
Hopefully Star Wars will prove me wrong with its next movie by delivering something on par with Rogue One, that can develop characters, pack in plot, and make me care in the span of two hours and change. For now, I’ll just pin my hopes of Season 2 of The Mandalorian, the final chapter of The Clone Wars, and the next adventures of Obi-Wan and Cassian Andor.
The Mandalorian will return to Disney+ with Season 2 in fall 2020. The next Star Wars project to debut new content will be The Clone Wars in February 2020. Fortunately, Disney+ features all previous seasons of The Clone Wars, as well as the full run of Rebels, Star Wars movies galore, and much more. For some non-Star Wars options, check out our 2020 winter and spring premiere schedule.