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James Mangold’s Dawn of the Jedi movie can save Star Wars

This year’s Star Wars Celebration brought exciting new looks into upcoming projects ranging from TV to movies, as well as the announcement that James Mangold (LoganFord v Ferrari) will helm an origin story of sorts set during the Dawn of the Jedi. And while this film will be looking back to the past, being set a whopping 25,000 years before the Battle of Yavin depicted in Star Wars: Episode IV — New Hope, it is already poised to be one of the boldest theatrical premises for the franchise.

Star Wars has always been a universe characterized by great potential that’s gone surprisingly untapped, with virtually endless storytelling possibilities in the distant past and far future. To address the elephant in the room, Lucasfilm also has a shoddy track record of late in axing or shelving announced and reported projects more than actually developing others, but Mangold’s deft direction could break tired conventions and pave the way for the exciting Old Republic era on the big and small screens.

Breaking away from the Skywalker formula

Promo art for the Skywalker Saga featuring a collage of characters.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Part of Lucasfilm’s stubbornness in keeping Star Wars from being as narratively ambitious as it should be is due to its adherence to everything Skywalker. It’s no secret that the fmily is an iconic and fan-favorite part of this franchise’s beloved legacy, ever since Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker and James Earl Jones’ Darth Vader first graced the big screen in A New Hope in 1977. But the studio and its creatives can’t seem to let them go — even over 40 years later and eith The Rise of Skywalker supposedly finishing the family’s story.

Maybe there are stories worth telling from characters like Vader’s perspective, as in the excellent comic book adaptations. Still, the Dawn of the Jedi era will adapt a period in the Star Wars timeline to the screen that should be fresh to audiences. Admittedly, it could be a tricky balance in keeping the air of intrigue and mysticism surrounding the Force while simultaneously showing how the first Jedi came to wield it.

The Original Trilogy did a great job of doing just that, but it seems that the Force becomes less interesting the more writers try to needlessly explain it. Longtime fans won’t soon forget the Midi-chlorians of the prequels that stripped it of some of its spirituality in favor of genetic sci-fi, but even so, some of Mangold’s past work inspires confidence that this “Dawn of the Jedi” movie could get the scope right.

Though a wildly different and intense movie, the director’s X-Men venture Logan did an exceptional job of having an intimate scale and deeply emotional core for its story and characters. It was extremely character-driven, and that element could be key in telling an almost biblical sci-fi epic that needs a new plot and cast worth investing in and being impactful despite being separated by over 25,000 years’ worth of canon that fans have been used to from Star Wars.

Paving the way for the Old Republic

A collage of Star Wars characters in promo art for The Old Republic MMORPG.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Mangold’s Dawn of the Jedi-set film could move the needle for Lucasfilm in terms of finally bringing forward major on-screen adaptations of the fan-favorite Old Republic era. The Extended Universe — now known as the Legends continuity — had its fair share of blunders, but this period in lore spawned arguably some of the most beloved stories in the franchise.

Veteran fans will no doubt think of BioWare and Obsidian Entertainment’s Knights of the Old Republic duology, but the still-expanding The Old Republic MMORPG and various Star Wars comic book adaptations are worthy shout-outs as well. However, despite that wellspring of storytelling potential, this era has gone inexplicably ignored beyond a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references and Easter eggs.

Perhaps the upcoming PlayStation 5 remake of the first game is a sign of great things to come, but Mangold’s upcoming movie could help set the stage for theatrical and small-screen stories. Though it could take place long after the Dawn of the Jedi, the Old Republic era still spans thousands of years in the mythos while also being separated from the Skywalker Saga by centuries.

Origin stories do feel rather played-out in the superhero genre, but having a sort of “Star Wars origin story” in this upcoming movie could prime audiences for putting to screen more tales in this universe so far in the past from anything that feels conventional. That sentiment doesn’t feel out of place either, as the Star Wars Celebration unveiled a new official timeline that acknowledges the Old Republic period between the Dawn of the Jedi and the High Republic.

The depth of material that this era could offer is potentially boundless, as the Old Republic alone could hypothetically give way to Skywalker-scale sagas in theaters, as well as serialized Game of Thrones-tier Star Wars drama on TV.

Giving Star Wars its ‘event’ status back

Split image of the Dawn of the Jedi comic book series and Rey in the Sequel Trilogy.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While the likes of The Mandalorian have been an overall success and Andor was refreshingly compelling, it feels like Star Wars has lost some of its “event” status — and the weight that comes with it. Lucasfilm has been taking a hefty hiatus from the movies following Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker, sure, but its focus on Disney+ so far hasn’t been as eventful as some might have hoped.

Bringing Star Wars to TV in both live-action and animation forms is a great move in and of itself, but the mixed bags from The Book of Boba Fett and some of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Mandalorian‘s third season leave a hole to be filled.

And though it’s unclear whether Mangold’s movie will be the first cinematic venture in Star Wars’ return to theaters, it has the potential to be part of an eventful reimagining.

The upcoming Daisy Ridley/Rey-led film will finally push the franchise beyond the Skywalker Saga and into a new era, but the Dawn of the Jedi might be what injects a new level of ambition into it. By taking the wider mainstream audience back into the distant past for a look into largely unseen mythos in mainline canon, Mangold could make Star Wars more creatively versatile while laying the foundation for favorites like the Old Republic.

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Guillermo Kurten
Freelance Writer, Entertainment
A University of Houston graduate in Print Media Journalism, Guillermo has covered sports entertainment and practically all…
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