Star Wars needs to play with more genres

Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) in Lucasfilm's ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) in Lucasfilm's ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

One of my favorite things about Andor is how much it plays in the genre of political thrillers. It’s a fresh take on a galaxy far, far away that really makes it intriguing to watch. I hope Andor’s success opens the door for more shows like this.

Star Wars heavily draws from Westerns like in The Mandalorian, East Asian culture with the creation of the Jedi, and it is absolutely a fantastical space opera like Flash Gordon. But we rarely move outside of these few genres with on-screen content.

This is one place where I think the Marvel Cinematic Universe bests Star Wars. The MCU plays in so many genres. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a spy thriller like Andor. Ant-Man is a heist film. Hawkeye is borderline a Christmas special. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a sitcom. A lot of Thor is high fantasy. The MCU has horror, period war dramas, teenage coming-of-age stories, and parts are slice of life. Their films and shows have martial arts, Afrofuturism, space operas, and so much more in between. While the Marvel formula for many of its films is pretty simple and straightforward, changing up the genres depending on the featured characters has allowed the MCU to stay viable over the years.

Star Wars could really learn a lesson to expand to all kinds of audiences. Andor is a step in the right direction, but there could be so much more work in various genres. Where is the Star Wars rom-com? The workplace comedy? Can you imagine a show in the vein of The Office at a Rebel base? Our own Corey Cummings discussed recently how it’s time for Star Wars to drop a horror movie. A documentary-style movie filmed through the lens of Imperial propaganda about the life of Emperor Palpatine would be creepy to watch. Something that I love that Pokemon has done lately is introducing their new creatures like a nature documentary. Galaxy of Creatures does this as YouTube shorts, but I’d watch a special or movie about a film crew documenting the animals of the galaxy. It could also detail the trials and tribulations of their process. A Star Wars “reality” tv show would be great too. That last one I would even vote to not make it canon so it could be a straight parody with Star Wars characters. There need to be far more satirical shows outside of the LEGO specials, Robot Chicken, and Family Guy.

There are so many possibilities that Star Wars could do to have exciting new content for all ages.

We have seen some examples of Star Wars breaking out into a variety of genres despite many of them being from either small projects like books or they were experimentation in their respective shows.

Clone Wars never shied away from playing with genres. The zombie clones and Geonosians are flat-out horror. Same with just about everything involving the Nightsisters. Remember that horror does not have to be just for adults. Goosebumps and The Owl House are proof of that. The Zillo Beast episodes are an homage to monster movies. Many of Padme’s solo episodes are political thrillers. They had comedic episodes with Jar-Jar. Heck, even Jar-Jar got some romance too. So much of Ahsoka’s point of view is a coming-of-age story. The episode “Bounty Hunters” is an homage to Akira Kurosawa’s samurai film Seven Samurai. The Mortis arc is very high fantasy. Certain episodes had steampunk elements. Then, of course, at its core, it’s a war story that has its own plethora of sub-genres.

Part of Clone Wars’ longevity is definitely the crew’s willingness to change up the format and never stick with just one kind of genre. If the Zillo Beast isn’t your thing, hang tight for two episodes because something different will come along. The youngling arc on Ilum isn’t your thing? That’s fine because it’s someone else’s favorite.

The closest I think we’ve ever gotten to a workplace comedy is one of my favorite Star Wars novels ever written which is Thrawn: Alliances. And I can already imagine the eyebrows raising at this choice so let me explain.

I do not think Timothy Zahn set out to write a comedy with villains, but the truth is he absolutely did. This book is canonized crack fanfiction, and as a fanfic writer myself, I mean that with the highest respect. I’ve read fics in the same vein as Thrawn: Alliance before the book was even published! They had summaries like “Thrawn and Vader team up for a big mission! But Thrawn knows a secret about Vader and hijinks ensue!”

The first 250 pages of that book are pure comedy gold. In two separate timelines, Thrawn and Anakin/Vader are trying to out alpha male each other causing them to constantly fail in the most outlandish ways. Thrawn literally knocks out Anakin, because Thrawn thought Anakin would be smart enough to not be unconscious. A pack of bugs attack and splatter themselves on Vader and their bodies cement the Dark Lord of the Sith to the floor. He just sort of sits there like, “SIGH, this is my life now I guess.” At another point, Thrawn rips off the bottom half of his shirt to make a rope, so he’s essentially running around in a crop top for the back half of the novel. Only Anakin Skywalker can think of the outlandish plan to use the Force to walk a dead guy like a marionette through the streets to try and trick the bad guys that their buddy is still alive. The side characters get in on the action too. Rukh and Commander Kimmund (one of my personal favorite Star Wars characters) almost beat for beat play out the Constitutional Peasants scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Kimmund demanding respect as the First Legion and Rukh basically saying, “Well, I didn’t vote for you.” Meanwhile, Karyn Faro and Padme are tired for the entire book watching all the boys just be a pack of wild idiots for 250 pages and get stuff done themselves.

Thrawn: Alliances is hilarious and was such a surprise to get essentially a workplace comedy with villains. This format also made the ending hit so much harder. After I cackled for the first 2/3rds of the novel, the fun stops. Vader is done playing and takes up the Dark Lord mantle he’s known for. There are very real threats that people will die. In the past timeline, Anakin goes almost full Dark Side and out of anger sets off a series of events that decimate an entire planet. The ending punches you in the gut because the good times are over. The comedic format of the first half really made this ending work so well. I tip my hat to Timothy Zahn for it.

I would also love to see both the return of Jedi Temple Challenge and more projects like it. Jedi Temple Challenge hits that nostalgia factor in me as someone who grew up on Legends of the Hidden Temple. Being a competition series, there was drama built into it not know which team would win. It was so pure and wholesome with Ahmed Best stellar in his role as Kelleran Beq. It also added to the canon in a lot of the story segments which were creative and fun. I would love to see more shows work in the competition genre. Heck, if we wanted to go darker, imagine a dramatized show like Squid Game in the Star Wars universe. Something like the Imperials or the Zygerrians pitting people against each other for their amusement. It would be terrifying to watch.

There do seem to be more expansions into other genres as we peek at future projects. Star Wars: Visions set the stage for anime in Star Wars. Granted, anime is a medium, not a genre, but we did get to see the series play with different genres important to Japanese storytelling. With season two covering even more animated studios from around the world, I’m eager to see what each of these countries brings to a galaxy far, far away. Skeleton Crew also looks very promising. Early reports state it’s like Stranger Things in space which is an intriguing prospect to me. Even the upcoming preschool series Young Jedi Adventures has me hyped to witness the High Republic era on screen in contrast to the darker story of The Acolyte.

I really love the idea that we’re moving into more genres in future projects. I’d like to see animation pick up on this more. The Bad Batch and Tales of the Jedi are still very Clone Wars stories. At least Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars Resistance broke out of that mold in their own ways. It makes me nervous for the animation side of things still clinging so desperately to Clone Wars’ success instead of trying new things.

Still, live-action Star Wars looks bright on this front. I hope the franchise continues to expand into new genres and continues to take lessons from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this way.