Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Solo: A Star Wars Story.

With Solo: A Star Wars Story now out in theaters, it's clear that the Star Wars spinoff movies have been better than the recent saga episodes. When The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, George Lucas handed the reins over to current studio president Kathleen Kennedy. And everything that has released ever since then has been completely different than what audiences had grown accustomed to with the prequel and original Star Wars trilogies. That's neither a good nor bad thing.

While the bulk of audiences' attentions have been on seeing the Skywalker story advance with J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where the studio has truly shined these past few years has been with their spinoff movies: Gareth Edwards' Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016 and now Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2018.

Related: The Best Moments of Solo: A Star Wars Story

Interestingly, George Lucas himself wanted to make a young Han Solo movie before selling the company to Disney, and that was all in addition to expanding the galaxy far, far away on the small screen - with animated shows - as well as in video games and various other mediums. While he never got the chance to do that on the big screen, the studio is doing it now. And it's perhaps one of the best things that Disney-owned Lucasfilm has done in recent years: open up the Star Wars saga beyond the core episodes.

What Differentiates Star Wars Stories From The Episodes

One of the biggest things that separate the Star Wars anthology films from the saga episodes is the fact that the stories don't revolve around the Skywalker family. The Star Wars saga has always been about the Skywalkers - first Luke Skywalker, then Anakin Skywalker, and now Ben Solo/Kylo Ren (technically) - as well as the struggle between the dark and the light. But what about the rest of the galaxy? There are billions upon billions of people in the galaxy, all of whom have their own stories to tell, some of which connect to the overarching narrative, but audiences only get fleeting glimpses of those character arcs in the mainline episodes. That's where the Star Wars Story movies can shine compared to the core films.

Of course, in addition to exploring new characters, the anthology films also allow the studio to fill plot holes and establish a more cohesive continuity (as they did in Rogue One), not to mention dive deeper into the backstories of more well-known characters like Han Solo. To put Solo: A Star Wars Story's place in the saga into perspective, it's the first Star Wars movie ever to not mention the Force (and that's despite including an overt introduction for a long lost movie villain) nor center around the conflict between the Empire and the Alliance.

Sure, a ragtag group of Rebels played a small part in the film, but the overall story was entirely focused on Han Solo's origin and setting him on the path for when audiences first meet him in A New Hope. It was a personal story. It was about real, grounded characters, and their place in the galaxy, not a focus on mystical beings, religions, and again, the struggle between the dark and the light side of the Force. Instead, there was a grey area that Lucasfilm was able to explore because that's what these anthology movies allow for. That's not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but it is one of the primary aspects that make the Star Wars Story movies different (and better) compared to the recent saga episodes.

Page 2 of 2: Why The Star Wars Spinoffs Are Better & Why Lucasfilm Should Make More

Why The Star Wars Anthology Films Are Better

The recent Star Wars saga episodes are great, especially for longtime fans who've been around for years (and even those who are only now dipping their toes into the galaxy far, far away), but the anthology movies are also great for franchise newcomers and fans of old. Why? Because they feel... new, to put it plainly. There's a sense of freedom associated with the Star Wars Story spinoffs because they can go where the saga episodes have never gone before: to various corners of the galaxy where the overarching Skywalker story arc doesn't reign supreme. Moreover, there's a lack of expectation associated with the anthology movies, not in terms of quality but with regard to preconceived notions about the story (e.g. who Rey's real parents are, etc.) - and that all translates onto the big screen.

While the two Star Wars Story movies that have released so far have taken place between the prequel and original trilogies, what's interesting is that they both feel like old school Star Wars movies but for modern audiences. That's evident in many ways, including the movies' story structure as well as their more grounded nature compared to the saga episodes. For instance, Solo: A Star Wars Story's brief action sequence on Mimban shows exactly what a live-action Republic Commando or Clone Wars movie could look like - and it's spectacular; the small-guy perspective on a galactic scale is certainly worth celebrating, especially for a gigantic space opera franchise like Star Wars, in which everyone has some sort of divine purpose.

A truly astounding aspect of the Star Wars franchise that may be overlooked by more casual moviegoers, however, is the respect to previously established lore (canon or not) as well as an adherence to stories already told in other mediums, such as comics, novels, and/or television. Right now, the Star Wars anthology movies are clearly doing more justice to Star Wars TV than the MCU has ever done for their TV properties. Lucasfilm - and especially Solo: A Star Wars Story screenwriters Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan - successfully brought Maul back into the fold on the big screen. For years, his existence was relegated to the small screen on The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels TV shows (in which his story arc played out beautifully), but that meant an entire section of the Star Wars fanbase was unaware of Maul's existence. Now, by introducing him, even in what is arguably a shoehorned cameo/connection, has done more to bridge the gap between the big and small screen properties than ever before.

What's more, the inclusion and mention of Star Wars Rebels' Ghost crew, the Hammerhead Corvettes, and various other things in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story further illustrates this notion of justice to non-saga films. Ultimately, it's not about advancing a narrative, exploring exotic locales, or even subverting expectations that have been built up for decades. In the end, it's about giving audiences an adventure story - "A Star Wars Story" - for them to experience from the ground up, and that is certainly worth continuing.

Why Lucasfilm Should Invest More In This Medium

For years, the Star Wars franchise has been focused on the Skywalker family - and that's wonderful. That core struggle between the dark and the light - whether that be between the Jedi and the Sith, the Empire and the Rebellion, or the First Order and the Resistance - has always been at the forefront of the Star Wars saga. That's one of the franchise's biggest draws, and it's not something that should go away anytime soon. But, then again, there's much more to the Star Wars franchise than a handful of heroes and villains leading the charge. After all, not everyone can be the chosen one, and there are real stories out there for the studio to show audiences on the big screen, not just on TV. Lucasfilm's off-shoots present more opportunities to explore characters and stories in greater detail, not to mention experimenting with different genres (i.e. a heist movie, an adventure story, etc.). Of course, in order to succeed, Lucasfilm will also need to push the envelope beyond what audiences are already familiar with (hence the "necessity" argument). Playing it safe will only get them so far.

Again, with the Star Wars anthology films, it's not always about advancing a pre-established narrative and hoping to satisfy all corners of the Star Wars fandom but rather delivering a galactic adventure that all moviegoers can enjoy. While the domestic and international box office grosses may not show it, the existence of these Star Wars spinoffs allow Lucasfilm to attract newcomers to the franchise without requiring people to go back and watch every Star Wars movie that came before in order to have some semblance of understanding behind everything that's going on. And with the Skywalker storyline seemingly coming to an end with Star Wars: Episode IX, there are plenty of opportunities to tell one-off stories within the franchise, some of which don't need to connect to one another. While focusing on characters or groups, who perhaps deserve more screentime, may be warmly welcomed by many (but not all) fans, it's something that should certainly consider doing more of down the line.

More: Solo Makes Star Wars: The Last Jedi Look Even Better

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