The Mandalorian Reveals Two Keys to Great Storytelling

Even if you’re not a huge Star Wars fan like I am, you probably know The Rise of Skywalker debuted last December. Likewise, there’s a good chance you’ve heard something about The Mandalorian, the latest spin-off series. Let’s consider these two endeavors of Disney’s. Episode IX didn’t create much of a buzz as far as I’ve heard, remaining glossed over despite the shocks it attempted to deliver. On the other hand, The Mandalorian has been gaining numerous positive reviews along with people purchasing Disney Plus simply to watch it. This isn’t only a testament to Disney’s cleverness at making a profit but also to the TV series itself.

The question becomes why these two stories, set in the same universe, received such a different response and what can we learn from it as writers. There are two key aspects that I think determine the contrasting outcomes. First is authenticity and the second is imperfections. The Mandalorian has both of these, while The Rise of Skywalker evades them.

Authenticity and Imperfections in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Authenticity pertains to having a vision for the story and staying true to it, letting it stand as itself rather than trying to force it into a certain shape. The Rise of Skywalker tries to be too much, throw all sorts of curve balls, check all the typical Star Wars boxes, and focus on too many characters. Its plot and characters suffer because of this, resulting in a story whose crucial points are underdeveloped. The core plot is scattered, making it hard for viewers to be emotionally invested. It’s like a teenager reinventing themselves to “be unique” but only in popular and accepted ways because they’re insecure about their real self. 

While The Mandalorian has a simple story, it stays true to it. It doesn’t fray its focus, and it doesn’t try to imitate something it’s not. The goal isn’t another cookie-cutter Star Wars story that has to give viewers what they expect while still holding their attention. The plot line is fresh in the galaxy, and it embraces that. Sure, it has a baby Yoda, however it isn’t inundated with constant throwbacks to the original trilogy. Basically, the series is willing to stand on its own two feet.

The difference is slight, but it matters. Telling a story authentically gives a completely contrasting feel. Viewers and readers can tell when something is forced, and a story with a genuine tone is far more appealing. To be clear, I don’t think The Rise of Skywalker is horrible by any stretch, it just didn’t live up to its potential.

The second key, imperfections, is most obvious when one considers the world of Star Wars. Disney has an outrageous budget for these productions, but the problem is that A New Hope set the stage by giving us a galaxy that’s a little rough around the edges. The buildings, people, and tech are worn, not shining utopian accessories. It feels real. The prequel trilogy rejected this, and while I would argue The Force Awakens and Rogue One portrayed a less glitzy world, The Rise of Skywalker did not. In fact, I didn’t get the impression that the movie was concerned about the world in general. In comparison, The Mandalorian clearly has a lower budget but gives a grittier setting that’s more similar to the lived-in aesthetic of the original trilogy. As Aristotle said, writing is about imitation, which is why the world we build must reflect our own even as it introduces wildly imaginative new concepts. Our world is imperfect and always will be. Let your stories show that. Readers will connect more deeply, and the story will stay far more relevant.

 So no, The Mandalorian’s fight scenes aren’t nearly as good as those in Episode IX, and the dialogue can be stilted at times because the actors aren’t quite as accomplished, but you know what? That doesn’t matter to me. It gives me the same world I loved in the original trilogy and is authentically its own story. This gives valuable insight to what is important when writing. Tell your story authentically, and don’t be afraid to allow your world to be real. You don’t have to add to the ugliness of the world with what you write, but you also shouldn’t pretend it isn’t there. True beauty doesn’t come from the denial of flaws. Authenticity and portraying imperfections are a part of the reason the original Star Wars trilogy did so well and will remain a beloved saga.

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