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The Skywalker Saga is over, but Star Wars is more powerful than you can possibly imagine | Column

The massive fandom was built on the strength of a universe that continues to expand beyond the movie theater.
Roberto Gomez, of Puerto Rico, dressed as Darth Vader, attends the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" on Dec. 16, 2019, in Los Angeles. [CHRIS PIZZELLO | Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP]

While I might not be old enough to have seen A New Hope in theaters, I am old enough to have worn out a Betamax copy of The Empire Strikes Back before I was in grade school and shuddered at the massive reveal — “No, I am your father” — before it was a misquoted mainstay of the pop-culture zeitgeist.

So when I sat in my seat last month on opening night to watch the end of the now 42-year-old Skywalker Saga, it was a big deal to me.

But if there’s one thing Star Wars has taught us — particularly in Rise of Skywalker, with Kylo Ren’s excursion to Exegol on a hunt for all things Sith turning up an undead Emperor Palpatine pulling his strings (despite Palpatine himself looking like a sci-fi marionette) — words like “death” and “the end” might not mean what you think they do.

Even if this is the last we see of the Skywalker clan that’s anchored the universe and main storyline since 1977, the true power of Star Wars has always been in the expanded universe of comics, novels, video games and now standalone movies and TV series.

This undated image provided by Disney Plus shows a scene from "The Mandalorian," which offered as part of the video streaming channel. [AP]

And much like the Death Star, then the second Death Star and Starkiller Base after that, the expanded universe keeps coming back bigger than it was before. In a sense, Disney seems the ultimate Sith lord, refusing to let Star Wars die and finding ways to resurrect the franchise year after year.

This undated photo from Lucasfilm shows Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker from the trailer for "Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith." [AP]

Some lifelong fans like myself were more than a bit perturbed after Disney announced it was acquiring Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012. While that meant the future would be filled with more content, it also meant the expanded universe — where we originally discovered the badassery of Mandalorians, learned the biggest threat to the galaxy wasn’t the Empire but the Yuuzhan Vong and met a host of Sith, scoundrels and scum we grew to love — became known as “legends.”

A new canon was born, and that’s okay.

The Skywalker Saga being over? That’s okay, too.

The Rise of Skywalker, for all its faults and attempted fixes, did its job. It closed that chapter of Star Wars in stunning, popcorn-flinging fashion. Even if its rapid-fire pace felt like the whole movie was “lightspeed skipping.”

But that’s okay, too.

Because we, the fans, are in charge now. The whole Star Wars universe is now one massive fan-fiction extravaganza, and its future lies more in the home than at the box office. I’ll for sure get advanced tickets for the next movie trilogy. But you know what? I’m even more stoked about Season 2 of The Mandalorian on Disney Plus. I can’t wait for the new season of Clone Wars. There’s new downloadable content for Battlefront II, two years after the game came out. And we’re getting a Ewan McGregor-led Obi-Wan TV series.

What a time to be alive.

Give me all the Star Wars novels, comic books, video games and TV shows you can make. And memo to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy: Please let The Mandalorian creative team of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni do whatever they want. In fact, just give them the keys to Skywalker Ranch.

And for those toxic fans who love Star Wars but somehow criticize and ridicule everything that comes out, Disney’s always hiring. If you can write it better, fell free to apply.

Doug Chang, VP Executive Creative Director of Lucasfilm is seen during media preview day of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge new attraction, Rise of the Resistance, at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 in Lake Buena Vista. [LUIS SANTANA | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times]

The Force has always been strongest in the universe of fans and content that exists outside of the Saga films. You can claim Star Wars fatigue, but I just say we’re weeding out the bandwagoners.

As for me, I’ll grab a drink at Oga’s Cantina and hop in line to fly the Millennium Falcon at Walt Disney World. (Say what you will about the ride, but that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write, and that’s pretty cool). I’ll board a plane in August and head to Anaheim for the four-day Star Wars Celebration convention.

And I’ll never forget that in Star Wars, I don’t have to be the jaded 33-year-old adult I’ve become. I can clutch my 22-year-old Han Solo DL-44 heavy blaster and be that kid burning out a video cassette again. I can remember that anyone, be it farm boy on a remote planet, orphaned smuggler, spice runner, princess or scavenger, can change their world and the galaxy.

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, from left, starred in the 1977 film 'Star Wars.' [AP]

I’ll remember that as a Star Wars fan, I’ve got a lot to look forward to. And most importantly, I’ll remember to have fun and not take it too seriously. Because, as Harrison Ford told Mark Hamill on the set of A New Hope: “It ain’t that kind of movie, kid.”

It’s so much more.