Going through withdrawals for the Skywalker Saga? Need some fun sci-fi/fantasy/adventure content to fill the gaping void left by the world’s favorite disaster space family? Well, never fear–SWSC is here with some of our staff’s recommendations for movies and TV shows to satisfy your craving for the Galaxy Far Far Away.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018-)
Picture a world reeling from the aftereffects of all out war. Deep within the evil empires foot-soldier unit, one promising soldier makes a discovery that changes everything they thought they knew about the world, the war, and their place in it. Much to their superior officers shock and horror, they defect from the evil empire and join the resistance to fight for what is right. With the help of a magical girl still learning how to use her powers and a fashionable best friend with multiple talents, the new trio teams up to face once old allies, now new enemies.
Are you surprised to learn this isn’t about Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Finn, Rey, and Poe but is actually describing the main characters of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power with Adora, Glimmer, and Bow? While it may seem strange, both stories share a lot of common elements with the sequel trilogy!
If you loved the mysterious lineages, complicated old relationships, found family, and epic intergalactic battles of The Force Awakens, you’ll definitely want to check out what She-Ra has to offer. Struggles with identity and reconciling the influence of lineage informs many of the characters struggles, but perhaps none more so than Adora herself, who doesn’t know where she came from and only knows what the Horde told her about her past (which wasn’t much). This leads to an even larger question: when she finally discovers where she comes from, what will that mean for who she is?
If you were rooting for team Finn/Poe in Star Wars, She-Ra feels your pain and also speaks your language. In only four seasons She-Ra has been unapologetically queer featuring canonical gay relationships, transgender identities, as well as characters that don’t fit well into any gender model and opt instead to use ‘they/them’ pronouns. For the characters of She-Ra, gender and orientation is both inconsequential, yet demands visibility. So what if two characters are gay? You’re going to see it, it’s not going to be hidden, and it’s not a big terrible deal because that’s just how people are. In a current entertainment environment where two background characters kissing constitutes the gay scandal of the year, She-Ra’s unapologetic portrayal of gender and sexuality feels like a cool summer breeze.
Was redemption a big draw for you in The Force Awakens? If so, She-Ra’s got you covered there as well. Adora struggles with her own redemption after defecting from the evil Horde and joining Glimmer and Bow. She longs for her childhood best friend, Catra, to follow her lead and defect with her. Meanwhile, Catra, having experienced rejection and failure all her life, is only angered by Adora’s abandonment and struggles to make sense of Adoras choices. The tensions between the two only grow more complicated and more fraught throughout each and every season: the struggle between an immovable object and an unstoppable force thrusts the conflict forward throughout the series.
You can catch the show, produced by DreamWorks Animation Television and based on the 1985 tv series She-Ra: Princess of Power, on Netflix now! So far, four seasons have aired to make a total of 39 episodes, and the show has thus far been nominated for three awards in 2019, including the GLAAD Media Awards, Emmy’s and Golden Trailer Awards (Bishop, 2019; Golden Trailer Awards 2019; Yang, 2019). The show composer, Sunna Wehrmeijer, has even recently been nominated for Best Music for TV for the 2020 Annie Awards for her work composing the score of the show (Giardina, 2019). While there currently is no official release date for Season 5, many speculate that the wait won’t be very long (Whyte, 2019). The show’s previous seasons have been released on a tight schedule with the first season airing in November of 2018, and the following three seasons released sequentially this past year with season four being released this past November of 2019. Trust, you will definitely want to be caught up for when the fifth season drops. There’s a reason people keep asking about it.
Princess of Thieves (2001)
Anybody finding themselves wanting to watch a cheesy-but-likable Disney movie about the estranged daughter of a legendary warrior who takes up her father’s mantle to fight against the forces of evil, and in the end father and daughter join forces to lead a new order of knights, and also the main character looks a lot like Natalie Portman? Yeah, me too for some reason. Anyway, Princess of Thieves is the story of Robin Hood’s estranged daughter, Gwyn (Keira Knightley), who must rescue Prince Philip, rightful heir to the throne of England, after her father is captured on behalf of the usurping Prince John. The movie certainly has its share of corny moments (including a literal slow-motion shot of someone jumping in front of a flying arrow while screaming “NOOOOOOO”), but the central father-daughter story is genuinely touching, and Gwyn is a total badass. If you’re a Luke and Rey Skywalker stan like me, or if you’re just a sucker for movies where cool women fire arrows at people, this is the film to watch.
The Expanse (2015-)
Brief Synopsis: Hundreds of years in the future, things are different than what we are used to after humans have colonized the solar system and Mars has become an independent military power. Rising tensions between Earth and Mars have put them on the brink of war. Against this backdrop, a hardened detective and a rogue ship’s captain come together to investigate the case of a missing young woman. The investigation leads them on a race across the solar system that could expose the greatest conspiracy in human history.The Expanse is what happens when you mix the space opera of Star Wars, the episodic space adventures of Star Trek, and actual good diversity and representation. So if the big bad Disney Star Wars is making you feel a little…unsatisfied, why don’t you scuttle your space-loving self to The Expanse pleasure palace and give the show a watch. Personally, my favorite aspect of the show is its world building and actually having military tactics that make sense. Seriously, go watch this show and go follow their insane Twitter account while you’re at it.
Mass Effect Trilogy (2007, 2010, 2012)
Now, this isn’t a show or a movie, but a video game, nevertheless, Mass Effect is probably the best Space Opera story I’ve ever experienced in a while. You take control of Commander, a character you can customize to be either a man or a woman and any race you want, and lead a plucky and diverse group of companions through 3 larger than life games. Mass Effect was where I went to get my fix when I wanted to branch out away from Star Wars but still wanted to experience some space adventures. The cast of companions are well written and fun, the adventures are high stakes yet still personally engaging, and unlike Telltale games, your choices actually do matter here! That’s gotta be fun, right? Actually getting to make some choices of your own instead of watching a multi-billion-dollar company run your favorite franchise into the ground with their mindless choices…No, I’m not referring to anything specific. Just making a general statement…No I don’t have any resent! Stop thinking too much into this and go play some damn Mass Effect!
Lord of the Rings (2001-2003; 202?)
What does a trilogy done right even look like? Wait, and why do some of the older great trilogies now have more than three films (looking at you Indiana Jones and Toy Story)?! Adapted from novel form, Peter Jackson and co. produced arguably the greatest and most successful cinematic fantasy trilogy since the Original Star Wars Trilogy. This has all the makings of what The Force Awakens set out to do – introduce an anonymous and mysterious character(s) [Rey, Finn, Strider] that are later revealed to be from a once noble lineage. Though the Sequel Trilogy squandered this aspect for Rey (in my humble opinion) and didn’t make good on its promise to explore Finn’s origins, the tale of Strider is as old as time and presents a beautiful rendition of what is now known as the hero’s journey. Further, the LotR does co-protagonists extremely well, and in multiple layers, following the paths of both Aragorn and Frodo with their never-leave you supporting character arcs (Arwen and Samwise, respectively). Though some may still argue about some of the adaptations from Tolkien canon, the cinematic payoff is extremely rich, the world building set the stage for truly epic-scales and environments for film-making to follow, and the on-location New Zealand work is remarkably beautiful. With a true love story for the ages (Aragorn and Arwen) and one of the most heart felt friendships that endured a trip to hell and back (Frodo and Samwise), this has the pick-me-up and feel-better juice you might just be looking for to get you through your Sequel Trilogy and Star Wars withdrawal.
Further, it might be good re-watching sometime soon as Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series is set to take place sometime prior to the Fellowship of the Ring. If nothing else, this could make a good primer for new lore on the horizon.
And if you’re interested in more reading, you can check out my interpretation of the LotR lore as a predictive treatment to where I believed the story of Rey and Finn were headed in the Sequel Trilogy. This three part series follows the Riddle of Strider (i.e., Renewed shall be blade that was broken) as a foreshadowing synopsis of the hero’s journey and how I thought Rey and Finn would balance/follow this path in The Rise of Skywalker. Sadly, it didn’t come to fruition, but perhaps I can work this into a fix-fic soon 🙂 MTFBWY
- Finn & Rey: Renewed Shall be Blood that was Broken – Part I
- Finn & Rey: Renewed Shall be Blood that was Broken – Part II
- Finn & Rey: Renewed Shall be Blood that was Broken – Part III