We're Probably Never Going To Get R-Rated Star Wars

The final chapter of "The Book of Boba Fett" has brought the series to a close (at least for now), but I know I'm not the only one feeling underwhelmed at the very least. The promise of a show that would be even grittier than its predecessor, "The Mandalorian," had grown-up "Star Wars" fans abuzz with all that could be uncovered in a darker vehicle. Unfortunately, that buzz died with the birth of the series, which inarguably felt like a tepid reintroduction of a character no one really knew but assumed (through his limited characterization) would be pretty... well, R-rated.

"Star Wars" has flirted with the dark side often enough throughout its 40-plus year history, but most of the grittier, violent stories live in the margins of the franchise, in the sprawling Expanded Universe (AKA Legends), the video games, comics, and novels. While the "Book of Boba Fett" finale featured some killer moments, it still only scratched the surface of what some fans hoped to see from this particular crop of characters. It's tempting to argue that the saga's shift to Disney and its streaming platform is synonymous with a shift to more kid-friendly ideals, but it's important to remember that "Star Wars" is, first and foremost, a franchise made for children. While that doesn't necessarily mean that the series can't "go there," it's probably time to stop hoping for a rebrand of "The Godfather" in space any time soon.

George Lucas' Vision Has Always Guided Star Wars

George Lucas' intention for "Star Wars" has been the blueprint for most stories within the franchise. Above all, "Star Wars" is a moral fable about good vs. evil. That story is told in a number of familiar ways and falls back on a number of traditional themes, but when you take away the spectacle and fluff, it all comes down to ordinary people taking a stand against the daunting forces of evil suppressing their freedom and capacity for love.

"Star Wars" will always be about love and its triumph over hate. Lucas made sure of that, and it's a stance he has defended time and again, even against his own fans. "There is a group of fans [that] want the films to be tough like 'Terminator,'" Lucas told BBC when the prequels first faced backlash in 1999. "They get very upset and opinionated about anything that has anything to do with being childlike."

For the most part, he is absolutely right. No one hates "Star Wars" more than its adult fandom, and the series' glaring flaws do come into clearer focus when you lose the unaffected wonder of your childhood. I certainly have no problem with the more childlike inclinations of the "Star Wars" world. I, like so many others, first became acquainted with that world at the ripe age of 10. That said, one image I'll never forget is that of a severed arm in a seedy cantina, and the fake blood that spewed before Lucas decided that a lightsaber would immediately cauterize a wound.

I remember the original trilogy as the kind of scary, sometimes-violent arena for the battle between good and evil to take place. It never relied on any "Terminator"-like violence to get butts into seats, though. "Childlike" is perfectly fine for a franchise aimed to awaken the child in all of us. But it's a dependence on a fable-like structure, and a binary understanding of good vs. evil, that is seriously limiting the kind of stories the franchise can tell.

Does the Galaxy Have Room for Dark Characters Like Boba?

Ask any Boba fan and they'll tell you: he was not always the lovable, soft-hearted guy that warmed our hearts across the seven (well... make that five) episodes of his eponymous series. For a long time, Boba Fett was the bounty hunter that Darth Vader himself had to keep in check. "No disintegrations!" has been wielded pretty passionately against anyone defending Boba's cuddlier nature in "Book of Boba Fett."

It's true, Boba was ruthless when he was a villain, an antagonist on the sidelines. But it seems that when he became a protagonist, effectively crossing the line from evil to good, that ruthlessness was stripped from him — and it's not difficult to figure out why. "Star Wars" protagonists are role models; kids look up to them. They can't kill for no reason! They can't terrorize innocent people! They have a conscience, a code. Boba has always had the latter as far back as the Expanded Universe novels, but in becoming a lead character, maybe his seedier reputation had to be sacrificed.

It's hard not to feel disappointed when a character previously described as "all killer, no filler," — by the showrunner of his series, no less — isn't really given a proper chance to make good on that expectation. But characters like Boba (and the criminally underused Fennec Shand) cannot meet their full potential if "Star Wars" is bent on keeping things so black and white in every piece of media they churn out.

A Compromise

What adult "Star Wars" fans are looking for doesn't necessarily have to be mature subject matter. Maybe what we really want is more mature storytelling. There are countless fantasy epics designed as much for younger audiences as they are for adults — "The Lord of the Rings" series is but one example. Within the franchise there's also "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," which was the closest "Star Wars" has ever come to allowing characters to live in the gray areas without having to explain themselves — at least in the Disney era.

"Rogue One" kept that moral fable intact, and was even softened by a clear-cut theme of found family. It was still, at times, incredibly dark (remember the Vader scene?), but hope still persevered in a way that respected the complexity of the world. No, it didn't ever cross the line into R-rated territory, but there's a strong chance "Star Wars" never will, and that's okay.

I have no problem saying that "Star Wars" is first and foremost a thing for kids between the ages of 6 and 14, as I was once a kid within that same demographic. The only problem is, I've grown up — and though I enjoy the animated series and still (don't laugh) buy action figures and trading cards, I also think that "Star Wars" has the capacity to let the saga grow up with us. There is room for more than one kind of story within one galaxy, and it might not ever be "The Godfather," but hey — there's always fan fiction for that.

"The Book of Boba Fett" finale is now playing on Disney+.