The Star Wars franchise has varied in quality over the last few years. Many Star Wars lovers view the creative process that occurred for the three sequel films (“The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker”) and to a lesser extent the two spin-off films (“Rogue One” and “Solo”), as more interested in maximizing profits than delivering a cohesive and satisfying story.
That being said, multimedia spin-offs such as the “Mandalorian” series, various books and comics and the recently-released anthology anime collection “Visions” prove that, in the right hands, the Star Wars franchise is still full of rich and refreshing ideas. Continuing this trend, “Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales,” like last year’s “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special,” is fun and creative.
One of the special’s greatest strengths is its willingness to draw inspiration from all swaths of the Star Wars canon, from lore previously only found in the comic series to prequel-era mashups that feature General Grievous and Darth Maul. It finds some of the coolest areas of the Star Wars realm and capitalizes on their existence, even synthesizing unrelated storylines to create new ideas and situations.
At the center of this special is Poe Dameron (Jake Green, “Grey’s Anatomy”), the daring X-Wing pilot featured throughout the trilogy. His portrayal here is silly, as one would expect from Lego, but still maintains his heroic characters from the movies. There is also Graballa the Hutt (Dana Snyder, “Paradise PD”), who is as enterprising and slimy as the rest of his brethren, and his impressionable and kind-hearted young assistant Dean (Raphael Alejandro, “Jungle Cruise”). But Vaneé (Tony Hale, “Arrested Development”), formerly one of Darth Vader’s imperial servants, is bound to uniquely appeal both to new fans and diehards. He is taken from deep in the Star Wars expanded universe, making one blink-and-you-miss-it appearance in “Rogue One,” with the rest of his character being fleshed out in comics and books. Hale’s portrayal keeps the typically brooding and stern character light and goofy.
The three “terrifying tales,” told by Vaneé to Poe, Graballa and Dean, are not terrifying. They are, however, full of intriguing and unconventional ideas — something that was missing from the majority of the sequel trilogy. While Lego context means the horror elements can’t be “scary” in the traditional sense, the creators certainly took advantage of the special being non-canon and let their imaginations run wild.
The first, and best, story is titled “The Lost Boy,” a parody of Joel Schumacher’s 1987 vampire flick “The Lost Boys.” The sequence reimagines Kylo Ren’s origin as an over-the-top ’80s emo montage, complete with a late-night saxophonist. The funky-fresh grooves are Kylo’s true catalyst for joining the dark side. There is also a surrealist dream sequence that plays like a Lynchian Jedi dream, with floating heads and strange chanting representing Kylo’s inner conflict. The story still manages to carry a bit of the sadness felt in the actual origin.
The second bit features the previously mentioned Darth Maul and General Grievous locking lightsabers over a powerful Sith artifact, and the third story is a what-if style look at the possibilities if Luke Skywalker joined the Imperial Academy. Vaneé tells all three stories to Poe, Graballa and Dean; lessons and items from the stories push forward the plot of the four of them at Vader’s castle.
The stories, and the special at large, prove that Star Wars can and should be a little more experimental. The horror-lite elements feel right at home, and to die-hard fans of the books and comics, tales of witches, ghost stories and cosmic irony are nothing new. It’s a shame that many of the high-profile projects of the Disney Star Wars era have been watered down creatively to appeal to the largest possible audience.
“Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales” is a unique adventure full of classic horror references. Its shows how much untapped potential there still is in the Star Wars universe. It’s an experiment that should encourage other creatives involved in Star Wars to think outside the box and let go of the fear that comes with experimentation. Because if there is one thing that all the content in Star Wars teaches, it’s, in Yoda’s words, “fear is the path to the Dark Side.”
Daily Arts Contributor Alvin Anand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.