On Monday, Star Wars megafan Kevin Smith shared his giddy enthusiasm for the latest Rise of Skywalker footage on Twitter, likening the long-awaited final installment of the Skywalker Saga to Marvel’s sprawling smash hit, Avengers: Endgame. While it’s become difficult to avoid comparisons the two Disney-owned franchises, which share millions of fans, fans risk setting themselves up for disappointment by expecting The Rise of Skywalker to tick all the same boxes as Endgame. That’s not to say one is superior, but to highlight that the MCU and Star Wars have taken fundamentally different approaches to storytelling, tone and execution.
Here’s a just few reasons this (admittedly very tempting) comparison just isn’t helpful:
The MCU Hasn’t Significantly Divided Its Fanbase (Yet)
Many of the most devoted Star Wars fans actively dislike at least one of the eight Skywalker Saga films. Fan antipathy toward The Phantom Menace and its early naughties bretheren has softened in recent years, in no small part due to the rise of communities like the Prequel Memes subreddit, which embrace their cheese-factor. But there’s no getting around the fact that these movies were a huge disappointment upon their initial release, with wooden dialogue, clunky storytelling and dull, unlikeable characters (basically everyone except Obi-Wan). Viewers expected to finally get the chance to see the Clone Wars play out on screen, and instead got a lot of tedious conversations in CGI corridors and debates about intergalactic trade policy. For that reason, expect any obvious nods to the prequels that may pop up in The Rise of Skywalker to be hugely divisive.
On the other hand, while some Marvel fans might feel lukewarm about Ant-Man and The Wasp or Thor: The Dark World, relatively few vociferously dislike those movies to the extent that it taints their enjoyment of the other films. One of the most common gripes about the MCU is that the films can feel generic and low-stakes. That’s not without merit: even the much-discussed Thanos snap that capped off Infinity War seemed like something that would obviously be reversed in the next film. (They were never going to kill off T’Challa after Black Panther was such a huge success.) For better or worse, with Star Wars the highs are higher and the lows are lower. Even though Endgame was overstuffed in every sense of the word, it was still a hugely enjoyable ride. Don’t expect the same reaction to The Rise of Skywalker.
The MCU Boasts Infinite Points of Entry
Marvel’s stable of superheroes has been around since the early 1960s, which means that even if you’ve never read a comic book in your life, you probably know who Captain America and the Hulk are. Even before the original Iron Man came out in 2008, Marvel superheroes were inexorably woven into the fabric of popular culture. Sure, preparing to watch the latest Marvel movie in theaters can feel like studying for finals, but you probably don’t need to know every little detail to enjoy what’s going on. You don’t need to read Marvel Comics to like the MCU. No clue what the Sokovia Accords are? Not a problem. Don’t like nerd stuff, but enjoy good-looking white dudes named Chris? Marvel’s got you covered.
With most viewers equipped with some basic understanding of the characters, the MCU manages to speak to both to lorehounds and newbies. That just isn’t the case with Star Wars, which has more substantial barriers to entry for casual fans. riEven if George Lucas had a loose vision for a nine-film epic back in the 70s, the eight films we’ve had so far can feel disjointed and revisionary. Remember how Obi-Wan just calls Vader “Darth” during their duel in A New Hope? Remember when midichlorians were a thing? Still, that “we’re figuring this out as we go” approach is also responsible for some of the most memorable moments in the franchise, like when we learn about Luke’s blood ties to Vader and Leia.
The Marvel Movies Are Actually Funny
The Star Wars films have some chuckleworthy moments, like Leia dunking on Luke’s height in A New Hope and Rey asking Ben if he can put on some clothes during one of their Last Jedi mind-meld interludes. But many of the series’ most hilarious moments aren’t intentionally funny. Consider the ostensibly solemn, romantic conversation between Anakin and Padme in Attack of the Clones that we’ve embedded below, where the Jedi-in-training muses at length on the demerits of sand. It’s easy to single out the prequels for this, but let’s not for get the Original Trilogy has some unintentional howlers too, like uncharitably naming the one squeezably soft X-Wing pilot “Porkins.”
Too often, deliberate attempts at comedy in Star Wars can have ham-fisted, cringey results, like when Jar Jar Binks blows raspberries at Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. This generally isn’t a problem in the MCU. While Marvel films might skew overly quippy for some tastes, particularly the Guardians of the Galaxy films, each of them have numerous laugh-out-loud moments. You don’t need to know anything about Thor to find that “I know him from work!” moment in Ragnarok hilarious. For better or worse, the MCU never takes itself too seriously.
Between the possibility of a Dark Side Rey, the promise of an epic showdown with Kylo Ren and the mysterious return of Emperor Palpatine, no Star Wars fan should be afraid to expect big things from The Rise of Skywalker. Just don’t expect it to be Endgame.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes to theaters December 20.