A long-running franchise can accumulate a pretty complex and labyrinthine world after it's been around for decades. And that world will include plenty of stuff that's great, plenty that's not-so-great, and a few things that contradict each other. So, what's a sprawling fictional universe to do?
In response to this post on the ways that James Bond managed to reboot its continuity without taking on too much baggage too quickly, some commenters suggested that what we were seeing was much more than a character study.
It was also a way forward for plenty of other franchises to look towards the future, too — a future that may be much less concerned with is and isn't canon, and more interested in pulling in beloved elements from any medium it could find them in:
It seems to me that a lot of long-lived franchises will eventually take the same approach to their mythology that Skyfall does — treating it not as continuity to be obeyed, but iconography to be plundered. I could see a future Batman movie that incorporated elements of the Burton films, the animated series, the Nolan trilogy, and the Arkham games, fusing them into a syncretistic whole not because they were "canon," but because they were cool. It's like having Dench play M in the Craig movies — she's clearly not supposed to be the same character from the Brosnan era (unless you subscribe to a certain fan theory), but she's a cool character, and having her around establishes an emotional continuity to the older movies, if not a canonical link. Ditto the Goldfinger vintage Aston Martin.
Something similar is happening with The Force Awakens, even though it's a continuation of the first six movies, or maybe just the OT with some vague, undefined nods to the events of the prequels. There's really no compelling reason to have X-Wings, stormtroopers, or Tatooine in a sequel trilogy, at least in forms so familiar from the older films. Even featuring the Falcon and the original characters is a bit of a stretch, frankly. But that's the Star Wars everybody knows and loves, not something new or different.
The thing about Star Wars, and I know this is mostly from the thrown-out EU but it was set up by Obi-Wan's line about "for a thousand generations..."
Things move very slowly in the Star Wars universe. Deathly slow. They are using much the same technology in the movies as the universe had thousands of years prior. That's the only way they could have the Jedi existing as "guardians of the Republic" for something like 20,000 years. Space travel, lightsabers, all of it, is thousands of years old.
It doesn't surprise me at all that they using a slightly modified X-Wing in the new movies. That's about what I'd expect after forty years in that universe.
That's good, because I really don't want to be watching the same story over and over again for the next 40 years.
It's particularly an interesting problem to think about as more and more movies become part of a shared continuity, making the world of movie and TV franchises even bigger and more difficult to keep track of.
What do you think? We will see less continuity concerns, or will the pendulum swing the other way? And what will shared universes do to this model? Give us your take on whether — and, if so, for which — franchises this model works and when it's best discarded.