In truth, the whole thing should have been easy. “[Insert anything] but make it Star Wars” is the only formula you need. Somehow, Disney immediately strayed from that formula and has managed to churn out an almost entirely mediocre slate of Star Wars stuff. Until now!
Allow me to introduce you to Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge. Or, Legends of the Hidden Temple But Make It Star Wars.
I mean, really, that’s all there is to it. Pairs of kids work together to complete challenges and the worthiest (read: the winners) get to enter a big smoky maze of challenges. Some succeed, some fail. Some are not tall enough to complete the challenges. It’s basically just Legends of the Hidden Temple. And it’s free on YouTube. It’s even got Ahmed Best as the host. It’s great, go watch it.
Putting precocious kids in fairly harmless obstacle courses is pretty compelling TV on its own. But add in Star Wars and it’s suddenly very compelling. The baggage of the universe comes right with them. They’re no longer just kids, they’re padawans striving to prove their mettle. The hand waving mysticism of Star Wars makes perfect sense as to why a bunch of children have to run through all this nonsense. Best doesn’t even introduce himself as the “host.” He’s completely in character the entire time. The whole thing is framed as a totally normal thing that just happens to have cameras recording it.
Even as an adult this show is incredibly digestible. As a I child I wanted to be on one of those game shows I saw on Nickelodeon. Add in how I definitely made lightsaber sounds any time I picked up a broomstick and held it out like a sword and this is something I still want to do.
One of it’s only “novel” aspects is the temptation of the dark side of the force. The challenges aren’t very hard but ever present at the final challenge is the ever-present voice of the dark side. It truly reinforces the frustrations of trying to solve a puzzle, on camera, in a fog machine, while an adult man yells at you, a child. Some kids give in. Some kids don’t. I never thought anyone would give in so color me shocked.
In truth, there’s almost nothing original in Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge outside of the “dark side.” The show really is just Legends of the Hidden Temple with a veneer from a galaxy far, far away. And it works because of that. The ever expanding cultural empire of Star Wars is at its best when it applies its unique mythos and style to preexisting media. Think about it, at its core, what even is “Star Wars?” If anything, its mostly an aesthetic.
Aesthetic is certainly the thing that Jedi Temple Challenge does to perfection. Star Wars stuff looks and sounds a certain way. The music sounds like Williams compositions that might have been left on the cutting room floor. The droids make this really particular Star Wars droid sound when they move. And the sets are all very Star Wars despite it being a place that’s never been explored before.
The whole “Star Wars” endeavor should have been easy. Star Wars is built on ideas, themes, and images cribbed from other things. Star Wars was never particularly “original” as much as it was an increasingly brilliant context. So why not keep cribbing? In fact, why not crib harder? Crib has hard as you will! You’re Disney now! Crib like the wind!