I was going to write something about Star Wars fandom and how the reactions to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker prove that fandom in general is broken. I may still do that, but right now, the bigger question is … “Where does Star Wars go from here?” (Disclaimer: Much of this article is conjecture based on quotes from some of the key players but also from rumors that have been circulating.)
We already know that filmmaker Jon Favreau has a second season in production of his popular Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, that we’ll see this fall, but what happens after that? More series, more movies, new stories/characters or stuff based on existing characters?
Could Lucasfilm stop making “Star Wars” films altogether?
Doubtful. It was announced very recently that Lucasfilm was going to continue to make “Star Wars” films annually, and Disney already had a number of December dates set for 2022, 2024 and 2026, alternating years with James Cameron’s Avatar sequels.
On the surface, Disney head Bob Iger seems to deliberately be quizzical about whether Disney+ is the answer on where to take the franchise. When asked about the Disney+ shows in a panel, he responded:
“I don’t look at it as just television, I look at it as an extension of Star Wars storytelling. What Disney+ has given us the ability to do is to do just that, is to bring Star Wars to people in new ways, and to bring new Star Wars to people. It’s not the same places or the same characters. Just look at Mandalorian. While, obviously, there’s a lot shared, there’s a lot that’s really fresh, and I love that. I love the ability to really be agnostic in terms of what platform it’s being made for. And so it could be, down the road, that a TV show becomes a movie and a movie becomes a TV series. I’m not making any announcements here or not, but I think it’s important for us to be agnostic.”
Could Iger know more than he’s actually telling – taking a cue from Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige, maybe? It’s hard to believe that everyone behind the scenes hasn’t spent a good amount of time trying to figure out where to go next even before Rise of Skywalkerwas released. Just a few months back, Iger stated that “Less is more” when it comes to the franchise, because he felt that releasing so many movies over a four year period may have hurt the brand.
Even before that, it had been stated that the franchise would steer away from further trilogies, with Kennedy saying,
“I think it gives us a more open-ended view of storytelling and doesn’t lock us into this three-act structure. We’re not going to have some finite number and fit it into a box. We’re really going to let the story dictate that.”
On top of that, Iger seems to want to stay away from making more prequels like Solo: A Star Wars Story, since that didn’t really work as well as some hoped. Again, “Less is more.”
A few years back, The Last Jediwriter/director Rian Johnson had pitched his own trilogy, but that might be completely out of the equation, especially if he’s focused on writing and directing a sequel to his hugely successful Knives Out as a priority.
This means that Lucasfilm has less than two years to get a stand-alone “Star Wars” movie into development and production to have one ready for that December 2022 date, and knowing the difficulties they’ve had on some of the movies, that doesn’t seem like a ton of time.
Who will appear in these future movies?
The latest word is that some of the characters introduced in JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens will still be involved in future movies, so presumably, that would include Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, John Boyega’s Finn and presumably, Daisy Ridley’s Rey “Skywalker” plus side-characters like BB8. Despite the problems people have with The Rise of Skywalker, it doesn’t feel like these characters have worn out their welcome, since they’ve only really appeared in three movies.
Force Awakens and its sequels have proven to very much be Rey’s origin story, showing her as she discovers the Force and how to use it while staying away from the all-too-compelling Dark Side. In theory, other movies could still follow her adventures now that she’s “The Last Jedi” (or is she?)
All we know for sure is that the Skywalker story that began in George Lucas’ original Star Wars in 1977 is over, because (SPOILER!) Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and General Leia Organa are all dead… except for when it suits story purposes, so that they can appear as themselves or as blue apparitions, I guess.
Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy agrees that they need to move past the characters from the original trilogy, having said,
“What we’ve been focused on these last five or six years is finishing that family saga around the Skywalkers. Now is the time to start thinking about how to segue into something new and different.”
So who will be spearheading these future projects?
Kennedy is still in charge and will be making a lot of decisions over the next few months, but a lot of previously announced filmmakers and projects just haven’t come to light.
One that’s still happening is the the recently-announced “Star Wars” project that Kevin Feige is developing. Most people have been assuming this is going to be a theatrical feature but with Feige taking control over Marvel Television with numerous Marvel series in development for Disney+, it’s far more likely that Feige is developing an idea for a “Star Wars” series where he can hire a showrunner and separate producing/writing team to work on that rather than try to squeeze another movie into his busy schedule. (As of now, Marvel Studios currently has three to four movies scheduled every year between now until 2023.)
What about future movies? That’s still very much in the air until there’s an actual announcement of who might spearhead those movies as far as writing/directing. A better question might be who on earth would WANT to get involved with this franchise? Considering how George Lucas was treated by the fans during the prequel trilogy, and then Rian Johnson with The Last Jedi, plus other filmmakers like Colin Trevorrow, Ron Howard and now even J.J. Abrams have been treated, it might not seem worth all the added scrutiny for any director to get involved.
As many filmmakers as there out there who might want to get involved with such a lucrative franchise that can help up their Q-rating as directors, how many of them will be able to endure not only the fans but the “too many cooks” in the system that has made it harder for there to be any sort of original vision when it comes to making “Star Wars” movies?
During an interview with Rolling Stone, last year, Kennedy explained why it seems to be so hard to make movies that everyone can be happy with:
“Every one of these movies is a particularly hard nut to crack. There’s no source material. We don’t have comic books*. We don’t have 800-page novels. We don’t have anything other than passionate storytellers who get together and talk about what the next iteration might be. We go through a really normal development process that everybody else does.”
(*Actually, you do. See below.)
Kennedy has also said how she and Lucasfilm determine who might be a good creative match to work with on future “Star Wars” projects:
“You start by talking to filmmakers who you think exhibit the sensibilities that you’re looking for, and I would argue that the list is very small — people who really do have the sensibilities about these kind of movies, and then the experience and the ability to handle how enormous a job these movies are. So we try to be as thoughtful as we possibly can about making those choices.”
Hopefully, part of Kennedy’s plan is to find a few talented women filmmakers and/or filmmakers of color to do something within the Star Wars universe. That’s already been the case with a few episodes of The Mandalorian, but there’s still the sad fact that every single movie in the franchise so far has been directed by white men.
Why is it so hard to keep filmmakers on these projects?
Going by rumors that hit Reddit recently (with appropriate caveats properly in place) over the holidays, director JJ Abrams may not have been that happy with how things went on the making The Rise of Skywalker. A lot of what has been taking place since the movie’s release is that many of those involved are trying to pass the buck and blame others, so this may be more of the same. The long and short of it is that the rumors have begun about their being a 3-hour “Abrams cut” of the movie out there. Super…
Some of the filmmakers who have parted ways with Disney and Lucasfilm, include Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verseproducers Phil Lordand Chris Miller, who were booted from Solo: A Star Wars Story. Also, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards was mysteriously replaced by Michael Clayton director Tony Gilroy for that movie’s reshoots. There was also the more recent plans for Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to make their own “Star Wars” trilogy that was eventually scrapped just as they signed a deal with Netflix.
In that same interview with Rolling Stone, Kennedy explained how the tough development process at Lucasfilm may be what causes so many filmmakers to leave or be replaced in the middle of development or production:
“I would also argue that sometimes people get involved in the normal development process, and then they realize, ‘Oh, my God, this is so much more than I ever imagined.’ So it’s pretty common that when you’re working on movies, you’re not making choices and decisions that necessarily work out exactly the way you want from the get-go.”
Although Johnson’s trilogy may or may not happen, the director told The Beat a few months back that he had good experiences working with Lucasfilm and Kennedy:
“I can only speak to my experience there. Some of the other directors you’re talking about, they’re some of my favorite directors working today, and I’m now good friends with a lot of them. I can only speak to the experience I had, which was a totally lovely one, and it was collaborative with all the creative choices all the way through. It was with Kathy and with Disney and with the story group there, Lucasfilm, with JJ.”
Can’t “Star Wars” just continue on Disney+?
On paper, more Disney+ series seems to be the best way to move forward, considering the strong support for The Mandalorian. The nice thing about a series is that you can produce 8 to 10 episodes, see how they’re received and then continue from there. The problem with movies is that you’re literally spending two to three years on one two-to-three movie that you just don’t know how it will be received by the fans. For instance, Jon Favreau probably already knows what worked and what people liked in Season 1 of The Mandalorian, so that they can continue developing the show in that direction.
As far as the “Star Wars” canon, there are plenty of side characters from the most recent trilogy that would be great to learn more about. In the past, much of that mythology-building was handled in various comic books from Dark Horse and Marvel Comics, as well as books, but one filmmaker who has already expressed interest in running a show is filmmaker Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) who took to Twitter to support actor Kelly Marie Tran’s character Rose Tico, suggesting that Disney+ give her a series. (You would think that Chu has worked in Hollywood long enough to know that’s not how things work… but who knows? Maybe, now it is?)
At the same time, a seventh and final season of the animated The Clone Wars will be debuting in February on Disney+, to keep fans sated until Disney/Lucasfilm are ready to make more decisions and announcements. Animation is another way to continue the franchise without shelling out the millions of dollars needed to produce live action episodes.
Did you completely forget to talk about the comics?
Not really. In some ways, Marvel Comics seems to have a better handle on how to keep the “Star Wars” mythos going, having just launched a brand-new Star Wars #1, written by Charles Soule, which looks to fill in the gap between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. There are a ton of new series and mini-series based on characters from the entire canon, so it’s not like there’ll be any real down period with no “Star Wars” in between movies.
It’s somewhat similar to what Dark Horse was doing in the years between 1991 and 2014 when it had the license for “Star Wars” and used it to produce over 100 comics, creating new characters and mythology, absolutely none of which has made its way into the movies. In some ways, the comics can be seen as the first stage of development in a similar way to how so many studios turn to comics as source material for their movies. Lucasfilm could totally use Marvel Comics to test out new characters in order to see which ones prove popular before introducing them to movies or TV series.
It’s probably safe to assume that everyone at Lucasfilm is working very hard right now to figure out the next step in “Star Wars.” Since Marvel Studios and Pixar Animation Studios seem to have a pretty good idea of what they’re working on for the next few years, Walt Disney Pictures should be able to work with Kennedy and Lucasfilm to really focus on getting the right people on board to begin the next chapter in the saga.