What the Hell Is Going on With Star Wars?
If you were to glance in at the Star Wars universe a couple of weeks ago, you'd probably conclude that everything was hunky-dory.
The Mandalorian's third season was ready to roll. Andor had proven itself to be absolutely belting. The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi scratched longstanding itches for the fandom. The Force – and I cannot apologise enough for this, but here we are – was with them.
But now it turns out that Patty Jenkins' one-off Rogue Squadron has been shelved indefinitely and that Marvel chief Kevin Feige's Star Wars film has been launched into the Death Star's garbage compactor too. Rian Johnson still wants to make some Star Wars movies, but he's a bit busy being Agatha Christie at the minute.
Instead, we've got news that Taika Waititi will be starring in the Star Wars film he's currently working on, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's film with Watchmen writer Damon Lindelof is apparently still moving forward. Deadpool and Stranger Things director Shawn Levy hasn't had his Star Wars film binned yet either. We'll apparently know more at the Star Wars Celebration event in London on 7 April.
So that's one drily whimsical former indie star, a documentarian, and a recent Marvel signing who also did Night at the Museum and Cheaper by the Dozen. Now from that it could look, to the outside observer, like Disney has absolutely no idea what a Star Wars film ought to be anymore. Indeed to the untrained eye, it could easily look like The Rise of Skywalker was such a bewildering, sorry-about-that U-turn from The Last Jedi that nobody really knows what should come next.
They did the daring thing in The Last Jedi, and some moaning sadsacks turned it into a toxic firestorm. They did the conservative thing in The Rise of Skywalker – bring back Palpatine, bin off the idea that a Jedi isn't about who your dad is, sideline John Boyega, try as hard as possible to pretend they hadn't made The Last Jedi at all – and it stiffed at the box office.
They've done all the obvious spin-offs for TV. There isn't really a huge clamour for Finn, Rey and the gang to continue their saga. So why does the Star Wars machine keep having ideas and then hurriedly backing away from them, and where does Star Wars on the big screen go from here?
It might, in part, be down to a slight fear of the fanbase. The Disney+ series have done a lot to mend fences after the sour, rancorous period between Solo: A Star Wars Story and the aftermath of The Last Jedi. (There are three more of them in the pipeline, by the way: The Acolyte, Skeleton Crew and Mando spin-off Acolyte.)
Crucially, though, they don't feel altogether Star Wars-y. Andor in particular was a gritty, saucy departure that worked because it was a Star Wars thing which felt like it had warped in from a different galaxy.
In all these stops and starts – where interesting-ish people are given license to develop an idea which then gets kicked into the long grass and another few interesting-ish people develop their own ideas which may or may not make it to screen – there's a sense that nobody really knows what any Star Wars fan might want.
Indeed, nobody really knows which bit of the Star Wars fandom needs to be tended to: the weird, angry dudes who poured racist abuse on the people 'ruining' 'their' beloved franchise? The stolid types who tried to push back against those guys? The Disney+ casuals? Your auntie who sees three films a year but enjoys a good Star Wars?
It could also be a simple case of burnout. Nobody minded when Marvel did it in the run-up to Avengers: Endgame, but at that point Marvel were on a mad run of absolute bangers. It was like watching Prince between Dirty Mind and Sign O' the Times. It was ridiculous.
Star Wars, by contrast, put together a five-year run of The Force Awakens (fun), Rogue One (genuinely ace), The Last Jedi (divisive but way better than many thought it was), Solo (erm) and Rise of Skywalker (hoooo boy). Rather than adding variety, the incessant changes of tack and tone checked the films' momentum.
And thanks to that, a theatrical Star Wars movie now feels like an idea that has had a total collapse of confidence in itself. The hopeless bottle-job that was Rise of Skywalker compounded that. Getting one or two people in a room to sort out a three-film story with four or five principle characters who all get an interesting, exploratory arc which expands but is sympathetic to the Star Wars universe should not be that difficult. But the higher-ups seem wary of committing to one very high profile idea rather than several lower-pressure ideas which can mosey around at their own pace and let viewers come to them.
There's a December 2025 slot waiting for a Star Wars film to drop into it. We may find out which of the many floating projects will arrive then in a month or so's time. But right now it feels like a galaxy far, far, far, far away.
From: Esquire UK