According to a report in Collider, Lucasfilm has decided to put all future Star Wars spinoff movies on hold, instead concentrating on the upcoming saga films, starting first with next year’s Episode IX. This is no doubt a response to the underwhelming response to last month’s “Solo,” the first Disney-led Star Wars film to underperform at the box office.
The movie, which I found fun if predictable, is not going to make the billion-dollar club with “The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi,” and “Rogue One.” In fact, because of its troubled production and sky-high price tag, the film could be the first to lose money for the studio.
Collider reports that the rumored Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff—which was supposed to be helmed by Stephen Daldry and star Ewen McGregor, and was apparently already in active pre-production—has been put on ice. James Mangold of “Logan” fame was also rumored to be developing a spinoff movie of everyone’s favorite Star Wars bounty hunter, Boba Fett. It appears that is also on hold now. Can you imagine how great Mangold’s take on Fett post-Sarlacc escape could have been?
This also means we’re unlikely to see any follow-up movies to “Solo” anytime soon. The ending of the film set up our favorite scoundrel and his Wookiee friend for a serialized adventure series, but now the other two films the stars are signed to aren’t likely to be seen soon. That is sad, because the reveal of Darth Maul as the head of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate at the end of the movie was a great set up for future action.
This Is Precisely the Wrong Response
Pulling everything that’s not a familiar saga story is exactly the wrong response to these box-office numbers. First of all, Lucasfilm has to recognize that they put “Solo” out in theaters just a few short months after “The Last Jedi,” not a year or more like usual. Star Wars isn’t like the Marvel Cinematic Universe—they can’t come out with a new movie every few months and expect the same group of fans to go back to see it. They need a break. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Remember that old saying?
Second, “The Last Jedi” was a particularly divisive Star Wars movie. No matter how good the film that followed it, there was a good chance it would underperform because fans got burned by “The Last Jedi” and just wanted a break. Unfortunately, that fell squarely on the shoulders of “Solo,” a movie already burdened with a troubled production history, crazy-high budget, and a marketing blitz that had to wait until the very last minute because of the tight reshoot schedule.
Instead, Lucasfilm should turn over the keys to their directors and let them take more. If they want the “Star Wars Stories” to succeed, then they should embrace the galaxy of possibilities that lie before them.
Star Wars is full of so many nooks and crannies that are great for telling all sorts of stories that we haven’t seen on the big screen. The TV shows have been able to take some more risks, and it’s paid off big time, with some of the best characters and story arcs in the series.
It’s time to take that mindset from TV to the movies. Don’t handcuff the creative development by relying only on the big saga films. Embrace the oddity of Star Wars, and reach out to its creative community of authors, animators, and artists. Embrace new and exciting storytellers.
Maybe a Shift in Creative Leadership Is In Order
Most importantly, it might also be time for a change in creative leadership at Lucasfilm. No one can argue that Kathleen Kennedy can get movies made. She’s a great producer. Yet perhaps it’s time for someone to serve as a creative head of Star Wars, to help shape the broad storylines.
Yes, there is the Lucasfilm Story Group, which is charged with making sure the 40-plus years of Star Wars canon stays within bounds, that video game storylines match up with a movie they may tie into, etc. But there doesn’t seem to be someone as the head “ideas guy,” the one who actually ties all these stories together.
For instance, you would think that someone would have mapped out this new trilogy and decided the major brush strokes, like who Rey’s parents were, or where Snoke came from, before they started shooting “The Force Awakens.” That never happened. J.J. Abrams had his ideas, then Rian Johnson had his, now Abrams is coming back and might retcon some of Johnson’s decisions to match what he originally had in mind. That’s messed up, and is just not appropriate for a studio of this size and importance.
There is one person who is perfect for this job: Dave Filoni. As the co-creator of all of Lucasfilm’s animated series going all the way back to “Clone Wars,” which he developed with George Lucas himself, no one at Lucasfilm, including Kennedy, knows Star Wars better than Filoni. He is the creative guide the studio needs right now to get back on track.
Kennedy can still be in charge of making the trains run on time, and getting movies through whatever crises arise, but with Filoni’s creative juices, and some new blood from storytellers like Claudia Gray, Greg Rucka, and E.K. Johnston, Star Wars could tell some fascinating stories.
Here’s a List of Good Places to Start
Here are just a few potential Star Wars stories worth telling.
The Godfather: Star Wars Style. “Solo” touches on the criminal underworld of the Star Wars galaxy, but there is so much more to tell. Hire Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino to do a gritty R-rated (maybe black and white) ultra-violent look at the crime bosses of a galaxy far, far away. Jabba the Hutt was just one of many, and with Maul’s reintroduction in “Solo” now we have one that can Force-choke you or cut you in half if you don’t deliver. That would make a great movie!
A Lando movie. Donald Glover was fantastic in “Solo,” and we need to see a full-fledged Lando adventure. Maybe it’s the story of how he won the Falcon, or how he got Cloud City, or maybe something entirely different. Frankly, as long as it’s Glover as Lando, with L3-37 by his side, I don’t care what they do. There’s a lot of fun to be had in a good summer movie like this. Just don’t have it come out a few weeks after the biggest Avengers movie of all time.
Thrawn. It’s time for the Expanded Universe’s most popular character to make his jump to the big screen. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and flushed all of the EU to “Legends” status, no one was more painful to lose than Grand Admiral Thrawn.
When he officially made it back to Disney canon with a turn on “Star Wars: Rebels,” the joy in Star Wars fandom was palpable. Now it’s time to take that popularity to the big screen. Bring on a serious actor, writer, and director to make at least one Thrawn movie. If Disney wants to throw a bone to all the fans who feel burned by “The Last Jedi,” this would do it.
Ahsoka’s Story. Most people don’t know the best Star Wars character, because she hasn’t been on the big screen yet. Ahsoka Tano, one of the main characters of “The Clone Wars” and Rebels cartoon series, helps explain how Anakin became Darth Vader, and is the perfect subject for a “Star Wars Story” film.
It doesn’t hurt that, like Rey and Jyn before her, she’s a strong female figure that girls can look up to and marketers can (and already do) use to broaden the appeal of Star Wars to an ever-growing population. We haven’t seen what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order, but we do know that she had a run-in with Maul, which would make for a great movie.
An Imperial War Movie. We saw in “Rogue One” a small band of Rebels steal the plans for the Death Star, but let’s not forget that Stormtroopers and Tie Fighters are people too. A dark, gritty look at a troop of the Empire’s grunts in a bloody battle we haven’t yet seen onscreen (perhaps Jakku), told by someone like Clint Eastwood would be a great way to examine the everyday soldiers on the frontlines of battle.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lucasfilm could also explore the more mystical elements of the Force, spend an entire movie on the weird relationship the Star Wars galaxy has with their semi-sentient droid servants, and so much more. It has endless possibilities, and with the right creative mind in control, Lucasfilm can rebound from the “Solo” stumble and emerge with a brand that’s stronger than ever. Retreating, like they’re doing now, is the wrong answer.