D23 showed there is no shortage of content that Star Wars fans have to look forward to on Disney+. However, despite the new content, it all feels familiar. This might be deliberate as Lucasfilm begins to navigate unfamiliar territory.
D23 was certainly a memorable one. A Kenobi Show, intriguing footage from Star Wars:The Rise of Skywalker, and the long-awaited first trailer for The Mandalorian have drummed enormous buzz and excitement for Lucasfilm and their future projects.
However, this content feels much different than what we could expect from a new trilogy by Rian Johnson or D.B. Wiess and Dave Benioff.
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And by different, I mean leaning into the familiar.
J.J. Abrams finally ended the indefinite hiatus of Star Wars films, he relied heavily on tropes and images that were foundational to the success of the Original Trilogy, with varying results. We had a new Death Star on steroids, Stormtroopers, a mysterious Dark Side figure, a weird cantina scene, and countless other parallels.
It felt like a safe soft reboot with not-so-subtle nudges to the predecessors more than anything else. And as a new installment for a new generation, that makes sense, even if a little uninspired.
Rian Johnson went so far in the opposite direction with The Last Jedi, it’s a wonder if he ever even spoke to Abrams in regards to the next installment. Of course, The Last Jedi was financially successful, but didn’t come without controversy among a large contingent of fans due to character direction and underdeveloped plot points.
Then the second anthology film, Solo, was a relative box office disappointment and all of the subsequent Star Wars anthology films were put on the shelf for the time being.
Fast-forward to the initial The Rise of Skywalker trailer and boy is there a different buzz. The big reveal was the return of Palpatine. The inclusion of this Star Wars mainstay feels extremely derivative, but still intriguing for all fans no matter the feeling towards The Last Jedi.
The final film of this trilogy was always going to be a box office smash, no matter who may or may not appear in the film. However, Lucasfilm is increasingly judicious about how its moves forward with its content. It had gone from a relatively blank creative slate to the return of familiar faces.
As Disney begins to transition to its Disney+ content we know there is definitely a correlation between which material is drumming up the most anticipation. An Obi-Wan show starring Ewan McGregor. The Mandalorian. A new season of Clone Wars.
All of these projects will use the emotions sparked by fan-favorites returning to the screen and classic Star Wars imagery, attempting to bring all fans together. A repackaging of nostalgia for Star Wars fans if you will.
And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The Mandalorian is an interesting case. It’s is a completely original story with new characters.
It promises to provide that strange space western feel made iconic by A New Hope and the rest the original trilogy. Aside from perhaps The Rise of Skywalker, there might not be a more anticipated Star Wars project arriving over the next couple of years.
When you break down what makes this show intriguing as a premise, you can take a long look at the “original” characters that come with it. Despite being a brand new character, our main protagonist is a bounty hunter who sports Mandalorian armor (sound familiar?).
The first official trailer featured stormtroopers, familiar aliens like Twi’leks, and an assassin droid that looks awfully like, but definitely isn’t, IG-88. So how original are these ideas for The Mandalorian if the vehicles for the story are characters that are undoubtedly based on and inspired by some of the most iconic character inspirations in Star Wars. There seems to be a deliberate effort by Lucasfilm to provide the content featuring characters and styles viewers have been clamoring for.
If we put this newly announced content in context, we might see why these specific announcements, at this specific time, might make all the sense in the world.
After the close of the Skywalker Saga, we know there are two separate trilogies in the works for Disney and Lucasfilm. Both Rian Johnson’s new trilogy and the set of films by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss bring with them mystery and uncertainty.
We already know about the mixed response to Rian Johnson’s Star Wars film, so his next project will likely be under heavy scrutiny from fans and Disney. The narrative surrounding the Game of Thrones series writers will be far more intriguing. Benioff and Weiss are coming off a controversial final season of their HBO hit, leaving much to be desired by fans by way of storytelling.
You can be sure Lucasfilm executives noticed. Any details surrounding these projects remain a mystery, and the studio is focused on The Mandalorian, Kenobi, The Clone Wars and their other D23 content. It’s possible these safer, and in some cases, fan-demanded content are the buffer fans need between major film projects.
It’s not a bad strategy. Focus on the smaller, safer projects with familiar characters and generate more of that goodwill among fans before taking on the uncertainty surrounding their future films.
But you can’t help but wonder if these safer projects hold the key to prolonged financial and fan-reception success. Star Wars fans are some of the most passionate fans in pop culture. And as The Last Jedi unmistakenly pointed out, they can also be the most divided.
That’s why dealing with fan-favorite characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi on a streaming service might be the overall safest bet. Solo’s relative implosion in production and performance should serve as a cautionary tale, which is why a release to streaming for a variety of projects make sense.
Disney was brave enough to take on one of the most beloved characters in cinema to extremely lackluster results. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad. It was kind of just… there. However, if these new trilogies don’t perform up to expectations at the box office, How long will it be before we get gritty Boba Fett movie or a Lando Film starring Donald Glover?
Of course, Disney would likely opt to place films straight to stream to mitigate any potential box office failures of any non-trilogy film. But Disney will undoubtedly be searching for answers if The Rise of Skywalker and subsequent films fail to meet fan or box office expectations.
Enter all of the Disney+ content.
Of course this all speculation. But one has to wonder what the best course of action will be after the Skywalker Saga finally wraps up.
This closing trilogy brought a lot of new ideas and characters but had one detail going for it to handle all of that uncertainty: the return of Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca. These next sets of films likely won’t be at the table playing with that same hand.
Disney+ could ultimately resurrect the graveyard of killed potential anthology projects in a much safer arena. It will also be the holdover before we wade into unfamiliar waters when it comes to new Star Wars content, new characters, new stories, and almost certainly a new set of expectations.