Star Wars has been under Disney ownership for nearly ten years, so it’s important to look back on each aspect (the films, TV shows, video games, books and comics) and evaluate them. Live action TV shows were non-existent before Disney bought Lucasfilm, with the area being a completely new direction for the franchise, and while they haven’t been a complete success, they have been on the whole. Disney has released four seasons of live action TV, The Mandalorian season one and two, The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, with varying levels of success.
Before evaluating the series individually, one point should be acknowledged. And that’s their commitment to honouring what’s coming before. This is mostly to do with bringing to life concepts created in prior Star Wars media, Ahsoka and Cobb Vanth in The Mandalorian, Cad Bane in The Book of Boba Fett and Inquisitors in Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, this can also come in the form of narrative beats, like having Din Djarin being afraid of droids because of a Separatist attack adds to his character, and is a recurring beat. Honouring all parts of the fandom helps combat some of the divisiveness that Star Wars is currently experiencing, which is amazing to see. This is set to continue, and is extremely exciting.
The first series that Disney released is The Mandalorian, with season two following in short order. To this day, it remains one of if not the best live-action original (including the MCU) that Disney has made, with the show not only delivering amazing action, it gave audiences the cutest surprise in the first episode, and immediately got people attached. The episodic structure allows for a glimpse at the wider galaxy, and while it became a bit predictable in season two, it gives a unique post war look, never drawing focus away from its plot but successfully weaving it into the story. As previously mentioned, each show draws on animation and prior material, but The Mandalorian does it best. Each character used has something to teach Din, and help him grow as a character. Giancarlo Esposita does a lot with Moff Gideon, the main villain, despite having little screen presence.
Turning to The Book of Boba Fett, unfortunately this one is disappointingly bad. The titular hero, Boba Fett, never really got a chance to be a crime lord, refusing to participate in any criminal activities. The premise of the show was quickly sanitised, in order to fit with a more Disney oriented brand, even ending with Boba second guessing being in charge. The show also had an issue with a revolving cast of villains, with the mayor, the Hutts, the Pykes and Cad Bane, the first two failing to have any real impact or threat. The most compelling part is when the show inexplicably becomes The Mandalorian, and frustratingly restores that show’s status quo. It has things happen to Din that should be in his own show. The most consequential thing to happen is that Din reunites with Grogu and gets a new ship, and, in a Boba Fett show, that’s a problem.
The final Disney plus show that has been fully released so far is Obi-Wan Kenobi. This show highlights that the problematic filmmaking of the sequels and Solo is making its way over to the TV side. Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett had their roots as a film (a film about Obi-Wan and Boba Fett), but after the disastrous performance of Solo at the box office, Lucasfilm iced all non-sequel spin off films, which turned out to be another wrong lesson they learnt from the film. Looking at the show itself, Ewan McGregor shows the audience a new side to Obi-Wan, taking him on a journey from a broken man to a reformed one. Vivien Lyra Blair, gives the perfect performance as a younger Leia, coming off as clever and strong, even at 10.
There are some aspects that don’t work about the series, Leia should have left the series in episode three or four, being the inciting incident that draws Obi Wan out, but then focusing more on Obi-Wan’s and Vader’s relationship. Vader tolerating Reva’s failures for so long also doesn’t make much sense, as he’s murdered several Imperial officers for much less than betrayal. Obi-Wan Kenobi having a smaller budget than the rest of Disney+ Star Wars shows is unfortunately very noticeable, with Mapuzo in particular standing out as a visually uninspired location.
Behind the camera, Disney has some excellent talent. Dave Filoni and John Favreau are carving out a whole new corner of Star Wars with The Mandalorian and its spin offs. The Mandalorian side of things seem very well planned out, with clear hints of what the first, second and third season will set out and achieve. Filoni has already proven himself in Star Wars animation, so it’s great to see him succeed in live action. Jon Favreau is the one that kickstarted the MCU, so understands the process of live action film and television better than Filoni, but is able to serve as his mentor. While The Book of Boba Fett wasn’t the success they were hoping for, (Filoni and Favreau aren’t interested in Fett as a main character), this is hopefully a minor smudge on their record.
The live action TV shows of Disney have so far been a success, with three seasons of television being a success, and even The Book of Boba Fett isn’t a complete failure. Disney has proven that TV is the way forward for Star Wars with the different shows bringing in millions of viewers, and keeping people subscribed to Disney+. This approach is certainly one that works, and doesn’t look like it will change soon.