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Four Puffs from that Star Wars Vanity Fair Piece

Star Wars is coming back…full Force. Yep.

Vanity Fair Star Wars cover | credit Vanity Fair and Annie Leibovitz

Star Wars fans really can be the worst. Imagine reading a vast article with new details on upcoming Star Wars content, and choosing to lose your mind over a few sentences. Not to mention taking those few sentences out of context.

Now that we have that out of the way, the Vanity Fair piece on the future of Star Wars is a precursor to the panel that will take place at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. Nothing is NOT by design here. It is a crafted (though some might argue not carefully crafted) puff piece. And I’ll take it!

And there is a lot to read between the lines.

1. Lando Might Be Still Alive, But His Series Isn’t

Formula One racer Lando Norris (now the most popular Lando) is sad about it, too in this once popular meme source | credit @LandoNorris

The names Lando and Donald Glover were not mentioned once in this entire article. Rian Johnson even got a mention (we’ll get to him later). Lucasfilm has moved on…and I think most fans have as well. The mention of focusing too much on legacy characters and expecting audiences to show up are all pointing away from future films/shows like Solo.

Which seems contradictory to what is currently on the docket: An Obi-Wan series, an Andor series, and an Ahsoka series. Well, the answer for two of those is simple: They feature Jedi and that is always going to make a difference, both in interest and merchandise. Obi-Wan Kenobi will have Darth Vader and four Inquisitors for a total of six Force-users. And we will probably have a few lightsaber battles. Ahsoka features a new character to a lot of Star Wars fans who just learned about her in The Mandalorian. Speaking of Mandalorians, Sabine Wren will be making her live-action debut in the series as well. Andor is a wild card but has the good will Rogue One left behind it and what looks to be a massive production budget.

What would be the hook for a Lando series? Characters from a film that people didn’t go see in theaters? I have written this numerous times but it bears repeating because it affects whether shows like this get made: Lando toys do not sell. Not with older fans and not with younger fans. It has become an unfortunate long running joke within the toy collecting community.

So there has to be a draw for audiences to justify the budget that would go into it and Donald Glover is not enough. There were rumors of a Crimson Dawn animated series in development which would be during the time of Solo and have Darth Maul, a much more popular character who was trending when Solo: A Star Wars Story released.

I know there are Solo fans that want a Solo 2. But maybe they should have devoted their energy to seeing the movie in theaters multiple times and buying all the merchandise to make their point? After Warner Brothers catered to Snyderverse fans and how that turned out for the studio (they are still being harassed by that corner of fandom), Disney is not going to make that mistake.

Lucasfilm is right. New characters will move the franchise forward | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

It is a delicate balance of giving fans something they have wanted and then dealing with the fallout of emboldened fans with continuous demands and complaints after they get what they want (just see the discord around the Disney Plus Daredevil series). That kind of indulgence presents a no-win situation. If the spirit of Solo reemerges, it will likely involve Crimson Dawn (with one established character in Maul) and new characters not named Han Solo or Lando.

Creatively, it is for the best. New characters do not have the baggage of fan expectations and do not run the risk of overexposure. And so they can be free to appeal to newer audiences without the gatekeeping of established fans.

I have been adamant that Lando is done-for that I will have to do something crazy if it actually does get made so open to suggestions. Just don’t hold your breath.

2. Post-Return of the Jedi is the New Sweet Spot

More Imperial remnants without the overwhelming threat of the Empire and Sith could leave room for compelling stories | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

I don’t know what it is about this period that is appealing to Lucasfilm creatively, but they are on to something. The Mandalorian is the best performing show on Disney Plus and it takes place five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The stories of galactic citizens rebuilding their lives after Imperial oppression while Imperial remnants try to retain some sort of control in the galaxy has a breadth of possibilities. Including one that no one else predicted: Star Wars’ version of Stranger Things. And with a director that no one else predicted (because he just stepped away from another franchise film), Jon Watts. I guess Lucasfilm allows for a little more creative freedom with their streaming series because Watts has been working on the project, working title Grammar Rodeo, for some time. The mystery show also takes place after Return of the Jedi, possibly around the same time as The Mandalorian. Lucasfilm is currently casting child actors as leads and fashioning itself inspired by 80s Spielberg/Amblin entertainment.

So is Jon Watts the new J.J. Abrams? God, I hope not. But at least Watts knows how to finish a trilogy.

3. Rian Johnson is Down But Not Out

Until Rian Johnson says he’s not coming back, there is always a chance. He has been the best at brushing off toxic fans | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

You know, there might end up being a Rian Johnson Star Wars project after all. Unlike Lando, at least his name is dropped in the article. Granted, it is on the back burner but he is not persona non grata like Lando/Donald Glover. The more Kathleen Kennedy gets asked about it, the more I am convinced it might happen. Lucasfilm could be waiting for the Knives Out goodwill to continue and bring him back anytime. Rian Johnson is a great writer and I there is no doubt he can deliver an amazing original Star Wars film with given parameters. As Johnson’s star continues to rise, the loudest critics will fade and he could be invited back. It just might not be for an entire trilogy.

And Lucasfilm will have to cut him a much bigger check.

4. Disney Star Wars is Finally Starting to Pace Itself

Out of the 11 Lucasfilm announced Star Wars projects at 2020 Disney Plus Day, six have made it to production | credit Disney

They are making more. A lot more. The company intends to put out a new Star Wars movie every year for as long as people will buy tickets… It’s the forever franchise.

- Wired, You Won’t Live to See the Final Star Wars Movie

This was the promise, and it initially looked promising. Disney, witnessing the success of churning out MCU film after MCU film, was trying to oversaturate the market with Star Wars. It only took four films for Disney and Lucasfilm to reevaluate this approach with the stumbling of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Given the dominos that fell and changes that can be traced to Solo, this might be the most important Star Wars film from the Disney era, as it forced Lucasfilm to reconsider the pacing of content and whether quantity could keep up with quality.

This worked for Obi-Wan Kenobi as, per the article, in 2020 the scripts were reworked and project temporarily paused to include Darth Vader and Hayden Christensen, who they approached in 2019. And Christensen being in Obi-Wan has paved the way for him to be in Ahsoka (still unconfirmed but also pretty much confirmed).

Having Andor be multiple seasons is an interesting decision and it will be a true test to the commitment of quality poured into Star Wars streaming shows. It is easy to put money into an Obi-Wan Kenobi series when you are marketing it as an “event” with a headliner like Ewan McGregor. Multiple seasons of a character that was middling in popularity requires a focused, mapped-out story. And it seems like Lucasfilm is planning the complete story they want to tell about Andor and that story is rumored to span three seasons.

The Acolyte is taking its time in development and is still the project that I am, personally, looking forward to (having read all the High Republic novels). And we should not want it any other way. Pushing an earlier release rarely works out, within the franchise one could argue that it severely hurt Solo (though I don’t believe the release date had that much to do with its poor box office).

But to Lucasfilm’s credit, they have taken a step back from their previous content strategy (I know, marketing terms are gross). With Star Wars, less is more and fans are still not use to seeing so much in a short period of time, whereas MCU fans have been conditioned for it.

Continuing to diversify with live-action and animation, exploring different timelines, and introducing a healthy dose of new characters with less focus on established ones will help keep Star Wars fatigue at bay.

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