What the Past Two Weeks in Star Wars News Says About the Franchise
The good, the bad, and the downright absurd
There has been so much news coming out of Disney’s content hole the past few weeks, including Star Wars news. So as not to sound like a broken record, there were three interesting things I noticed over the past few weeks (which includes D23) about Star Wars.
The Good: The High Republic shows are targeting new audiences for the newest era of Star Wars
With all the news from the live-action side of Star Wars, it is easy to forget that there are actually TWO High Republic shows releasing on Disney Plus: The Acolyte and Young Jedi Adventures. The Acolyte recently added Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) Jodie Turner Smith (Anne Boleyn), Manny Jacinto (The Good Place) and Charlie Bennett (Russian Doll) to the cast. They join Amandla Stenberg in what is now the most diverse cast in any Star Wars series or film (none of these actors are white). I am sure white actors will trickle into the cast in the coming months before the show starts filming but, right now, the cast is a mix of people from the Asian, Black, international, and queer communities. And if you have read a High Republic novel, it is easy to understand why: The High Republic is the most inclusive piece of content Star Wars has ever put out and having a cast that can reflect that is Star Wars living up to its potential of truly being for everyone.
On the animation front, Young Jedi Adventures will cover Jedi Younglings during the High Republic era with a younger (but still old) Yoda. But it will also be the first animation series in canon that will be on Disney Junior and Disney Plus, specifically targeting preschool and grade school aged children. The High Republic takes place at a time when the Jedi are at their peak so having a series for this age group where you can show Younglings learning about the Force is a genius way for Star Wars to introduce the world to the youngest possible audience. And being on Disney Junior will still open the youngsters up to ads for all their favorite future toys.
The Bad: Even with its own Convention, Lucasfilm Still has Problems Presenting
No matter what you might think about the quality of MCU series, there is no doubt that live events like San Diego Comic Con and D23 is where the MCU shines. A lot of that has to do with the most charismatic executive in recent memory, Kevin Feige, but it is also the presence of the cast of these shows (and films). Seeing actors interact and react to new footage or trailers is part of the experience.
And, for whatever reason, Star Wars rarely comes close to shining as bright. There were no new series announced, no new films. Granted Star Wars Celebration happened earlier in the year with some new series announcements. And Star Wars Celebration did have Ewan McGregor shouldering a lot of the weight in promotion for Obi-Wan Kenobi and had a great response. However, Marvel just recently owned San Diego Comic Con with a full panel of announcements, still had plenty of news for D23 and still left things on the table enough to disappoint fans.
To be fair, Star Wars does not output nearly as much content as Marvel but D23 was so light on casting reveals (most had been rumored or leaked before the event) that there was not much headline news outside of The Mandalorian trailer and Indiana Jones 5.
Imagine if Leslye Headland got to bring the entire cast of The Acolyte out and talk a little more about the film before it starts shooting? Or if the Ezra reveal would have been announced on stage with the rest of the cast? Instead, the casting of Eman Esfandi leaked with almost no response or acknowledgement at D23. At the very least, they could have had the cast on hand to release the footage they showed at Star Wars Celebration earlier this year (that was the case for The Mandalorian Season 3 trailer and Tales of the Jedi trailer).
Honestly, if there is one thing I learned about Lucasfilm’s presence at D23 is that it is truly an afterthought compared with Marvel and Walt Disney Studios (possibly Pixar). And that is on Lucasfilm Publicity. Last year, Chris Coxall was announced as the new PR Head replacing the retired Lynn Hale. Coxall has now had a Star Wars Celebration and D23 that have been larger underwhelming.
Lucasfilm lacks charismatic leadership in the vein of Kevin Feige who seems to have great relationships and chemistry with the MCU actors (and yes I include Dave Filoni in that leadership). Filoni is great in interviews and in one-on-one interviews but he is not on stage for multiple presentations and interactions with cast members. I don’t have the answers for how Star Wars panels can be more interesting but perhaps they can try including the actors more.
The Absurd: If you do not have Disney Plus, you might forget all about Star Wars by the time it’s on the big screen again.
If you are a Star Wars fan I sure hope you see something you like among the many upcoming Disney Plus series. And, if you don’t...well you can always revisit the one or two films you probably do like. We knew it was coming but recent reports have confirmed that Patty Jenkin’s Rogue Squadron film (scheduled for release in 2023) has been removed from Disney’s release schedule. We are not seeing a Star Wars film until the end of 2025 (at the very least).
I like the Disney Plus shows and some of them I even love. But I miss seeing Star Wars on the big screen. And the last episode of a Star Wars show where I truly felt like I was watching a film was the first episode of The Mandalorian season two, “The Marshal.” I hope that Andor can bring some of that film magic to the small screen (if only for consistency since it is directly tied to the film, Rogue One). But there is another reason why this kind of sucks.
While a lot of people do have a subscription to Disney Plus, there are far more who do not. And Star Wars fans who do not. I know it might be hard for some to believe, but you can be a fan of a franchise and not want to get tied to a digital subscription service. And Star Wars will run the risk of losing many fans and potential fans who just are not watching content on Disney Plus. A theatrical film would have still given those audiences an option to experience the franchise in the best way possible. As it stands, it feels more like those people are getting left behind. Star Wars now genuinely runs the risk of becoming a small screen franchise…and all I can do is laugh at the absurdity of it all.