Following rumors last week that Lucasfilm had canceled the Disney+ series focused around Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, we seem to have reached a clearer truth. According to reporting by Collider, the crew behind the series were told to go home with the production being delayed indefinitely. That’s close enough to be a cancellation, but the Collider report says that the issue is script related. Screenwriter Hossein Amini (Drive) was tasked with writing the show, but Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy wasn’t happy with the final product.
The indefinite delay is because they have to actually find someone to rewrite the scripts. Further reporting by The Hollywood Reporter says that two scripts were written and scrapped, and Lucasfilm is looking for a new writer. One source said that the issue is that Obi-Wan’s story — which should theoretically take place with him in exile on Tatooine — was leaning a bit too close to The Mandalorian. THR also says that the show might be reconfigured from six episodes to four. Director Deborah Chow and MeGregor remain attached to the project.
“We just pushed the shoot to the beginning of next year. The scripts are really good. I saw 90% of the writing and I really liked it,” McGregor told The Wrap. “All this bulls — about creative differences and all that stuff is, none of it true. It’s not nearly as dramatic as it sounds online.”
So, it’s probably not that bad for the Obi-Wan show. It is bad for Lucasfilm because it continues of the perception of being poorly managed, with a host of production delays and changes. Following the failure of the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, director Josh Trank dropped out of his planned Star Wars film. Tony Gilroy, an uncredited writer for Rogue One, actually directed reshoots for the film instead of director Gareth Edwards.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, were originally helming Solo: A Star Wars Story. They departed the project six months into filming, and were replaced by veteran director Ron Howard. After Solo bombed at the box office with $393 million worldwide on a $250+ million budget, Lucasfilm canceled other rumored Star Wars spinoffs as part of a “slowdown”.
Colin Trevorrow, who was supposed to be the director of sequel trilogy-ending Episode IX, left the film citing the classic “creative differences”. He was replaced by J.J. Abrams, who ultimately delivered Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, a film will end with the lowest gross of the sequel trilogy. And the following series of films was supposed to be handled by Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, with the first film coming in 2022. They left that project late last year, citing a full schedule.
Declining box office numbers, canceled projects, multiple directors gone. It’s not the best picture for Lucasfilm. Disney itself already carries the perception of being unfriendly to creatives, but Lucasfilm is that problem in a microcosm. Many changes in production seems to point to trouble in the management, or at least executives that won’t commit.
(As a side of speculation, it’s noticeable that three of the directors were separated from their projects soon after creative and commercial failures: Trank and Fantastic Four, Trevorrow and The Book of Henry, and Benioff and Weiss following the response to the eighth season of Game of Thrones. It paints a picture of executives that only want to bet on winners.)
Marvel Studios has also had a few issues in the production of its upcoming slate of films and television shows. Dr. Strange director Scott Derrickson dropped out of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, only five months ahead of production. That means Marvel will have to find another director to pick up the pre-production work of Derrickson’s team, since no delays are expected. Hawkeye, one of the Disney+ shows announced with much fanfare are San Diego Comic-Con 2019, seems to be treading water. Shows announced after Hawkeye, including Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk, look to be moving into production much faster with shooting starting this year.
The difference is Marvel is coming off of a very strong 2019 with Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel. (Spider-Man: Far From Home as well, but that’s technically Sony Pictures’ film.) Lucasfilm instead has the divisive The Last Jedi, and the vastly underperforming Solo and The Rise of Skywalker. Perception is everything. Following a success, people are inclined to expect more success. The same is true when you fail. (See also: The DC films over at Warner Bros, which still have to wipe away the stain of Justice League, despite being largely successful and profitable since then.)
It doesn’t help that Marvel Studios is handling the post-Endgame transition well. Hawkeye might be mysteriously absent, but Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s production seems to be going fine, and WandaVision has been pushed up from 2021 to 2020. Black Widow and The Eternals are looking to continue the box office streak in 2020. And a sequel to Captain Marvel is in development. Moves like that project confidence.
But this need to pick itself up and right the ship is why the delays aren’t a bad thing. The Mandalorian is an unqualified success for Star Wars. Lucasfilm has to build on that with another successful project. The studio has to prove that all is well with the franchise.
That means every show and film has to be a winner from now on, or at the very least good and successful. After Solo and The Rise of Skywalker, Lucasfilm can’t afford anything less than threes from the line. Obi-Wan, Cassian Andor, The Mandalorian Season 2, and whatever Star Wars film is now coming in 2022 all need to hit. The studio can’t let Obi-Wan come in for a rough reception. Lucasfilm took a fall, but now it has to stand up and say “I’m okay”.
The delays don’t really matter. Warner Bros has been trying to get The Flash made since 2014 across like five different creative teams, but if the final film is great, none of that matters. It’ll just be apocrypha. If 2022 begins a streak of hits for Lucasfilm and Star Wars, all will be forgotten and forgiven.
The truth is people want the metastory of the films and franchises. It needs to wildly overperform or underperform expectations. If it’s neither of those things, it’s not worth the discussion. And Lucasfilm is underperforming, leading to articles like this and a host of dunking YouTube videos. That’s the nature of the machine. It’ll be bad until it’s not bad anymore, and then we’ll probably keep talking about the bad times.
So, for the time being, let’s file Lucasfilm under “caution”, instead of “red alert”. Obi-Wan has been delayed, but Lucasfilm hasn’t put an Order 66 out on all its projects yet.