Students of film history will be well aware that before 1977, and the release of Star Wars, the modern summer blockbuster was very much in its infancy. It could be argued that Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, released two years earlier, was the first film to really get those queues snaking round the block, but the first instalment in George Lucas’s long-running space opera triggered Hollywood’s love affair with mass same-day openings, high-octane marketing and the sense of a major movie “event” happening across the globe.
How strange, then, that there is no Star Wars movie currently in production and no real date for when we will next get to see the saga in multiplexes. Disney’s sequel trilogy and the associated nine-film “Skywalker Saga” is complete, and thanks to the fact that 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stank harder than a Tauntaun’s guts, there is no appetite whatsoever for spinoffs, prequels or sequels featuring recently introduced characters such as Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn or Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron. People have even forgotten how cute they once thought BB-8 was. It is as if the entire thing has been quietly swept into the Sarlacc’s throat, never to be seen again (unless it is revived in desperation in a few decades’ time, a la Boba Fett.)
Meanwhile, an entire universe of interlinked Star Wars TV shows is emerging on Disney+, thanks to the ongoing success of Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian. Suddenly nobody is all that interested in the legacy of the Lucas era – and if they are, it’s pretty easy to get your fill of Luke, Leia, Obi-Wan and Boba Fett when they turn up on the small screen. Even when these new Star Wars shows are not quite up to the standard of The Mandalorian – as with the nostalgic but disappointing Book of Boba Fett or the mercurial Obi-Wan Kenobi – the very fact that we get several-episode deep dive on each character means the disappointment will never be on the level of, say, the insipid Solo. And there’s always another Disney+ show just around the corner to whet the appetite, in any case.
Next up (next week) is Andor, which Disney revealed at D23 this weekend will run to at least 24 episodes across two seasons. Starring Diego Luna in the title role, the show begins five years before the events of the excellent Rogue One, and is created by the Bourne saga’s Tony Gilroy (who turned Rogue One around in a sort of high-end, hands-on executive producer role in 2016). Ahsoka, about the Jedi warrior Ahsoka Tano, will arrive in 2023, with Skeleton Crew, about a group of children lost in space following the events of Return of the Jedi, debuting the same year. We can also expect a third season of The Mandalorian in February.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has been saying for some time that all of the above could eventually build up to some kind of climactic event, a la Marvel’s The Avengers. And we know that The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal is keen to see the masked bounty hunter make it to the big screen. Could this be why we haven’t heard much in recent times about Rian Johnson’s mooted Star Wars film trilogy based in another corner of the galaxy, why Taika Waititi himself doesn’t seem to have a scoobie what his forthcoming big-screen effort will be about, and even why Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron has this week been officially removed from the Disney slate?
Disney and Lucasfilm have shown that they are in the business of wish fulfilment. Not so long ago, we all thought the idea of a Star Wars movie showing what happened to Luke Skywalker was a fabulous idea – in the end a vocal minority ended up hating Johnson’s The Last Jedi. A prequel based on the early life of Han Solo seemed like a shoo-in, but Alden Ehrenreich never quite nailed the role, and the studio did a terrible job of managing the production, switching directors halfway through the creative process.
Luckily, Kennedy et al are now in the fortunate position of knowing exactly what fans do want to see on the big screen, and it is most likely to be the continuing adventures of Din Djarin and Baby Yoda, AKA The Child, AKA Grogu. Favreau is an accomplished director, and there would be no need to dig any more dead Star Wars stalwarts out of retirement (though I wouldn’t have an issue with mo-cap Luke making another cameo). Ahsoka, Boba and Katee Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan could all join forces with our heroes to take down a greater threat. Perhaps the film might even reveal the mystery of Yoda and Grogu’s home planet for the first time? Now that would be a reason to head back to the cinema. Apologies for borrowing a slogan from another long-running sci-fi saga, but I really wish Disney would make it so.