In terms of entertainment news, 2020 has been relatively quiet. The biggest news day for films this year has been DC Fandome event earlier this year, that is, until Disney said “hold my beer.” In a four-hour investor meeting streamed online, Disney unveiled their plans for the near future, showcasing upgrades to Disney+, their popular streaming platform, new content and where brands like Pixar and Marvel will be heading in the years to come. But despite the rocky relation Disney’s had with Star Wars, this is where the surprises came, as the Mouse House boldly revealed that they were doubling down on a galaxy far, far away and showcased six new shows, updates for three others, confirmed the launch window for The Mandalorian season 3 and revealed what the next theatrical film would be. That’s a lot of content. But is it too much?
There was certainly a lot of goodies coming out of the Marvel camp yesterday, whether it be trailers for Loki that showcased Owen Wilson as a co-star or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the confirmation of a Fantastic Four feature directed by Jon Watts, Secret Wars, Ironheart and Armor Wars all coming to the platform or the big screen in the future. But the future of Star Wars looks much more interesting. Per the reveal, we got some new information pertaining to the already announced Cassian Andor series (titled Andor, of course) and the Kenobi series, titled Obi-Wan Kenobi, both of which I’m intrigued and excited about for different reasons.
The latter will see the return of Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader, in a move that both excites me and confuses me in terms of the timeline, as I’m not sure it really makes sense for Kenobi to leave Tatooine which looks like it will happen as Vader can’t go to the planet as Kenobi’s hiding spot will be busted. I’ve always professed that a Kenobi show is one of the last things we needed, but it’s happening and all I can do now is hope that it’ll be good. But Deborah Chow, who directed two episodes of The Mandalorian in season one, will be directing all six episodes of this short, which gives me hope, as does seeing McGregor back in the role. Andor also looks very appealing, with Tony Gilroy (Bourne, Nightcrawler) serving as showrunner. This show will take an otherwise blank slate of a character from Rogue One and inject some story into him at the heart of a spy-thriller series that should be both original and uncontradictory. It’s unknown for now if this is limited or not, but we do know that this series will have 12 episodes, as oppose to Mando’s eight per season, so it’s a coin toss. Likewise, we got a trailer for the sequel to The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch. While at first, this seemed like an unusual series to announce, The Bad Batch’s trailer was actually awesome and I can’t wait to dive into it as it’s definitely carrying the torch of the iconic animated series.
Then the genie came out of the bottle. We’re getting a slew of new shows on Disney+ centred around Star Wars. We’ll be getting Ranger of the New Republic and Ahsoka in the near future, both of which will intersect with Mandalorian in a “story event” as they’re being executive produced by Jon Favreau. Rosario Dawson will return as Ahsoka for the series while Rangers of the New Republic may be around either Cara Dune or the X-Wing pilots patrolling the outer rim in The Mandalorian if I had to guess.
A Lando series, which is being developed by Dear White People’s Justin Simien, is also coming (but we don’t know which Lando will be the star) while Russian Doll’s Lesley Headland is working on The Acolyte, which will be a mystery/thriller set in the final days of The High Republic and showcase some emerging powers of the dark side. So this may be a Sith series, perhaps even a Darth Plageuis series. Regardless, this is what I’m most interested in as it feels wholly unique to anything that’s come before it by focusing on the villains for once, something the books have no problems doing (especially in Legends) but that Lucasfilm under Disney has been warier about. Also, this is a nitpick, but Lucasfilm needs a better way of naming their properties other than people’s names (Solo, Andor, Lando, Obi-Wan Kenobi). I believe Alex from Star Wars Explained said it best already, but the Lando series should have been called the Calrissian Chronicles.
Not only that, but we’ll have Star Wars Visions, which will be an anthology anime series from 10 different visionaries from Japan. I’m guessing this will be like the Animatrix. Finally, we’ll get A Droid Story, a new animated series about a new droid working with C-3P0 and R2-D2.
We got a look at what’s coming theatrically too. Patty Jenkins is directing Rogue Squadron, which is a surprise to I think just about everyone and likely based on a concept that was on the shelf during the “Star Wars Story” days, before those films were put on hold (it seems that banner is done for though, as it’s nowhere to been found on the Rogue Squadron logo). Set to debut in December 2023, the story will naturally follow the exploits of the fabled squadron. Will Wedge show up? When will this take place? I don’t know, but let the theorizing begin. Likewise, we got some nuggets on the Taika Waiti film, which is said to be “fresh, unexpected, and…unique[…] his enormous talent and sense of humor will ensure that audiences are in for an unforgettable ride.” I enjoy Taika as a director, I think he knows his way around a set and how to make characters memorable and while he certainly proved his chops directing the finale The Mandalorian in season one, I worry that this statement forecasts a wackier Star Wars ride akin to Thor Ragnarok.
So that’s an exhausting amount of Star Wars coming, especially for a fandom that’s still rather fractured and recovering from the divisiveness of the sequel trilogy. But is it too much? That’s a question that’s too early to answer now, but considering how emotions were running around the time of The Last Jedi and Solo, it could very well be. Many people lamented that Solo was released too close to The Last Jedi, which created viewer fatigue as Star Wars films are often seen as a special event that benefits from being spaced out, rather than a Marvel property that can have multiple IPs released in the same calendar year. And to be fair, Disney is honouring that statement. Between The Rise of Skywalker and Rogue Squadron, it will have been a four-year wait between theatrical releases.
However, the amount of content on Disney+ is very high and one may worry about desaturation. And while it’s certainly something we should all be wary of, I think Lucasfilm and Disney are, at least slightly, aware of this issue, which is why many of these new shows are actually limited series and won’t last longer than a season. Lando, Ahsoka and I would imagine Rangers, are all listed as either event series or limited, and Kenobi was confirmed ages ago to be only six episodes. A Droid Story and Visions likely won’t have the same cultural impact as anything else on this list and are more of a little cherry on the cake, as opposed to a slice of it. Droid in particular seems the most random and least exciting at this point.
Upon seeing the future slate of Star Wars, I find myself conflicted. Many of these stories legitimately look interesting. I wrote about how we should return to the world established in Solo and looks like we’re going to be getting that in Lando, and The Acolyte looks like the first visual narrative under the Disney banner to perhaps focus on the villains as protagonists. Having Hayden return as Vader feels like the comeback we’ve all wanted for him. I mentioned how I was a bit worried that episode five of season 2 of The Mandalorian sort of felt like a backdoor pilot for Ahsoka, and that turned out to be true, and I’m probably least excited for Ahsoka and Rangers at this point. They feel like additions and expansions to The Mandalorian, and wonder why the Ahsoka series, in particular, can’t be animated as the character was traditionally presented. I would expect this series to be trippy and weird for casual fans, based on the logo of the show, which seems to suggest The World Between Worlds.
With two more Stagecraft stages being built, I think this is only a preview of what the decade will be like at Disney and Lucasfilm. This slate will largely cover the next few years, with many of these shows and one movie coming in 2022 and 2023. But what comes next? By 2025, will we be getting a Disney Investors Meeting that reveals 20 new shows? Disney is on a slippery slope that risks alienating and oversaturating their marketing. For the time being, we can enjoy what’s already slated to come, but I hope Disney doesn’t make the same mistake they were already making in 2017. Just because the content is being released at home doesn’t mean it won’t feel like too much. Time will tell if that’s the case.