As all eyes are on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker as the concluding chapter in the entire Skywalker Saga, many are asking, “What’s next?” Disney has announced release dates for untitled Star Wars movies arriving in the future, and we know that Rian Johnson is developing a trilogy of new films, but beyond that next to nothing has been confirmed. Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were developing their own series of Star Wars movies, but they left over creative differences this fall and the status of their projects is TBD.
However, the future may be starting to take shape as Lucasfilm surveys the road ahead. THR reports that they have a director lined up to helm their 2022 movie (which is not the one helmed by Rian Johnson), but won’t be announcing who it is until next year. It’s reasonable to assume they’re a bit gun-shy, as only two out of five of the new Star Wars movies have had their directors remain onboard through the entire process: J.J. Abrams on The Force Awakens and Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi. For Rogue One, Tony Gilroy famously took over the film during reshoots; on Solo, Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired in the middle of production and replaced with Ron Howard; and for Rise of Skywalker, Colin Trevorrow exited the project over creative differences before filming began, paving the way for Abrams to return.
Some have pointed the finger at Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy here, and while some criticism is warranted, I’d also point out that she’s in uncharted territory. Previously, the Star Wars franchise was guided by George Lucas and his vision. With Lucas out, it’s up to Kennedy and her Lucasfilm team to decide what Star Wars is going forward. That’s easier said than done.
While THR doesn’t go so far as to say Kennedy will be ousted, they do note that her contract with Lucasfilm ends in 2021. If she bows out at that time, she’ll have completed what she was hired to do: make a new trilogy of Star Wars movies. And I’d say on the whole, she was successful. The Force Awakens jump-started the franchise with a new creative vision on the big screen for the very first time, and got fans excited about these new characters. The Last Jedi was a critical darling and a box office hit, despite rubbing some hardcore fans the wrong way with its challenging storytelling. And Rogue One grossed over $1 billion despite its production problems. Indeed, Solo is the only outright bomb in the bunch, and I’d say a serious reason for its failure was its release date set six months after the release of Last Jedi—something Kennedy fought against and lost, as Disney CEO Bob Iger was the one who wanted Solo released so dang early.
But the issues with directors is hard to ignore, and as Kennedy and Lucasfilm try to forge a path forward, THR says it is producer and Lucasfilm senior vp live-action development and production Michelle Rejwan, Jon Favreau, and Dave Filoni who will have “a lot of say over the future of Star Wars.” Favreau famously really wanted the Force Awakens directing job, and he wrote the Disney+ series The Mandalorian on spec before receiving a greenlight from Lucasfilm. Filoni, meanwhile, was a student of George Lucas’ and created and guided The Clone Wars animated series before making his live-action debut on The Mandalorian.
THR also takes a moment to squash rumors of a Kevin Feige takeover, noting that the Marvel Studios president has his hands full with the MCU having just been promoted to Marvel chief creative officer.
Star Wars is at a crossroads after Rise of Skywalker, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of path it takes—and if Kennedy remains at the helm. Some of the movies have been good, some have been bad, and while I’d say the franchise was rushed a bit (what made Star Wars special in the past was that there wasn’t a new film every year), it wasn’t like Disney was just going to sit back and let this franchise slowly take shape. At the end of the day, they’re a company, and Star Wars is just another commodity to exploit.
We’ll see what happens next, but I think we’ll learn a lot from who Kennedy and Lucasfilm have selected to helm the 2022 movie. Any guesses?