Star Wars Celebration Ignores Franchise’s Movie Future

·4 min read

There is no shortage of television shows set in a galaxy far, far away.

During Disney and Lucasfilm’s presentation at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif., most of the time was devoted to introducing new series like “Skeleton Crew,” starring Jude Law, and “Andor,” featuring Diego Luna in a prequel to “Rogue One,” as well as long-in-the-works titles like “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” which premieres on May 27.

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But in contrast to the robust slate of “Star Wars” TV series set for Disney+, the franchise’s feature film landscape has been as desolate as the sands of Tatooine in the wake of 2019’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” That’s surprising, since “Star Wars” is one of Hollywood’s biggest properties and the studio has a trio of untitled space opera movies set to hit theaters around Christmas every other year starting in 2023.

Even more eyebrow-raising, Disney didn’t completely ignore movies during its hour-and-a-half presentation. The studio found time to showcase a different, long-running saga, trotting out “Indiana Jones” star Harrison Ford and director James Mangold to promote the upcoming fifth installment in the adventure franchise. “Indy 5” opens in theaters on June 30, 2023 — mere months before the so-called “Star Wars” movie is expected to land on the big screen.

A year after “Rise of Skywalker” premiered, Disney announced during its 2020 Investors Day presentation that “Wonder Woman” filmmaker Patty Jenkins would direct “Star Wars: Rogue Squadron,” and the film would premiere in December 2023. By November 2021, however, Lucasfilm delayed production, purportedly due to scheduling conflicts with Jenkins, who is also committed to direct a sequel to 2020’s “Wonder Woman 1984.”

Yet in Vanity Fair’s cover story this month, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy admitted that “Rogue Squadron” would not make the December 2023 release date as Jenkins continued to work on the script. Instead, Kennedy indicated a movie that Taika Waititi directed and co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“1917”), would be the first feature film to follow “The Rise of Skywalker.” But in order to make a December 2023 release, Waititi would need to begin filming no later that the fall — when his upcoming movie, “Next Goal Wins,” is expected to premiere for Searchlight.

Beyond the Waititi and Jenkins feature projects, the picture has been much murkier for where “Star Wars” movies are heading. In March, Kennedy waved off speculation that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige was actively producing a “Star Wars” movie for Lucasfilm, saying that while she’d “love to see at some point” what Feige would do, “there isn’t anything specifically on the horizon.”

In May, however, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” screenwriter Michael Waldron told Variety that he’s started actively writing a “Star Wars” script for Feige, noting that he’s currently working on a story that “doesn’t have a bunch of TV shows and movies that you’re servicing on top of it.” When or whether that script would be greenlit and made remains unclear.

Beyond that? Kennedy said that Rian Johnson, director of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” remains “very committed” to making a new trilogy of “Star Wars” films for the studio, which were first announced before “The Last Jedi” debuted. But the director’s commitment to his “Knives Out” film series, now at Netflix, has kept him far, far away from the “Star Wars” galaxy, and likely will for some time. And there’s been no update on news from February 2020 that “Sleight” director J.D. Dillard and “Luke Cage” writer Matt Owens are developing a “Star Wars” project (including whether it’s for theaters or Disney+).

On the red carpet at Star Wars Celebration, Kennedy remained vague about the franchise’s next steps.

“We had so much to highlight with the new television that we have coming. We’re going to have plenty of time to showcase in the same way what we’re doing in the movie space. We’re all really excited with where that’s going,” she told Variety.

Though “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” crossed $1 billion at the box office in 2019, the tentpole fell considerably short of its predecessors, 2015’s “The Force Awakens” and 2017’s “The Last Jedi,” in terms of worldwide ticket sales. Prior to that, 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” an origin story about Han Solo, became the first “Star Wars” movie ever to lose money. Those back-to-back declines make it painfully clear that not everything set in the sci-fi universe had the Midas touch.

With that sobering reality — and without concrete plans — “A New Hope” isn’t just the name of a onetime blockbuster. It’s become a mantra for the future of Star Wars on the big screen.

Marc Malkin contributed to this report.

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