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Disney’s Investor Day on Thursday came with more announcements than fans could fully take in during the four-hour presentation. And few franchises have the established fan enthusiasm behind it like Star Wars. It’s no exaggeration to say that Disney+ has helped revitalize the Star Wars brand, with The Mandalorian proving to be one of the few modern-era Star Wars projects that fans both old and new are on the same page about. As revealed from yesterday’s Lucasfilm presentation, delivered by president Kathleen Kennedy, Disney+ will be central to the future of Star Wars, though that’s not to say Lucasfilm doesn’t also have major plans for the big-screen as well.
Star Wars fans have a lot to be excited about, but there were five major takeaways about the galaxy far, far way.
Patty Jenkins and the Cinematic Future of Star Wars
One of the biggest surprises from the Lucasfilm presentation is that Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman (2017) and the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984, will direct the feature film, Rogue Squadron. This will make Patty Jenkins the first woman to direct a Star Wars feature. In the announcement teaser, Jenkins revealed the project is very near in dear to her, and her father, a fighter pilot who died in service of America, inspired her to make “the greatest fighter pilot movie of all-time.”
Rogue Squadron is a name familiar to many Star Wars fans, having been the subject of video games, and comics and novels, written by Michael Stackpole, who congratulated Jenkins on her new gig on Twitter. While those stories, set after the events of Return of the Jedi (1983) are now out of continuity under the Legends banner, Jenkins’ film will seemingly carve out a new future, one set after the events of The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Eagle-eyed fans immediately took notice of the fact that the X-Wing silhouette on the logo is a sequel era X-Wing, and with Kennedy’s statement that the film will “move the saga into the future era of the galaxy.”
This is key because as fun as it is to fill in the gaps between the films and stories we already have, forward motion allows the franchise to expand in surprising ways. And with Jenkins setting up the future, fans can’t help but wonder what new threat has arisen from the ashes of the First Order, and if there will be any references to Rey Skywalker’s new Jedi order. Rogue Squadron is set for release on Dec. 22, 2023.
A New Era
Rogue Squadron launching Star Wars into a post Rise of Skywalker world is the perfect lead-in to the next major takeaway from the Lucasfilm presentation. While series Andor, The Bad Batch, and Obi-Wan Kenobi all take place between the prequels and original trilogy, Lucasfilm is fleshing out the past and future of Star Wars as well, taking us into a previously unseen era. Acolyte, described as a dark side centric mystery-thriller series set during the final days of The High Republic will finally explore pre-Episode I canon. Expect to hear The High Republic used a lot, when it comes to the future of Star Wars’ publishing initiative that sees Lucasfilm utilizing the time period of 200 years before the Skywalker Saga.
The first entry point to this new era, which finds Jedi, including a younger Yoda, at the height of their powers and caught in a conflict with the Viking-like Nihil will be Chares Soule’s novel Light of the Jedi, coming in January. Acolyte, developed by Russian Doll‘s Leslye Headland, seemingly comes near the end of these 200 years, and will further define the dark side. It also will expand Star Wars within another genre, perhaps becoming the closest thing so far to seeing a Star Wars horror project on screen. And who might the Acolyte in question be? If the timeline is any hint, we could see a young Sheev Palpatine’s fall to the dark side and learn more about his mysterious master Darth Plagueis.
Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have proved to be the perfect duo on The Mandalorian, and they’ll be bringing their talents to two new series set during the same time as Din Djarin and Grogu’s adventures. Rangers of the New Republic will follow New Republic soldiers, whose role in the galaxy may not be as welcome as originally imagined given recent revelations on The Mandalorian. Their other spinoff will be Ahsoka, which will follow Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson). The three series will feature several interconnected storylines and will culminate in what Kennedy referred to as a “climatic story event.” Whether or not that means The Mandalorian has an end-game in sight, or if the event will be a one-time special remains to be seen.
The structure of these series tying together is similar to what Marvel Studios is doing with the MCU, and while asking casual fans to follow three series in order to fully understand the events of one may seem like a tall order, Marvel Studios has certainly proved to be successful in tightly-knit shared universes. And already The Mandalorian has been leaning heavily on the events of The Clone Wars and Rebels. So what will that climatic event entail? The retaking of Mandalore, alongside Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) seems like a likely scenario. And it also wouldn’t be surprising if that event is where Thrawn rears his ugly, blue head.
Speaking of Star Wars villains, Darth Vader is returning for the limited series Obi-Wan Kenobi, where he’ll once again be portrayed by Hayden Christensen. That’s right, Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen will be reuniting on screen for the first time since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. The series directed by Deborah Chow, set ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, will see Kenobi and Vader cross sabers again. We know how that went last time when the Jedi Master left his fallen former apprentice wrecked and burning on Mustafar. Undoubtedly fans are hoping for a bit more action and choreography in this showdown than their final duel in A New Hope, where Lucas was obviously still getting the hang of delivering lightsaber duels. But is Christensen’s return a one-time event? Let’s face facts, Star Wars is never going to fully move past the iconography of Vader, and despite several great comic series filling in the years of Vader’s journey fans have clamored for a series or movie featuring the Sith Lord, even more so after his scene in Rogue One (2016). Whether this leads to his own series, or he shows up in another Star Wars project, I don’t think Obi-Wan Kenobi will be the last time we see Vader on screen.
While many, including myself, are still holding out for a Solo series, following the events of Ron Howard’s prequel, we may be getting the next best thing. Few details were revealed about Justin Simien’s Lando “event series,” other than the fact it will follow the galaxy’s most notorious scoundrel, Lando Calrissian. Kennedy didn’t have much to share about the project in terms of cast or even setting but the announcement got me thinking about the best way to honor the character as played by Billy Dee Williams and Donald Glover. In Lucasfilm’s The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, the young adventures of Indy were bookended by an older version of the character. It would be a fun tip of the hat to that series, and Han Solo if Lando were to follow a similar format with Billy Dee Williams opening and closing stories about his sordid past, a past that could include Donald Glover’s Lando and maybe a reunion with Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo as the deal with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and the mounting threat of Maul’s criminal organization Crimson Dawn.
That’s really only the tips of the iceberg in terms of what’s coming down the line with Andor delivering espionage in the Star Wars saga, The Bad Batch and Visions continuing Lucasfilm’s tradition in animation, and A Droid Story continuing the adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO. It seems Lucasfilm has something in store for every Star Wars fan, from those who just want to see the return of favorites to those looking to explore every corner the galaxy has to offer.
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