Tuesday brought big news for a galaxy far, far away. Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have signed on to create a new series of Star Wars movies, with the announcement from Lucasfilm coming just months after November’s revelation that Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson is developing his own trilogy for the franchise.
The latest news is a hint at where Lucasfilm is looking to take the Star Wars property as a whole, but one that raises an obvious question: What’s happening to the stand-alone Star Wars Story movies?
As originally announced, the Star Wars Story films were to alternate with the new episodes of the central series of movies, later defined by the studio as the “Skywalker Saga.” The Story pics would be one-offs, exploring parts of the galaxy that the core storyline left untouched, and allowing new filmmakers to come in and give their own voices to the property as a whole; the directors initially connected to the Story movies were young and up-and-coming, suggesting that this could be the future of the franchise, and a way to expand it beyond what had previously existed.
And then, things went wrong. A lot.
It’s fair to say that none of the Star Wars Story movies have been smooth sailing to date. First, filmmaker Josh Trank was removed from the second of the stand-alone movies after reports of difficult behavior on Fox’s Fantastic Four set. (Fantastic Four flopped resoundingly; it’s worth noting that Lucasfilm also removed original Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow after his Book of Henry failed in a similarly public manner.) Rogue One underwent extensive reworking in postproduction, with veteran helmer Tony Gilroy taking over the movie to get it to meet Lucasfilm’s expectations. (It ultimately became a critical and commercial hit and was the top-grossing film domestically of 2016.) Most recently, Solo directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord were fired just weeks away from the end of principal photography, with another veteran, Ron Howard, installed to finish the film.
With that kind of batting average, it’s understandable that Lucasfilm might be rethinking the entire Star Wars Story program. With fans still clamoring for spinoffs such as a Boba Fett solo film and an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie to be directed by Stephen Daldry, it’s possible that audiences can expect more stand-alone films in the future. But it’s also easy to imagine that Lucasfilm could quietly fold the initiative altogether. (Even if it doesn’t, Daldry is hardly the upcoming new talent that the Story movies seemed to be initially promoting, so there’s been some internal rethinking under way.)
If the Story pics continue, the fact of two upcoming new Star Wars series running concurrently might mean that there’s little to no space on the release schedule for stand-alone movies across the next few years. (Unless, of course, Disney and Lucasfilm intend to increase the release schedule for Star Wars post-2019, when the final episode of the “Skywalker Saga” finishes; that is definitely a possibility given the success of the last three Star Wars movies.) Could the ramping up of new, continuing Star Wars properties be the excuse Lucasfilm needed to shelve the stand-alones until a later date, when the machine will run more smoothly — or, at least, not break down so publicly?