Star Wars Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Star Wars shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry examines the current never-ending Star Wars slate and how Taika Waititi could save it.
A funny feeling came over me the other night. I was watching the new Middle Classy Netflix special from Cristela Alonzo. She opens her set lamenting our current pandemic hellscape, “Covid has become like Star Wars. Every couple of months, there’s a new one out. Oh man, Omicron’s out? I haven’t finished seeing The Mandalorian yet!”
The joke is a good one, and it kills. The joke is also an insane premise for a kid growing up during the long dry spell between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace. In the early nineties, we had scraps feeding our fandom – a novel here, a comic book there. The vibe in those stories didn’t always gel with what we knew from the films, but we went with it. They were sure as hell better than those silly-ass Ewok movies or the Star Wars Holiday Special.
Now, Disney wants to keep us fat on Star Wars. The Book of Boba Fett leads to Obi–Wan Kenobi, clearing the path for Andor and The Bad Batch. Between the shows, we’ve got countless comics pumping out of Marvel and Dark Horse Comics. Plus, the games, the theme parks, the toys. Yet, we’re left waiting for the next Star Wars movie, and as much as I love everything else, Star Wars is primarily a movie entertainment in my head.
Currently, there are three dates slotted for potential Star Wars flicks:
- December 22, 2023
- December 19, 2025
- December 17, 2027
At one point, the Patty Jenkins Rogue Squadron movie was expected to slide into that first position. The film is still on the books, but the news around it becomes quieter and quieter. Let’s not even talk about the Rian Johnson follow-up trilogy. Is J.D. Dillard still attached to a movie? Maybe? Not a lot of talk on that one, either.
Right now, the most noise regarding a new Star Wars film rests with Taika Waititi. He made a little stir a few weeks back, telling Games Radar that his Star Wars adventure would finally break away from the Skywalker Saga. As he said, “For the Star Wars universe to expand, it has to expand. I don’t think I’m any use in the Star Wars universe making a film where everyone’s like, ‘Oh great, well that’s the blueprints to the Millenium Falcon, ah that’s Chewbacca’s grandmother.'”
Waititi’s statement caused joy or concern depending on where your fandom rests. The primary Star Wars narrative cannot escape the Skywalkers; they’ve invaded Rogue One, The Mandalorian, and The Book of Boba Fett. Just when you think Lucasfilm is ready to pull away from their Chosen One mythology, they fall right back into it. Waititi promising something entirely new aligns with how we older folks saw the franchise back in the nineties.
The Expanded Universe was and still is a vast playground where anything can happen. There, you can find Jedi stories, bounty hunter stories, Stormtrooper stories, etc. With the Skywalkers’ story complete, Star Wars can operate like the western or the noir. It’s a dressing to drape your tale, a vibe to sit inside.
However, as Waititi makes the rounds promoting Thor: Love and Thunder, he has also found a way to burst our bubble. In an interview with The New York Times, the director said, “I’m trying to write the Star Wars idea at the moment. I’ve got to see how that goes because once I submit it, that might determine when it gets made or if it gets made, even.”
Star Wars movies are anything but certain right now. The sequel trilogy delivered a box office of diminishing returns, but if other filmmakers are to be believed, the real failure was Solo: A Star Wars Story. You may have noticed that screenwriter Stuart Beattie has several “Story By” credits on the Obi–Wan Kenobi series. He didn’t work on that show, but he did work on the original proposed trilogy that Obi–Wan Kenobi became.
When speaking to The Direct, Beattie said, “It was Solo that changed the direction of the system…it hadn’t made a lot of money. It certainly crushed us. Devastated, absolutely devastated. But, that’s the business, you know, highs and lows…I’m glad the show got made. I’m proud of my story…I’m glad my characters are all through it, and I’m glad I got credit for it. I wish they’d been able to make my movies.”
The Mandalorian gave Lucasfilm a comfortable model post-The Rise of Skywalker. Disney+ is a safe platform, and they’re playing it safe there. So far, every show they’ve delivered leans heavily into nostalgia, making sure to maintain tradition, and ruffling zero fan feathers. Well, we’re talking Star Wars, there are always feathers to be ruffled, and the reaction to Obi–Wan Kenobi is proof of that.
Shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels demonstrated that you could create new ground, especially new emotional ground when looking at the franchise in reverse. “Prequel” need not be a dirty word. With that said, the more Lucasfilm re-explores previously established canon, the more the walls push in. We’re quickly running out of space in the story, with the middle section dominating the beginning and the end of the Skywalker Saga. Therefore, we need another saga or many other sagas.
I would absolutely love it if Taika Waititi were given the keys to a kingdom far away from Tatooine, somewhere along the Outer, Outer Rim. His perceived hesitancy in The New York Times interview gives pause, though. As does The Book of Boba Fett becoming a Mandalorian side quest, and Obi–Wan Kenobi concluding as a mirror to battles fought in Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, and Return of the Jedi.
Seeing what Waititi can do in the Marvel Cinematic Universe suggests a possible narrative and tonal departure for Star Wars. We accepted Thor: Ragnarok, but I worry that if we don’t also accept Thor: Love and Thunder (which, by the way, strays even further from the usual Marvel Studios tone), then a frequently skittish Lucasfilm could dustbin it.
The Last Jedi remains Star Wars‘ most adventurous departure from the expected, and the studio ran from it as some viewers got too loud online. Here’s the thing, though. They’ve now spoonfed us what those dissenters were supposedly clamoring for, and that noise never faded. Psst, it never will.
Star Wars is simply too big. No matter what they concoct, a portion of the audience will hate it and spit their venom online. Lucasfilm should just deal. Taika Waititi is absolutely right. Should Star Wars continue to serve us Millenium Falcon blueprints and long-lost Skywalker relatives, then eventually, the story will collapse on itself. There will be no room to maneuver.
More and more folks are starting to see Star Wars as Cristela Alonzo sees it, as a virus. It’s a funny gag today, but if Lucasfilm is not careful, the masses will crave inoculation. The franchise needs some invigorating unpredictability and a little weirdness. Taika Waititi can deliver.