Star Wars Celebration took place over the weekend in London, a mini Comic-Con for the Force set, though all the big announcements were contained to Friday. Once you get through all the grandstanding, there’s not actually THAT much news, though Disney and Lucasfilm know how to make even the tiniest casting confirmations feel like big news. For instance, they hyped the hell out of Mary Elizabeth Winstead being confirmed as the live-action Hera Syndulla for the upcoming series, Ahsoka, but it didn’t get much traction outside of the usual nerd circles.
Ahsoka will also feature Lars Mikkelsen, brother of Mads, as Grand Admiral Thrawn, the villain he voices on Star Wars Rebels. Ahsoka is jumping off that animated series, following Ahsoka Tano’s quest to find Ezra Bridger. Rosario Dawson is reprising her Mandalorian role as Ahsoka, and Eman Esfandi will play Ezra. The trailer is good enough.
I think it speaks to the decline in Star Wars’ pop culture caché, though, that none of the news was internet-breaking stuff. From an industry perspective, it was business as usual, just a bunch of new shows and movies and no real response to having three new Star Wars movies on the horizon. Maybe it's because we’ve been living with the threat of new Star Wars movies for years and they keep not materializing, much like DC films, perhaps it’s an issue of audience trust—why get excited when none of this stuff ever actually happens?
This newest crop of films includes a film from Star Wars TV guru Dave Filoni focused on the climax of the story being told in The Mandalorian and the other TV series, of the power struggle between the “Imperial Remnant” and the New Republic that took power after the events of the original trilogy. If you’re watching The Mandalorian season three, you can see this coming because a lot of that series is currently focused on how the New Republic can barely maintain anything, which opens the door for the First Order to coalesce out of the dregs of the Empire. I know The Mandalorian is popular, and Andor is VERY good if less popular, but generally Star Wars TV is a mixed bag and I’m not sure people are really clamoring for an entire movie about the rise of the First Order but okay.
Another feature film is coming from director James Mangold, who is currently wrapping up Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (more on that later). It will focus on the ancient past and the first Jedi to use the Force. Sure.
And finally, in a desperate attempt to squeeze nostalgia out of a mediocre movie not even four years old, Daisy Ridley was on hand as it was announced she will star in a new film set fifteen years after The Rise of Skywalker, focused on Rey establishing the New Jedi Order. These people literally never learn that the Jedi were a bad idea, but I guess that’s good for Lucasfilm because they can keep making movies about Jedi rising, falling, and killing time in the desert forever. The film will be directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a Pakistani filmmaker who directed episodes of Ms. Marvel and the 3 Bahadur animated franchise in Pakistan.
As for the potential Rian Johnson spin-off trilogy, that remains in limbo as Kathleen Kennedy says Johnson is “unbelievably busy” and “It’s a big commitment of time, so that’s really on him”. Big “you didn’t dump me, I dumped YOU” energy. There was also no mention of Taika Waititi’s project, which just one month ago was supposedly a key piece of Star Wars going back to cinemas. This is why no one jumps out of their seat at new Star Wars movies anymore, every few months it’s an entirely new set of names and projects and potential and it still feels like there is no real momentum for any of it.
Maybe instead of trying to tie everything together or keep telling continuous stories, they should learn from the two most successful things the New New Star Wars era has produced: The Mandalorian season one, and Andor. Tell one-off stories that do not have to tie to bigger events in the galaxy. We don’t need a movie about Rey rebuilding the Jedi Order—A BAD IDEA, REY—tell us a story about some rando trying to make ends meet on that casino planet from The Last Jedi. Make a movie about Benicio Del Toro’s cynical guy! That dude was OVER IT, I bet he gets up to some morally grey stuff that would make for interesting storytelling. You know who popped on screen? Bill Burr’s ex-Imperial assassin in The Mandalorian. I’m not saying we need an entire movie or show centered on that specific dude, but what about a story about someone realizing they were on the wrong side of galactic history, an ex-Imperial trying to atone?
There are SO MANY POSSIBILITIES. Star Wars starts with a story about a massive empire that falls, a destroyed religious order, and a multi-species populace that is absolutely shattered by decades of war, terrorism, and political uncertainty. The galaxy far, far away should be SO big. And yet, it remains small, because they keep circling the same few narrative points—Jedi, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker. (You KNOW if they make that movie about Rey, Luke will show up as a Force ghost.) The lack of impact of Star Wars Celebration this past weekend is a symptom of this smallness. They’re strangling Star Wars.