Thursday, December 10, 2020, at approximately 4:30pm Central Time, Disney began to drop some bombs in the entertainment industry. In a four-hour presentation to investors (and some content was shown only for those investors) we got new series and film announcements across Disney proper, Pixar Animation Studios, Fox Studios, National Geographic, and Lucasfilm. For Star Wars, we are getting eleven new pieces of content. Some announcements were not surprising and some were quite unexpected. And, as most writers and bloggers do, I am now going to rank them all based on my personal taste and excitement level. I am not including Taika Waititi’s untitled film in this list because there is zero information on it besides the director so not enough to judge. For everything thing else, here are my rankings:
10. Rangers of the New Republic
As we get more Star Wars content, I understand that not everything is going to be for me. And we can add Rangers of the New Republic to that list. While I do like the amalgamation of sci-fi with westerns in The Mandalorian, I don’t need another show that mirrors that style. My excitement for this one will depend on the cast. Let’s even set aside all of the Gina Carano extracurricular activities…she is not the best actress and I think the “less is more” approached has served her character well in The Mandalorian. I do like the character, and I also like Carson Teva…but I don’t like them for a whole series. One of my complaints about The Mandalorian has been the uneven acting so, if this is a “Cara Dune” show I can move this over into the “thanks, but no thanks” category. If it revolves around the New Republic in general after the Galactic War with more of an ensemble cast…maybe. Either way, I need more information to have my interests peaked.
I don’t care about Lando Calrissian. He was an original trilogy character that served his purpose well but I have never had the desire to learn more about him. And, while I did enjoy Solo: A Star Wars Story, Donald Glover was one of my least favorite things about the film. I’m glad that Justin Simien, who is tapped as the showrunner, is getting more work. I just wish it was with a more compelling character. I guess this is Lucasfilm’s attempt to give more depth to a character that they’ve somehow managed to both feature in multiple canon material and also give very little to do. I can’t imagine this show revolving around just Billy Dee Williams and there is speculation that this could be a show that toggles between “present” Star Wars with Williams and flashbacks with Glover. That would make things a little interesting as it could give us some idea of a post Rise of Skywalker galaxy but there is really no information other than the title and the showrunner. The only reason this is not excluded from list like Taika Waititi’s film is that, since I know the character the show revolves around, I can say “no thanks.”
8. The Bad Batch
This is the Star Wars project from which we have seen the most promotional material. The Bad Batch was a part of the first arc of season 7 of The Clone Wars. They are a team of genetically enhanced, but physically different, clones that are employed on special missions. At the end of the arc, the lost clone Echo ends up joining their ranks. While I enjoyed the underlining message of that arc, the Bad Batch themselves presented a type of juvenile humor that reminded me of The Clone Wars movie and slightly took me out of the story. The concept of enhanced clones in itself seems out of place and sort of a cheat that brings more questions than answers. If the Kaminoans could create enhanced clones with desirable mutations, why didn’t Palpatine just create more of them near the end of the Clone Wars? After all, if they were like the Bad Batch, they would be even more efficient at killing and hunting Jedi (one of the members, Hunter, actually can sense an area’s mapping landscape). The series needs to answer these questions and I do have all the trust in Dave Filoni that they will be answered. Still, the cynical Star Wars fan in me sees this series as just a tool to sell more trooper figures and toys. I would do the same thing if I was an executive at Disney/Lucasfilm but, creatively, I am still not that interested.
7. A Droid Story
Lucasfilm Animation will be teaming up with Lucasfilm’s visual effects team, Industrial Light & Magic, to develop a special Star Wars adventure for Disney+, A Droid Story.– starwars.com
The “intersection of animation and visual effects” and the teaming up of Lucasfilm Animation and Industrial Light & Magic? Color me curious. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), started by George Lucas during the production of Star Wars in 1975, has created many iconic moments and characters in film history: the eery motions of the undead in Death Becomes Her, the mingling of animated and live-action characters in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the nightmarish T-1000 from T2: Judgement Day and the tense wonder of the T-Rex escaping in Jurassic Park among many others. So the fact that Lucasfilm is making a point to include the partnership between its’ animation division and ILM in its press release makes it seem like this will be something special visually. I also do enjoy when they introduce new droids and I am probably one of the few people that like the droid arcs in shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels. It’s a watch for me.
6. Star Wars Visions
Star Wars and anime are finally combining on my screen. This is a long-overdue partnership as Star Wars has already borrowed so much from Japanese culture. I also can’t help but think that the widely praise fan film TIE Fighter that was released in 2015 and the subsequent popularity caught Disney’s eye and got the creative wheels turning. The Galaxy of Adventures shorts are clearly “anime-inspired” and have the largest views on the Star Wars Kids’ YouTube channel so Disney knows there is a big audience for this style. Even though many members of these two fandoms do intersect, this project can also get other anime fans into Star Wars and Star Wars fans into other anime. It is a brilliant business move and smart to partner with top-tier anime studios in Japan instead of doing in-house. Star Wars Visions will consist of ten short films though no information on if they will be interpreting existing canon content or be entirely new (or even if these will count as canon) but I’m here for this creative endeavor.
5. Obi-Wan Kenobi
I feel like I should preface this by saying I am pretty much equally excited for these top five. I tend to be slightly more excited about projects that I don’t know as much about. But what a nice surprise to have Hayden Christiansen back in Star Wars. I am not a prequel trilogy fan and have many criticisms of George Lucas’ direction, specifically the lack of dialogue from female characters who aren’t named Padme (though the Queen/Senator’s dialogue, when she did speak, was nothing to admire). I strongly believe that most of the current goodwill towards the prequels is because of The Clone Wars providing much-needed depth and context for Anakin’s descent into the dark side. Despite the script and flat execution, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neelson, and Samuel L. Jackson made it out of the prequels in fine shape and went on to continue solid careers in film. Hayden Christensen, Jake Lloyd, and Ahmed Best didn’t fair as well. It is nice to see Best back, albeit playing a different character, and now Christensen is coming back to reprise his role as Darth Vader/ Anakin Skywalker. What a world we live in where a formerly maligned character portrayal can return 20 years later to the same franchise and it is one of the most celebrated announcements! This goes for the much more loved McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, for whom this event series will focus. It is also great that Deborah Chow will take the reins of the entire project after directing two episodes in the first season of The Mandalorian. There is good news all around in this story and the only reason it is not higher is that I have already seen a lot of content from this era and with these characters but I look forward to seeing what a sharper script and direction can yield.
4. Rogue Squadron
Rogue Squadron is a blind spot for me outside of the original films (I could not tell you the pilot names outside of Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles) and I never played any of the games from the series but it is amazing what the right director can do to build excitement. Given Patty Jenkins’ backstory of her father being a fighter pilot, and unfortunately giving his life in service, this future fighter pilot film will be a personal one. I expect the audience will get to know the members of Rogue Squadron deeply during the film and not all will make it out alive, which is so often the case with Star Wars pilots who are not the main characters. The timeline is a little vague but the press release hints that it may be during the sequel trilogy. I also expect the tone to be similar to its’ sister film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; in fact, it would be great if we ended up with a “Rogue Trilogy” of sorts given that Rogue Squadron was named in honor of Rogue One. This film won’t come out until Christmas 2023 but it is nice to have a Star Wars film officially on the board for a theatrical release. While I do appreciate having good quality Star Wars content on Disney+, Star Wars is a franchise that should be seen on the big screen and I can’t wait to see Patty Jenkins’ vision on the biggest screen I can find.
I was even more excited for this series when Stephen Schiff, the writer behind The Americans, was set to be the showrunner for Andor but Schiff left the project in February. Tony Gilroy, who played a big part in the success of Rogue One and who wrote The Bourne Identity franchise and Michael Clayton, certainly has nothing to prove in the form of writing intense spy thrillers. Toby Haynes, who is directing the first three episodes, is a bigger question mark. I trust in the talents of Gilroy enough to still have this in my top three and the sizzle reel showed an impressive scale of production that actually threatens to put The Mandalorian to shame. I wish I was more excited about the character Cassian Andor but Diego Luna is top tier and will be great in series form. And I can never complain about having more Mon Mothma in…anything!
Even though Ahsoka is going to follow a familiar character, the story is going to be moving forward in the timeline instead of looking back. To be fair, we have seen Ahsoka from the time she was introduced as Anakin’s Padawan to her recent live action debut as an older former Jedi. Per Kathleen Kennedy, this series will be during the time of The Mandalorian so Rosario Dawson will be returning and I expect to see a live action Sabine, Thrawn (who was already name dropped in Chapter 13: The Jedi) and Ezra Bridger. And although Dawson has replaced Ashley Eckstein in live action, the actors who voiced Sabine, Thrawn and Ezra (Tiya Sircar, Lars Mikkelsen and Taylor Gray respectively) can step into their live action counterparts easily. This probably won’t happen for all three but my bet is on both Mikkelsen and Sircar reprising their roles. I’m a little more hesitant to think Gray would come back as Ezra (if the character is still alive). I really do hope this stays a limited, short and sweet series that acts as a continuation of Ahsoka’s story after Rebels and her mindset that we got a sense of in Chapter 13. Ahsoka has a long history in Star Wars that many people are not familiar with…so will this series cater more to the fans who know all of that history or tell an accessible story with more exposition than usual to fill in the newbies? I think Favreau and Filoni have done a good job with The Mandalorian on that balancing act so let’s see if they can keep it up.
1. The Acolyte
If you have been to my blog before, you might have noticed that I am looking forward to The High Republic. As a bibliophile (reading is actually my main source of entertainment), a Star Wars publishing initiative that also tells new stories with new characters during a different time in Star Wars canon is the perfect content for me. I have been impressed with the amount of time and money invested in marketing Star Wars novels so seeing that Leslye Headland’s previously announced series is going to take place in the last days of the High Republic era was confirmation that Lucasfilm is all in on The High Republic. The fact that this series is at the endpoint means that they have a general roadmap of when and how the overall story of The High Republic concludes. I have not seen Headland’s most high-profile show Russian Doll but I trust the creators that Lucasfilm has brought in on the Disney+ side. Honestly, anything that could get people reading more is great in my book…and #1 on my list. Yes, please!
*NOTE: This blog post was written before the official announcement of The Book of Boba Fett. Without knowing that much about the plot but seeing the characters and the talent behind the show, I will place it in between Andor and Ahsoka on the list.