On Thursday, Disney laid out their plans for dominance in the streaming game. After Warner Brothers’ recent announcement that all of their 2021 movie releases would be released on HBO Max, it seemed to be all but in the books. HBO Max was coming out of the gates with guns blazing, but Disney+’s original content has been, save The Mandalorian, lackluster. With the announcement that there will be 10 new Star Wars shows, Disney+ went from lackluster to blockbuster overnight. When combined with new Marvel content and films, it’s clear that Disney is more interested in the war than the battle, and they’ve laid plans for years to go. Star Wars, of course, will be a key part of that victory.
Previously announced shows, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor, are foundational element of Lucasfilm’s plans, as they show that the opinions and desires of fans are indeed a factor in their planning of content. While Kenobi is a chicken and egg scenario as far as if fans calling for a Kenobi show/movie or the rumors of it came first, it is one project that fans have almost universally been behind. With the announcement that Hayden Christensen will be back as Darth Vader it appears that Lucasfilm is finding the sweet spot between fan-service-nostalgia and telling a compelling story.
There are two real possibilities of how the Dark Lord can play a role in the show. One could be in flashbacks or visions of a sort, with Kenobi reliving his failures in new and more agonizing ways. The other option is to have the two confront each other once more, which seems the more likely possibility. Should this be the route they take, Star Wars will do what it has done time and time again, utilize its iterative storytelling to redefine something fans thought they knew so well. If there is a literal interaction, be it physical or across the Force, between Vader and Kenobi, the Death Star lightsaber duel will inevitably read differently, an exciting possibility considering it has been around for four decades.
Andor likewise holds the potential to reshape an aspect of Star Wars long thought understood, the Rebel Alliance. The original trilogy has a clear delineation between the Rebels and the Empire, but Rogue One showed that the Rebels were not without sin. As the prequels did for the original trilogy, this show will add more depth and complexity to the characters in and around Rogue One by not just saying they have sinned, but having fans experience that sin as it is committed.
The other previously announced show, The Bad Batch, will likely touch on similar ideas as Andor, namely that of identity. Where Andor has to ask the question of where the line between good and evil is drawn, The Bad Batch will ask what you do when the line has already been drawn and you are on the wrong side. The trailer literally lays this out, with The Bad Batch facing down a battalion of clones. The Bad Batch were the ones who had the “abnormal” identity, not being like the “regs”, but now the regs are the ones who are no longer who they were supposed to be.
Trauma, PTSD, and the effects of war on one’s emotional and mental health has to be something that The Bad Batch at least alludes to. Ahsoka, though, has to deal with these issues front and center. Tragedy, trauma, and her response to them has shaped Ahsoka, and the live action format, which will bring in more adult audiences, is the perfect place to tell these stories.
Dave Filoni added that the story in The Mandalorian takes place before the epilogue of Rebels, where Ahsoka the White seems at peace in a way that The Mandalorian version of her has yet to reach. Ahsoka is primed to put together the puzzle pieces that lead from the clearly struggling, sorrowful Ahsoka to Ahsoka the White, epitome of balance. Of all the Jedi, or at least those who live the way a Jedi should, Ahsoka is the ideal with regards to balance. Her Rebels iteration shows one who has come to peace with who she was, is, and will be. That is, until her realization that Anakin Skywalker is not dead. Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader. This shatters her reality and sends her on whatever venture leads from that brokenness to the fullness that is Ahsoka the White.
If the title card is any indication, the World Between Worlds will play a role in this evolution. In the background appears what looks like one of the doors in the World Between Worlds, a place outside of space and time that could allow Ahsoka to learn the truth of what happened to her former Master. The animation is also extremely balanced, with each circle or set of circles having an equal on the opposing sides. Filoni is known for his ability to make “weird Force stuff” work in ways that no other creator, not even George Lucas himself, can, and Ahsoka could be his crowning achievement.
It is not just old hats and old news. The other announcements ring in a new era of Star Wars, one where white male creators are not the only ones behind the camera. The original trilogy’s greatest failure is that it lacks even a facade of diversity. Two women and a whole lot of white men seem to make up the entire galaxy, an err that Disney has done a good job of trying to rectify (albeit with missteps). Characters like Finn and Rose. Writers like Delilah S. Dawson and Justina Ireland. Creators like Deborah Chow and Taika Waititi, both of whom are among a wonderful group of Mandalorian directors that broke the all-white-male streak as it regards being behind the camera for a Star Wars production.
When Leslye Headland’s female fronted entity was announced, fans were enraptured with the idea of a woman writing stories about women. The announcement that her series will be a mystery-thriller entitled The Acolyte has added to that fire. A mystery-thriller in Star Wars in and of itself is exciting; the potential of the series involving The Acolytes of the Beyond, a cult of dark side worshippers from the Aftermath series, and ranks within the Sith Order (Acolyte being a rank within said Order) raises the bar for how willing Lucasfilm is to dig into the expanded lore for future stories.
Even before The Mandalorian brought in great female directors like Bryce Dallas Howard and Deborah Chow, fans had been calling for one director above all others. Patty Jenkins. Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman, is a great director regardless of gender. Wonder Woman is the best DC cinematic universe film without debate, a testament to Jenkins’s craftsmanship. In the film she was able to tell the story of a woman coming into her own, a story she’s lived. Being the daughter of a fighter pilot, Jenkins has also lived in that world and will be able to bring realism to the table while making it relatable. Such realism is what has made books like Alphabet Squadron and the Legends series X-Wing successful, both places that Jenkins can mine for connections, ideas, and how to adapt the fighter pilots of our world into those of the galaxy far, far away.
Whereas Jenkins and Headland will bring in the female point-of-view, Lando and Visions will bring in the perspectives of people of color. After the controversy surrounding Finn in the sequel trilogy, having a black man tell a story about a black man is essential. Visions will broaden Star Wars even more, bringing in anime creators for a series that will, if the fans have been heard (spoiler: they have), look a whole lot like Galaxy of Adventures. Even if it is but a “what if” style series, it will open new timelines and possibilities for fans to delve into.
Rangers of The New Republic will get into a newer timeline itself. Little was said about if the series will be more in the air, like Rogue Squadron, or on the ground, but regardless the post-Return of the Jedi time is going to become the new dark times, an open area ripe for storytelling.
The future of Star Wars, in fact, is ripe for storytelling. With more diverse storytellers comes more variety, and with more variety comes years and years of Star Wars living on.