I want you to put the word out there that we back up. Simply put, Star Wars on the big screen seems to have finally gotten its groove back.
There hasn’t been this much hype for the franchise based solely on potential since Disney first acquired Lucasfilm. And there was no bigger announcement than a planned return to theaters. James Mangold, Dave Filoni and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy will each direct a Star Wars film. Mangold’s will take place 25,000 years before “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” and tell the story of the discovery of “the Force” and the first Jedi to wield it. Star Wars whisperer Filoni’s film will conclude the interconnected stories being woven between “The Mandalorian,” “The Book of Boba Fett” and the soon-to-debut “Ahsoka” series. Obaid-Chinoy’s film will usher in the return of Daisy Ridley as Rey. The film will take place 15 years after Rey’s last appearance, in “Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker,” and focus on her attempt to rebuild the Jedi Order.
The most recent trilogy of films was more polarizing than popular, which is why we haven’t had a Star Wars movie in theaters since 2019. Kylo Ren and his Dark Side-fueled rage combined with a predictable redemption arc and a grumpy Luke Skywalker weren’t enough to build up demand for more. The Star Wars brand was at a standstill, with the only goodwill coming from successful animated series such as “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels.” But then “The Mandalorian” came along, and the unstoppable cuteness of Baby Yoda helped build a bridge back to theaters. Star Wars at its core is a theatrical experience. It was born in a movie theater, and with this upcoming slate, it looks as if it won’t have died in one.
But not everything is all roses. As shocking as Ridley’s return is, it will only be as good as who is along with her for the ride. Episodes VII, VIII and IX saw John Boyega playing a Black stormtrooper (Finn) who was later revealed to be an intergalactic janitor, and Oscar Isaac as a hotheaded Latino pilot (Poe Dameron), and they introduced Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico) to a toxic corner of Star Wars fandom not accustomed to or interested in diversity. (You can always just watch the old movies, folks.) None of those actors were given storylines worthy of their abilities, and Ridley’s Rey was anointed as the chosen Jedi. Boyega was even used as a red herring in trailers for “The Force Awakens” when he was seen holding a lightsaber, but in the movie he was figuratively handed a mop.
Finn was shown to have Force-sensitive abilities. Rey can’t build a new Jedi Order by herself. This new batch of films is an opportunity to right a wrong and have Boyega star as a Jedi with the potential to be just as undeniably cool as Samuel L. Jackson was as Mace Windu. Even Jar Jar Binks is a Jedi now after the actor behind the much-criticized character from the prequels, Ahmed Best, was deservedly given a heroic new Star Wars role as Kelleran Beq on “The Mandalorian.” Boyega and the other actors of color from the last trilogy deserve better than they were given. But that’s only if they actually want to return.
Star Wars streaming on Disney Plus also looks to get stronger, after debuting a spectacular new trailer for the “Ahsoka” series, starring Rosario Dawson in the role she debuted on “The Mandalorian.” The series will premiere in August and will feature the live-action debuts of multiple characters from the animated “Star Wars Rebels” series, including Grand Admiral Thrawn (played by Lars Mikkelsen), who is quite simply one of the most popular Star Wars characters ever, rivaling even Darth Vader.
Tony Gilroy’s “Andor” holds the title of best Star Wars streaming show, and perhaps the best Star Wars anything, but “Ahsoka,” powered by Dawson’s devotion to the fan-favorite character and Thrawn’s Hollywood close-up, is a contender for Disney Plus supremacy. When Ahsoka said, “I started hearing whispers … about Thrawn’s return … as heir to the Empire,” it was a beautiful nod to the Star Wars novels of Timothy Zahn (where Thrawn debuted) and a hint to where this series will go.
Speaking of “Andor,” the second and final season is set to arrive in 2024. Topping its first season would be nothing short of a monumental achievement, but I’ll settle for something just as good.
It was also announced at Star Wars Celebration that “The Bad Batch” will have a third and final season in 2024, which, alongside upcoming second seasons of the groundbreaking and visually stunning “Star Wars: Visions” and “Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi,” proves animation still has a place at Lucasfilm. And rightfully so, given the impact “The Clone Wars” had on this fandom.
Fans got their first look at the previously announced “Skeleton Crew,” starring Jude Law in a Star Wars tale of kids lost in space, which arrives on Disney Plus later this year. The origins of the evil Sith will be revealed on Disney Plus in the already-in-development “Acolyte,” which will connect the far past era of the High Republic taking place in Star Wars’ most recent novels and comics with the era of the Star Wars prequels.
More movies. More series. More animation. It looks like streaming is no longer this universe’s only hope.