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Lucasfilm is set to wrap up the nine film Skywalker Saga this holiday season with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and by the look of the film’s final trailer, J.J. Abrams appears to have stuck the landing. From Rey and Kylo Ren having a lightsaber duel on a major locale such as the ruins of the second Death Star, to blink and you’ll miss it cameos from Episode I Battle Droids and even ships from the animated shows, The Rise of Skywalker is tying the entire franchise together for one epic finale. But what does the future of Star Wars look like beyond the Skywalker Saga? And how will Disney’s plan for Star Wars change with Kevin Feige set to produce his very own Star Wars film?
Back in 2017, shortly before Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released in theaters, Disney and Lucasfilm expressed the utmost confidence in writer-director Rian Johnson, announcing the filmmaker would be writing a new trilogy separate from the Skywalker Saga, the first film of which he would direct. But both Johnson and Lucasfilm have been mum on anything concrete regarding Johnson’s trilogy following the controversy surrounding The Last Jedi – that film saw a vitriolic backlash online from a portion of its fanbase regarding the film’s handling of Luke Skywalker himself. Six months later, Solo: A Star Wars Story hit theaters and bombed at the box office, mainly due to a lack of marketing at a time when the world was captivated by Avengers: Infinity War, though trolls will tell you it was because of The Last Jedi, but Episode VIII’s global box office take of $1.3 billion and another $70 million in Blu-ray sales for 2018 would counter any argument that the film’s divisiveness had any impact on Star Wars’ financial vitality.
In addition to Johnson’s trilogy, Lucasfilm also announced Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss would be producing their own Star Wars trilogy as well, and even though those films have actually been dated on Disney’s release calendar – the first of which is due out in December 2022 – the duo is no longer involved with the project. Benioff and Weiss were revealed in August to only be committed to at least one of the films after signing a $250 million deal with Netflix which is now said to have conflicted with their commitment to Lucasfilm and resulted in their exit, though there has been some doubt shed on the official word regarding this. Given the controversy surrounding The Last Jedi, the poor performance of Solo, the backlash towards Benioff and Weiss over the final season of Thrones, and Disney botching their own opening of the Star Wars parks in Florida and California – with raised ticket pricing and warnings of overcrowding – it would make sense that Disney and Lucasfilm would want to limit the risk and take a safer bet with the filmmaker for the next Star Wars film, right? Especially given that the next film will venture into unknown territory without any previously known characters to general audiences. Enter Kevin Feige.
Feige, who began as an associate producer on the first X-Men film has grown to be one of the most prolific and successful producers in Hollywood history with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an interconnected and unprecedented – and so-far – 22 film narrative which continues next summer with Scarlett Johansson’s standalone Black Widow film. To date, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed over $22 billion at the worldwide box office. But in September, Feige was revealed to be expanding beyond his role as Marvel Studios President, as he was announced to be producing a Star Wars film with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
“We are excited about the projects Kathy and the Lucasfilm team are working on, not only in terms of Star Wars but also Indiana Jones and reaching into other parts of the company including Children of Blood and Bone with Emma Watts and Fox,” Walt Disney Studios co-chairman and chief creative officer Alan Horn told The Hollywood Reporter. “With the close of the Skywalker Saga, Kathy is pursuing a new era in Star Wars storytelling, and knowing what a die-hard fan Kevin is, it made sense for these two extraordinary producers to work on a Star Wars film together.”
What Feige’s film will be and how it factors into or effects Johnson’s trilogy or Benioff and Weiss’ trilogy remains a mystery. But what I can tell you is that Feige getting involved with Star Wars is something that has been in the works for quite some time already. While the trade’s report states Feige expressed his intertest in developing a Star Wars film this past summer, there was talk of the Marvel Studios president taking over for Kennedy at Lucasfilm after the release of Solo. Within hours of the final box office numbers for Solo’s opening weekend coming in, I received a call from a highly credible source claiming Disney was planning to order 66 Kennedy, with Feige being approached to replace her. Not only did this not happen, Kennedy actually renewed her contract with Lucasfilm several months later, extending her tenure through 2021.
Although it hasn’t been smooth sailing entirely for Kennedy as she has had to replace not one, not two, but actually four directors on the latest Star Wars films. Gareth Edwards was forced to step aside in order for Tony Gilroy to rewrite and reshoot the entire third act of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired from Solo. The duo was replaced by Ron Howard who had to reshoot nearly the entire film as Lord and Miller were only a month away from completing their production schedule at the time of their exit. And Colin Trevorrow was let go from Star Wars: Episode IX after clashing with Kennedy over multiple drafts of the script. Trevorrow was ultimately replaced by Abrams who co-wrote the script for The Rise of Skywalker with Argo writer Chris Terio.
While Star Wars is clearly in need of a creative architect much in the way of how Feige has served the MCU, the Marvel Studios president is only on board for one film – for which he reportedly already has a major actor in mind for a specific role. But given Feige’s success, his passion for Star Wars, and probably his ego, I wouldn’t bet against him producing more than one Star Wars film. But will he take over Lucasfilm after Kennedy’s reign? If you had asked me last month, I would have said probably, but Feige was just named chief creative officer of Marvel Entertainment, meaning he’ll now oversee both Marvel’s comics and television divisions (checkmate, Ike Perlmutter). So, will Feige replace Kennedy? I would think someone as successful as Feige would have bigger aspirations and bet on him succeeding Horn as chief creative officer of Disney rather than be limited to one or two branches of Disney’s film division. It also wouldn’t be a good look for Disney to have Feige replace Kennedy given the company has already been criticized for having a lack of women in positions of power within.
But luckily for Star Wars, the creative architect they so desperately need is already in house. That person being none other than Dave Filoni. Filoni has already executive produced two of Lucasfilm’s animated Star Wars shows and worked closely under George Lucas for many years prior to Lucas selling the company to Disney. Some would even call Filoni Lucas’ padawan, and who would be better to creatively oversee the future of the franchsie than that? The problem with Filoni is that he has no experience running a film studio. But it seems he may be getting groomed for a bigger role in live-action. See, just as Disney is bringing the Skywalker Saga to a close, they are also expanding with the first-ever live-action television shows on Disney’s new streaming service Disney+.
Lucasfilm has three shows in various stages of production including an Obi-Wan Kenobi series which features Ewan McGregor reprising his role as the Jedi Master, and a Cassian Andor series with Diego Luna returning as the rebel spy from Rogue One, but it all starts next month on November 12 with The Mandalorian which Filoni has executive produced and written the series with Jon Favreau. He has also directed two episodes of the series which is already in production on a second season. So, while the Skywalker Saga may be coming to its end, and the road has been bumpy so far, the future of Star Wars with Kennedy, Feige, and Filoni on hand is quite bright.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20.
Michael Mistroff is a Film and Television Reporter and a former news editor of Heroic Hollywood, he earned an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration from CCBC in 2019 and is back at CCBC working towards his Bachelor’s in Mass Communications. He is transferring to Towson University in the Spring.