If anything could bring balance to the Star Wars franchise right now, it’d be some good PR. The Rise of Skywalker received, if we’re being charitable, a lukewarm reception over Christmas, which came courtesy of the film spending too much time retconning what happened in The Last Jedi while never explaining how Emperor Palpatine was still around. I mean, Poe Dameron literally said “Somehow, Palpatine has returned” and that’s about the closest we got to answers. (It’s now a meme and everything.) Even more troubling for Disney: The franchise is trending in the wrong direction, fiscally, as Rise of Skywalker is on pace to have the worst box office performance of any movie in the sequel trilogy. Here’s how bad things are: Some fans argued that writer-director Colin Trevorrow—the same mind responsible for The Book of Henry—should have been allowed to complete the saga instead of J.J. Abrams after reading Trevorrow’s leaked original script for Episode IX, titled “Duel of the Fates.”
Production drama has become a persistent issue with the franchise under Disney. It’s almost unsurprising when a Star Wars project has to make a U-turn. Changes haven’t always turned out for the worse—Rogue One reportedly went through extensive reshoots, and it still whipped ass—but all that behind-the-scenes turnover helped turn Solo: A Star Wars Story and The Rise of Skywalker into flawed and, worse yet, largely forgettable entries to the saga. Say what you will about the much-maligned prequel trilogy, but at least George Lucas got to see out his bonkers, midi-chlorian-obsessed vision.
This context matters because, well, it is happening again. Per Collider, an upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series—set to launch on Disney+ next year—is being delayed “indefinitely,” with Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy reportedly dissatisfied with the current scripts. The Hollywood Reporter takes it a step further, noting that the show is looking for a new writer to take over for Hossein Amini, with the intention of scaling the series back from six episodes to four. (I’m not sure why there’s a need to scale it back if they don’t even know what the new scripts will look like yet, but whatever.) The main concerns regarding Amini’s scripts reportedly stem from the plot hewing too close to that of The Mandalorian. In the Obi-Wan series, we’d see Obi-Wan “lending a protective hand” to a young Luke Skywalker, and possibly even Leia Organa, in lieu of Baby Yoda.
There are some silver linings, though. The rewrites reportedly won’t stop Ewan McGregor from reprising his role as the Jedi Master, nor will it prevent Deborah Chow, who directed two episodes of The Mandalorian, from helming the entire series. It appears, given Star Wars’s recent standards, that the Obi-Wan production turmoil will be comparatively tame. Still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t disappointing.
It’s hard to gauge how to feel about the rewrites because these scripts haven’t leaked (yet), nor do we know much about them beyond the vague implication they were too Mandalorian-esque. Who knows? Maybe the scripts simply weren’t that good. But the issue isn’t the Obi-Wan scripts as much as the way this news continues the precedent set by Lucasfilm since the company was acquired by Disney. If you want to work on Star Wars, you gotta accept Disney micromanaging the shit out of you.
Some of this is to be expected: Star Wars is among the most valuable entertainment properties on the planet. Disney spent a significant amount of money acquiring Lucasfilm/its IP, and I’m sure they think of these measures as (ugh) protecting their investment. But weighed against artists working within the Marvel Cinematic Universe—where there’s been comparably minimal studio drama, perhaps because there’s more agreed-upon guidelines for what can fly in an MCU movie—it feels like all the behind-the-scenes tinkering is choking the life out of the franchise, especially when Disney doesn’t even seem to know what anyone wants out of Star Wars.
It’s not surprising that The Last Jedi and The Mandalorian are the most well-received entries in the post-Disney Star Wars world: They’ve been led by talented creators in Rian Johnson and Jon Favreau/Dave Filoni, respectively. But neither the film nor the show went through any reported production drama. Maybe that’s because the artists are just really talented, or that they know how to work through Disney’s intrusions—Favreau has been working fruitfully under the Disney corporate umbrella since 2008’s Iron Man. But it’s not like the other artists Disney hired didn’t have some clout: You don’t get to sign up for Star Wars with a shitty résumé. (Unless, no offense, you’re Trevorrow, and even his Episode IX script looked genuinely interesting). As dystopian as it sounds, Star Wars could probably use a little more of that Marvel-like synergy to prevent more than half of its productions from being trainwrecks-in-waiting. Mayyyybe it’s a good thing Kevin Feige is lending his hand to a future Star Wars movie, after all.
Hopefully the Obi-Wan series will hire a new writer that fits Disney’s vague, non-Mandalorian-like guidelines for what it wants the show to be. (If it’s any consolation, McGregor insists there’s been a lot of “bullshit” reported about the series’ creative differences and that the creative team expects to hit the original release date.) But going forward, Disney will need to mitigate the increasingly anxious vibes surrounding the beloved franchise. Until then, when it comes to fans and their relationships with the future of Star Wars, I wouldn’t exactly say the company has the high ground.