For the time being, the next Star Wars film is scheduled for a December 2025 theatrical release. The previously slated move, Rogue Squadron, won't be meeting its 2023 window and has instead been shelved. Given the current trend at Lucasfilm, the odds of a movie being ready in three years' time almost seems like an impossibility.
It's been abundantly clear for years that internal turmoil has stalled the film development process for the company since the completion of the sequel trilogy. This was confirmed last week when Lucasfilm SVP Michelle Rejwan was demoted. The producer was tasked with overseeing Rogue Squadron's development - in addition to other new films - and was relieved of her duties following too many creative difficulties.
Now three years removed from the last silver-screen experience, Star Wars fans are itching to get back into theaters for a journey into the galaxy far, far away. That time is still a few years away, at best, and it's not one that Lucasfilm is particularly looking forward to. With so much riding on the next theatrical title, Lucasfilm executives are actually worried about the franchise's next steps.
Lucasfilm Focused on Getting Next Star Wars Film Right
Puck industry insider Matthew Belloni reported that Lucasfilm's grueling development time for the next Star Wars film is the result of "a culture of fear and indecision" among company executives.
Lucasfilm's internal mantra for new movies is “getting it right," an attitude formed after the sequel trilogy's development and production. The company internally acknowledges that the sequels were "rushed to meet aggressive release dates."
The resulting trilogy was something Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy elected to play safe, "choosing fan service and franchise management over creative swings." Many of the creative choices baffled Star Wars fans, and Kennedy herself has come to dislike her decisions:
From jettisoning most of original writer Michael Arndt’s ideas and essentially remaking A New Hope with The Force Awakens, to freaking out and bringing back director J.J. Abrams and the villainous Emperor for Rise of Skywalker after some fans complained about Johnson’s mythology-busting choices in Last Jedi—choices that Kennedy had enthusiastically supported… right up until she didn’t.
A contributing factor in Lucasfilm's slow-moving development process is Kennedy's recognition that "the next installment needs to actually be good." It's become a juggling act, though, as the movie needs to be "different from the D+ stuff," but also somewhat the same. There's an understanding that Lucasfilm needs to "steer the franchise away from fan service" heavily depicted in the newest wave of projects.
Most important is that the next film is "rooted in what fans love about Star Wars," and the need for high quality can't be overstated. Kennedy is looking to usher in a new era of Star Wars, but Lucasfilm's fear comes from having to be bold and outdo itself:
Disney essentially has to re-introduce Star Wars while Star Wars is also constantly on television. This is a very tough task—or a very big hole she has dug for herself, depending on your perspective—far tougher than simply saying yes to these D+ series.
A New Approach for Lucasfilm
Kathleen Kennedy is making life more difficult for herself than it needs to be. The same can be said for the rest of Lucasfilm's senior executives. Every Star Wars fan will appreciate the commitment to getting the next film right - but how Lucasfilm attempts to do so may spell doom for the project.
This isn't the first time fans have heard Star Wars creators want to "get it right." The last time that happened came in the form of assurances from JJ Abrams, whose atrocious The Rise of Skywalker speaks volumes on how it's possible to get nothing right. It's true, the film was a rush job. The entire trilogy was. And it was doomed from the start.
Kennedy and Lucasfilm were dealt a bad hand with the mandated annual releases by Bob Iger. Disney wanted an immediate return on its investment, and the sequel trilogy was made as a means of printing money. No matter what Lucasfilm came up with, people were going to show up in droves - particularly for Episode VII. And as the story got worse, the box office results got worse.
George Lucas made his Star Wars movies out of passion. He considers each of them his children. The reason Lucas' films appealed to so many audiences was because he had a story to tell. So long as Lucasfilm and Disney are trying to pump out product rather than introduce worthy stories, they'll never capture the same magic The Maker did. Tossing out his ideas will never help, either.
The Disney+ side is doing better on that front. The Mandalorian is a worldwide sensation, encapsulating the fun, influences, and themes of Lucas' films. It's got a cheap budget, but it absolutely works. Andor is a sensational addition to the franchise, one that will likely see more viewership once word of mouth gets more people in front of TVs over the coming months.
But the movies are still missing the magic touch. The sequel trilogy was terribly written; Andor has outclassed those films to an embarrassing degree. Fan service was certainly an issue, and it's a plus that Kennedy recognizes that - even if the Emperor will always somehow have returned in canon. A new film shouldn't be antagonistic and deconstructive, but rather builds on the vast universe that already exists.
There's no need to reinvent the wheel. "Fresh" and "new" don't mean tarnishing the legacy of beloved heroes for the sake of surprise. Surely there are super-fans currently working in the industry. Creators who don't need to pull every toy out of the box, but can use them sparingly when appropriate. Writers and directors with Star Wars visions the world needs to see. They're the people to talk to.
Lucasfilm is right to be worried. Star Wars fans are loyal, but they won't tolerate mediocrity and cancellations forever. Film development remains a disaster, though recent changes to the hierarchy could mark the beginning of a true change. Kennedy can dig herself out of her hole if she's willing to put faith in young creative minds driven to follow what George Lucas has done. But the time for indecision has passed; Lucasfilm needs to make a commitment.
Do, or do not. There is no try.