So much for the slow down…
From the official Star Wars site:
Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced today that Lucasfilm is in development on a second Star Wars live-action series for Disney+, the Company’s new direct-to-consumer streaming service. The series, which will go into production next year, follows the adventures of rebel spy Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion and prior to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Diego Luna will reprise the role of Andor. “Going back to the Star Wars universe is very special for me,” said Luna. “I have so many memories of the great work we did together and the relationships I made throughout the journey. We have a fantastic adventure ahead of us, and this new exciting format will give us the chance to explore this character more deeply.”
The rousing spy thriller will explore tales filled with espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire. A release date for the series has not yet been announced.
Well, this was unexpected.
You might think, given my undying love for Rogue One, that this announcement would get me back on the Star Wars hype train. And you know what? Now that I’ve digested the news I’m a lot more on-board that particular train than I thought I would be. But I can’t deny that the project feels a little, well – not cynical, but definitely like a further retrenchment.
With Iger’s comments that Star Wars needed to “pump the brakes” and slow down on new releases for a while followed by last week’s reveal that JJ Abram’s Episode IX is being treated as a “course correction” for the series, there’s growing public acknowledgement that the franchise has not been handled as well as it could have been. That the Cassian TV show feels like a bean counter’s logical solution (“People like Rogue One? People are excited for The Mandalorian? I’ve got an idea…”) isn’t the most exciting prospect for this old-school Star Wars fan, but the House of Mouse deserves kudos for taking steps in the right direction.
Because let’s face it, Star Wars isn’t art anymore. The reason for making more films and shows doesn’t bear discussing; it’s all about turning a profit. Arguably what does matter to fans is that the premise of this show has potential. This is why – even if it’s a safe bet – it’s one that I’m excited to see play out.
The Prequel Trick
A common reaction to the announcement has been questioning the point of the exercise – after all, interested observers already know Cassian’s fate. And it’s fair to say that a spy thriller with an invincible main character isn’t the most appealing pitch.
But then Episode I set up a story far removed from what many fans expected to see, and for those of us that got on-board with Lucas’ vision the journey from The Phantom Menace to A New Hope was fascinating. By Revenge of the Sith a massive part of the excitement came from seeing how all the threads pulled together to deliver the inevitable moments that we had to see.
It’s clear that the Original Trilogy aesthetic is key to Disney, and it remains popular with fans as well, which makes an expansion of the era an enticing prospect. But I’m by no means advocating that Civil War Star Wars is the only Star Wars worth making.
The biggest crutch of the Sequel Trilogy was the lazy return to a Rebels vs Empire scenario. That put a hard in-universe emphasis on the failure of the Rebel Alliance and occurred purely because Abrams and/or Disney wanted to re-use the Original Trilogy iconography. It was a commercially driven and cynical move that has caused damage to the brand.
Much like Rogue One, the Cassian series provides an organic way to expand on the Imperial regime and allow Disney to keep the familiar brand elements in place, all while letting the films forge ahead into (one hopes) their own unique time frame.
Is TV the Future of Star Wars?
Both the Cassian Andor series and The Mandalorian are launching on Disney+, the mouse’s new streaming platform. When you consider that The Resistance and Clone Wars cartoons are also continuing it begs the question whether the future of Star Wars actually lay on the small screen.
The Marvel Netflix shows prove how this could work. As a gritty counterpoint to the day-glo MCU, the format allowed for character driven storytelling some way removed from the existential threats faced by the Avengers. Without trying to draw more comparisons between Star Wars and Marvel, this new prequel series has the potential to do the same and zero in on a fledgling Rebel Alliance in a galaxy of Imperial oppression.
Based on how little we know Cassian in Rogue One the show has the opportunity to add significant emotional weight to the character. With some strong writing and – I would hope – a pre-planned timeline, we could see an engaging, twisting tale that expands the Star Wars universe and builds an enjoyable cast of characters.
And on that note – more K2-SO is essential, Disney. Essential.
The Sequel Trilogy is what it is, and in about 13 months it’ll be over and we can all move on. By that point we should already be enjoying The Mandalorian, while more details for the Cassian series should be available. As The Clone Wars proved before the Disney purchase, perhaps it’s time to consider that without a clear creative vision at the helm, TV is a better-suited format for the type of Star Wars that fans want to see.
Maybe, just maybe, the small screen will help Star Wars to grow bigger.