Disney and Lucasfilm's highly-anticipated Star Wars Celebration event made its way to London on Friday (April 7), captivating the audience with a mesmerizing showcase of the studio's upcoming projects that probably have Kevin Feige soiling himself.
Lucasfilm head-honcho, Kathleen Kennedy, extended a warm welcome to the audience comprising 4500 eager fans over the weekend. The 15th iteration of the Star Wars Celebration was held at the ExCeL Centre in London, home to the largest auditorium in the UK.
Star Wars has had a tumultuous journey since its acquisition by Disney in 2012. The franchise that once stood as a cinematic behemoth suffered a blow to its reputation with the release of Solo and The Rise of Skywalker. These films failed to meet audience expectations, leading to a dip in popularity for the franchise. However, Disney and Lucasfilm's recent announcements at Star Wars Celebration 2023 indicate that the franchise is making a splendid comeback, with a new plan that focuses on giving fans exactly what they want.
While streaming series, such as The Mandalorian and Andor, were a successful recalibration for Lucasfilm after the failure of Solo and The Rise of Skywalker, the absence of a proper 'Episode X' in Disney's announcements at Celebration 2023 indicated a shift towards movies that cater to fans of the franchise's original trilogy. The focus on giving fans what they want, rather than attempting to innovate, is a safe strategy that will likely pay off for the franchise.
The most significant news to emerge from Celebration 2023 was the announcement of three new live-action Star Wars movies by James Mangold, Dave Filoni, and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. These movies promise to give fans more of what they already love, without necessarily feeling the need to live up to the originals.
Just revealed at #StarWarsCelebration, Kathleen Kennedy welcomes James Mangold, Dave Filoni & Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on stage as future directors of three new upcoming Star Wars films. pic.twitter.com/v2os1tdHJH— Star Wars (@starwars) April 7, 2023
Mangold's movie is set 25,000 years in the past and revolves around the origins of the Jedi, giving lore nerds something new to analyze and unpack.
Meanwhile, Filoni's movie promises to tie together everything that has happened on The Mandalorian, The Book Of Boba Fett, and the upcoming Ahsoka - a figurative Endgame style send-off for the Mandoverse.
The return of Daisy Ridley as Rey in a film set after The Rise of Skywalker is also noteworthy, as it gives audiences more of the character they love while not necessarily being the "Next Star Wars movie." This strategy of providing more of what fans love without attempting to surpass the original trilogy is a smart move by Disney and Lucasfilm, as it lowers the stakes for the movies and allows for greater creative freedom.
Daisy Ridley returns to the stage and surprises fans at #StarWarsCelebration along with director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy with exciting news about their upcoming Star Wars film. pic.twitter.com/lgafQmwyCs— Star Wars (@starwars) April 7, 2023
Tony Gilroy, the creator of the television series Andor, has announced that the highly anticipated second and final season of the show is scheduled to make its debut in August of the year 2024. When asked about the show's future beyond the second season, Gilroy expressed his satisfaction that Andor will conclude with the upcoming season. He stated that he and the rest of the crew are content with the fact that they have a clear vision of where the story is heading, and are therefore able to bring the narrative to a satisfying conclusion.
Leslye Headland, the creator of the upcoming, The Acolyte, shared details about her upcoming original Star Wars series. The story would unfold during a time period situated between the High Republic era and the onset of the prequel films, thus marking the farthest point in the past the Star Wars live-action universe has explored to date. Headland revealed that her pitch to Kennedy was a clever fusion of two distinct films - Frozen and Kill Bill - infused with influences from the works of Akira Kurosawa's films from the 1950s.
Jude Law and Jon Favreau unveiled the first teaser for Skeleton Crew, showcasing fresh and intriguing characters who traverse the universe as a pack of defiant youngsters. Notably, Law himself portrays a Jedi with a strikingly novel appearance, distinguished by a shorn scalp. In addition, Favreau announced that the show will incorporate a talented roster of directors, including Jon Watts, David Lowery, The Daniels, Jake Schreier, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Lee Isaac Chung.
The return of some of the cast of Return of the Jedi, including Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Warwick Davis, and Ian McDiarmid, added a touch of nostalgia to Celebration 2023. The actors reminisced about their place in the Star Wars universe, reminding fans of the franchise's rich history on the 40th anniversary for the last chapter in the Original trilogy.
Finally, the announcement of Grand Admiral Thrawn's return in Ahsoka is another exciting development for fans. Thrawn, a beloved villain from the old Expanded Universe, survived Disney's jettison of preexisting Star Wars novels and comics, and will be played by Lars Mikkelsen in the live-action series. The fact that Mikkelsen previously played the role on the Star Wars Rebels animated series adds a layer of authenticity to the portrayal.
Star Wars is making a splendid comeback with a new plan that focuses on giving fans more of what they love. Celebration 2023 was a showcase of this strategy, with the announcement of three new movies, three new TV series, the return of Daisy Ridley as Rey and the inclusion of Grand Admiral Thrawn in Ahsoka. By listening to its fans and providing content that caters to their desires, Star Wars is well-positioned for a successful future. Marvel better be sweating.