I don’t know what Rian Johnson’s new Skywalker-less Star Wars trilogy is going to be about. Those more versed in Wars lore than me, specifically Collider’s Jedi Council, speculate with 95-99% certainty it will be a prequel series set in the age of the Old Republic when the Jedi and Sith each had giant armies and waged war with one another. That could be cool. All Disney is saying is the new trilogy “will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars has never before explored.”
What I do know, however, is this: Disney’s stock value dropped 3% yesterday after CEO Bob Iger reported a 3% year-over-year decline in revenue. That very same stock jumped up 1% later in the day after LucasFilm announced not only this new Star Wars trilogy but also their intent to have a live-action Star Wars TV series ready to go on Disney’s streaming service in 2019. Because there’s always money in….
Well, I was going to say Star Wars, but, yeah, that Arrested Development moment gets what I’m going for.
Except it’s not quite that simple. The stock likely also ticked up because Iger softened the blow of the revenue report by revealing ESPN’s streaming service will launch next year and Disney’s currently unnamed streamer will arrive in 2019 with a lower price point than Netflix, at least initially. The latter will feature new original TV show incarnations of Monsters Inc., High School Musical, Star Wars (obviously), and could mark the end of the Marvel-Netflix partnership. Future Marvel shows will at least have the chance to go to Disney’s service before Netflix or elsewhere, and it’s faintly possible the older shows, i.e., Daredevil and the rest, might be yanked from Netflix and added to Disney’s catalog. Moreover, while Iger wouldn’t comment on the reports of his company’s attempted buyout of 20th Century Fox his non-comment at least keeps investors’ hopes alive since it’s better than a denial.
It’s enough to make us forget Disney recently blacklisted The Los Angeles Times for daring to investigate Disneyland’s overly generous and economically ill-advised tax breaks in Anaheim. Disney barred the LA Times’ film critic as punishment for the paper’s coverage, but when the story went national and sparked Disney boycotts by outlets like the AV Club, Washington Post, New York Times and Flavorwire the Mouse House took all of one day to reverse course and quiet the controversy.
All of that happened roughly a week after the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Disney is more or less silently mouthing “Fuck off” to all the theater owners around the country, particularly those operating in small towns, who are crying foul over the insane profits splits and contractual guarantees they’re being forced to comply with if they want to exhibit Star Wars: The Last Jedi next month. Anyone who wants in on the Last Jedi business has to give 65% of the ticket sales back to Disney (normal split is 50/50, maybe 55% studio/45% owners for really big movies) and agree to show the film in their biggest theater for four straight weeks. Happen to run a theater which only has one screen? Sucks for you. The deal is non-negotiable.
But Disney doing the Disney thing, i.e., pursuing profit with ruthless vigor, is hardly new. It’s what you expect, and on the Star Wars front, it’s long been assumed Disney would find a way to keep cranking out more product beyond the life cycle of the new trilogy. The standalone, story gap-filling adventures like Rogue One and Solo (ugh, that title) are temporary distractions to tide us over in-between Episodes 8 and 9. They’re not the long-term solution to what life will look like after the Skywalker saga is over (assuming it ever does truly end); Rian Johnson’s new trilogy, however, is. Moreover, since every new Star Wars film other than Last Jedi has been at some point regarded as a troubled production, now entrusting Johnson to shepherd a new trilogy is a clear vote for stability.
We know even less about the TV series, though. Prior to selling to Disney, LucasFilms was planning a live-action series, Star Wars: Underworld, which sounded intriguing (via Collider)…
…But also almost entirely redundant at this point. One of the writers revealed some of the stories would have been “how Han met Chewie, how Lando lost the Millennium Falcon,” aka, all the stuff they’re now doing in Solo. Recent mysterious IMDB listings put the show as being back in development and dated for the end of 2018, re-tooled to now focus on Bobba Fett. Could that be the series heading for Disney’s streaming service? Or would only a fool trust a random IMDB entry?
Either way, Disney has clearly decided there’s always money in Star Wars. They’ll fleece theater owners to get an ever bigger share of that money, flirt with punishing newspapers they don’t like by cutting them off from the Force (and Marvel and Pixar and everything else) and weaponize geek fandom to take on Netflix.
They’re just a big company with a lot of leverage and a perfectly exploitable asset, and we’re the fans who now get to speculate about what the future could possibly hold for this new Star Wars trilogy and TV show. Anything you want to see them try? Are you kind of not interested in Star Wars if it’s not about the Skywalkers and their various offspring? Or were you sold the moment I said: “The Old Republic”? Let me know in the comments.