Lucasfilm canceling its Boba Fett film could be good news for Star Wars’ futureOctober 27, 2018
Lucasfilm’s standalone Boba Fett movie has apparently been Sarlacced. Rumors of the film’s development broke right as Solo: A Star Wars Story was hitting theaters, but last night, a reporter for Sirius XM radio said Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy told him the film was “100% dead,” and that they’re “100% focusing on The Mandalorian,” a new show destined for Disney’s streaming service. The film’s halt can be seen as the end of the studio’s standalone film experiment, but can a film that was never officially announced actually be considered dead?
When word of the film first spread, a new standalone Star Wars film looked like a no-brainer. Solo was projected for a big box office haul prior to its premiere, and the film seemed primed as the start to a sub-franchise, akin to one of the many parts of Disney’s larger Marvel Cinematic Universe umbrella, which treats its individual characters as separate properties. Solo certainly set up potential sequels, and a Boba Fett film could potentially follow the same mold, with a standalone flick that could play out multiple installments following the fan-favorite character. The prior three Star Wars films pretty much printed money for Disney, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens coming in first at the box office in 2015, Rogue One taking the number two slot in 2016, and 2017 putting Star Wars: The Last Jedi back on top.
Solo’s box office earnings came in well under those initial projections; it hasn’t even hit the top 10 worldwide earners list for 2018, outdone by the likes of Venom and The Meg. The result was a dramatic turnaround for Disney’s Star Wars plans. In 2017, Disney CEO Bob Iger indicated that the company was planning another 15 years of Star Wars films. Following Solo’s performance, Lucasfilm began to pull back on those plans, with Iger saying that fans should expect a “slowdown” in the franchise.
This summer, it seemed that Lucasfilm hadn’t halted work on its wide slate of projects in development, but the company was reconsidering or retooling them. The Boba Fett film, which reportedly would have been helmed by Logan director James Mangold, seems to be one of those projects that’s being rethought. As Weber reports, Lucasfilm’s focus is on its new streaming TV show, The Mandalorian, and it seems logical that some parts of the film could end up there.
This shift is emblematic of Lucasfilm’s larger problem in determining the future of the Star Wars franchise. Marvel has enjoyed incredible success with its cinematic universe by projecting toward an end goal while setting up its sub-franchises to align toward the massive culminating act of Avengers: Infinity War and its final, final act Avengers: The Untitled Sequel.
Lucasfilm has that larger arc, begun with The Force Awakens, continued in The Last Jedi, and set to conclude in 2019 with Episode IX: The Real identities of Snoke and Rey. But while Star Wars is a massive sandbox were innumerable stories can be told (the real value for Disney), Lucasfilm hasn’t really learned the secret to Marvel’s success: a long-term plan that builds a story and assembles characters from a variety of parts. Rogue One and Solo, are each good stories, but they don’t meaningfully add to the backbone Skywalker saga. Rogue One propped up a throwaway reference from the opening seconds of A New Hope while Solo played out a line uttered by Han Solo in the same film (which my colleague Chaim Gartenberg called back in 2016). But we already knew the end of both stories: the Death Star plans were not in the main computer, and Han Solo ended up joining the rebellion after all.
We also know what happens with the other characters in the other rumored projects: Boba Fett gets eaten by a Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi, and Obi-Wan Kenobi bites it after helping a terrorism suspect escape from a secure facility in A New Hope. These backstory movies flesh out the larger world of Star Wars, but they’re not advancing the larger story or advancing toward the kind of ending that builds anticipation and story loyalty.
This isn’t to say that prequel stories can’t be useful or interesting. Lucasfilm’s animated TV shows have done solid work in looking at older time periods in the franchise and telling intriguing, engaging, successful stories. While The Clone Wars got off to a rocky start in 2008, it quickly became a fan favorite that forged its own identity alongside the bigger films. Rebels did the same thing. In the meantime, the latest animated show, Resistance, feels as though it’s playing the role of an Iron Man or Guardians of the Galaxy-type project. It’s another sub-franchise, but it’s helping lead up to the final installment of the Star Wars saga, and everyone will likely be watching The Mandalorian to see if it plays a similar role.
It’s also telling that the projects that have been announced look as though they’ll be more consequential than those standalone films. The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson is developing a trilogy of films that will focus on “new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored,” while Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will write a series of their own. Granted, those announcements came out prior to Solo’s box office performance, but Disney prioritizing its focus on properties that stretch out for multiple installments and further expand the world feels like a stronger footing than a string of standalone films that look at its past.