When Disney purchased LucasFilm and the rights to Star Wars in October 2012, one of the biggest decisions the brass had to make was what direction they were going to take. Were they going to keep Lucas’s notes and complete the Skywalker Saga? Were they going to continue with the expanded universe that Lucas had blessed with his approval? Or were they going to branch off in a new direction? Were they going to create something different?
As we’ve seen over the past decade, the decision certainly wasn’t to resume with Lucas’s vision. Yet, the plan wasn’t to branch off in a completely new direction either. Instead, the decision seems to have been a middle-of-the-road approach. One that has become more muddled with each successive year. Thanks, in part, to fan pushback, fan service, and too many voices in an overcrowded executive suite.
Whereas Lucas was one person and was utterly in control of the narrative, Disney and LucasFilm have a committee of content creators. They have no one person to take the helm and plot a way forward. While a few have risen to the forefront, the question is, can any of them truly replace Lucas?
Creator Gap: The Case For Tony Gilroy
The most unlikely of the following, Gilroy nonetheless has some impressive credentials. In addition to helming the highly rated Andor series, he also oversaw the reshoot and rewriting of Rogue One. He’s credited with changing the Scarif battle scenes and providing the overall theme — that of sacrifice. Without Gilroy, we might not have had that amazing ending horizon shot.
Unfortunately, Gilroy isn’t an invested fan of Star Wars. His gritty and realistic approach, novel as it is within the galaxy far, far away, is unlikely to fuel a long-term relationship. While future projects aren’t out of the question, his lack of in-universe credentials would make him a poor choice to lead the franchise.
Nevertheless, future Star Wars shows and movies could learn a thing or two from Gilroy. His focus on characters and on-location filming made Andor and Rogue One the sensations they turned out to be. More of that rugged approach can only serve Star Wars well.
The Case For Michael Siglain
Probably the least known name on the list, Siglain is nonetheless a giant in storytelling. As the director of creative franchise with LucasFilm, Siglain was responsible for pulling together authors for Project Luminous. With that he achieved something few in the franchise have been able to do — tell a cohesive story.
Project Luminous is now called the High Republic and it features stories spanning hundreds of years, leading up to the prequel movies. Unlike many other projects taken on by Disney and LucasFilm, this one is completely original and is made all the more impressive because a multitude of authors are contributing to tell the tale.
With the High Republic getting a screen debut with The Acolyte, it’ll be interesting to see how far a reach these novels, radio plays, and comics can have. If successful, perhaps the entire arc of the High Republic could be made into a show or even a series of movies.
No matter the format, however, the inspiration and creative oversight Siglain provides is key. Without a guiding hand to steer the project, the High Republic could have easily veered off course, but he’s kept the plot line razor sharp and constantly entertaining.
The Case For Jon Favreau
Some might say that’s all the evidence needed. After all, just think back to when The Mandalorian first came out. The Last Jedi had split the fandom for nearly two years. The Rise of Skywalker was about to premiere. Interest in Star Wars — especially Disney’s Star Wars — had waned considerably. Some had turned from the franchise altogether.
Then the small screen standout came up big. It not only kept the franchise steady after the failures of the sequel films and Solo, but it proved to fans that Star Wars was redeemable. That good stories could be told. More so, it sold the premise that original characters and stories could be a success. That not everything had to be a rewind.
Favreau has an extensive list of accomplishments. Most of them are outside the franchise, which places him in the same category as Gilroy. But, unlike Gilroy, Favreau is a huge fan. He’s been an active Star Wars geek his whole life and has been working on Star Wars projects in some capacity for at least 15 years. Yet, in that time, he’s partnered with another person, another creative who has an even more impressive Star Wars resume.
The Case For Dave Filoni
Instead of asking what has Filoni done for Star Wars, it might be easier to ask what he hasn’t done? Creator and executive producer of Ahsoka. Executive producer of Skelton Crew. Producer, writer, and director of The Mandalorian. Creator and executive producer of Star Wars: The Bad Batch and Tales of the Jedi.
What’s more, he helped Lucas build up LucasFilm’s animation studio, creating two huge hits — Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. He then followed that up with Star Wars Resistance.
Filoni’s creative fingerprints are all over Star Wars, especially lately. His writing and input appears to be in every major release, whether it’s animated or live action. To say that he was Lucas’s Padawan and is his rightful creative successor wouldn’t be a stretch. In fact, of all the potential men on this list, it would be perhaps insulting to not have him at the top.
Filling The Creator Gap
Will any of the above creators take the helm and steer LucasFilm into unknown territory? Possibly. Can any of them fully replace Lucas? Of course not. Yet, in conjunction with one another, it’s possible for the men listed to effectively fill the creative gap that Lucas left when he sold the franchise.
Disney CEO Bob Iger recently stated that the future of Star Wars movies is not yet settled and that the studio is being “very careful” to not oversaturate the franchise. After Solo had a “disappointing” box office return, executives believed that “maybe the cadence was a little too aggressive.” Thus, the move to TV and books.
Yet, eventually Star Wars will need to return to the big screen. And possibly, one — or more — of the above will have a hand in making that happen. Then again, outsiders like Rian Johnson, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, or Damon Lindelhof could also rise to the top.
Regardless of who it is, the above four have already shaped Star Wars in great ways. They helped the franchise regain its footing, and will hopefully be there when it fully detaches from the Skywalker Saga.
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