We are now eight years in since Disney purchased Lucasfilm and began developing new Star Wars movies. In that time, we have had three Skywalker Saga movies, two anthology movies, and one live-action TV show. This period has been led by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, however her contract is up for renewal next year in 2021. The question we are asking here, based on some fans calling for her head for some time, is whether Disney should or will renew that contract.
Star Wars Under Kennedy
Bear in mind that as a writer, and as a Star Wars fan, many of my own opinions about how Star Wars has fared are going to come to the fore. However, I am going to try to present the situation here based on the general consensus of the fans I come across here on LRM and elsewhere. Let’s face it though, this is an opinion piece.
In my opinion, the Star Wars content produced by Disney has been bang average at best, though you may disagree. The general feeling I get from Star Wars fans though, is that none of them are particularly happy, no matter which side of the Rian Johnson coin you toss to your Witcher.
When it comes to the sequel trilogy, for me, it does nothing to enhance the story that came before it. In fact, I’d argue it diminishes the original trilogy a great deal. For some fans, they either loved or loathed The Last Jedi. Those that loved it, tend to really dislike The Rise of Skywalker, whereas for those who hated The Last Jedi, well, they kinda generally didn’t like Skywalker either. There are not a lot of superfans out there praising the sequel trilogy as the perfect end to the Skywalker Saga.
The hectic shooting schedule, the lack of an overall plan for the story (so evident in the final movie), the decision to hire J.J. Abrams and allow him to start again, is all on Kennedy. The reluctance of the studio to allow Abrams more time, well, that one was probably on Bob Iger, to be fair. Abrams may have imagined, but did not plan for how others would follow his work, Rian Johnson was given no guide for where to go, and also, by his own words, took no thought as to what came next.
Then Kennedy got rid of Colin Trevorrow, who had certainly written a movie which followed on from Johnson’s more naturally. She replaced him with Abrams who then proceeded to essentially make a sequel to his own movie and largely ignore much of the themes Rian Johnson sought to include.
Then we have the director and shooting dramas of both anthology movies. Rogue One required extensive interference and reshoots to make release, and then Solo was even worse. Directors Lord and Miller were fired partway through shooting because the studio got cold feet about what they were doing. Ron Howard was then brought into to reshoot almost the entire movie and the result was the first-ever flop in Star Wars history. As Lucasfilm president, this is very much on Kennedy.
Here’s the thing, Solo aside, you what the resounding conclusion of Disney’s Star Wars tenure is? Dollars!
Other than the aforementioned flop, everything Kennedy has touched, has so far turned to gold for the studio. Sure, The Force Awakens was a glimpse of what could have been, it was a copy-paste job of A New Hope, but fans took to it in general and it made bank. Star Wars has not hit those financial heights again since, at least it seems unlikely The Rise of Skywalker will pull up any major trees on the box office front. However, these movies (Solo aside again) have made a tidy sum. In fact, Disney has already long recouped the outlay they made purchasing Lucasfilm in the first place.
Though, are diminishing returns really what Disney wants to see? I can’t imagine it is, and they cannot ignore the very vocal fan base completely, whether it is a minority or not. As time goes on though, I tend to feel like the minority is those just happy to see anything new with the Star Wars brand on it.
We do have The Mandalorian, and that’s been a pretty sure success among fans. It’s a little darker, a whole chunk of western, and despite a few gripes about episode length and filler in the middle, it seems to have gone down well. That’s…..also on Kennedy, unless it simply does not suit your agenda, in which case that was all Favreau or Filoni. This definitely leads me on to my next point.
At this point, I am genuinely not sure why Kennedy would even consider renewing her contract, whether it is offered or not. There is a definite smear campaign against her from many sides. First, we have those who think she is feminizing Star Wars. they call her Krazy Kathy. Then we have the more reasonable critics who still blame her for choosing the creatives who made that bish bash sequel trilogy. It doesn’t stop there, now we have those who loved The Last Jedi saying she done Johnson dirty by firing Trevorrow and allowing Abrams to practically ignore Johnson’s movie.
At this point is there any portion of the fan base left that is on her side? This was best evidenced during the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ show saga. The story goes, roughly, that Kennedy delayed the start of production to put a little more work into the scripts. I know right, the monster, how could she?
Well, that’s what I was hearing. A million voices suddenly cried out in anger, “Kathy has to go”, “it’s all her fault, she’s going to ruin Obi-Wan as well”, and all the rest. Admittedly some of that was in reaction to the original story that it had been canned completely. The show has not been canned, yet still, I hear some blame at Kennedy for slowing things down. Let’s face it, folks, that’s her call, and I am of the opinion that rushing in with unfinished scripts is what got her into this mess. I’d rather she makes sure this one is as good as it can be before they begin shooting. The Obi-Wan show is seemingly very much still on fans radars for a must watch, let them get it right.
Stay Or Go?
At this point, I think it’s time to try something else. I don’t like the current state of Star Wars I won’t deny, and if we really are moving into a completely new period of the universe, reportedly 500 years prior to The Phantom Menace, then I think it’s time for a change.
Star Wars needs a kick up the backside right now, and since everyone’s top pick Kevin Feige is busy, that’s means someone new, or someone old. Do I think Kennedy will renew her contract as president of Lucasfilm in 2021? No. Do I think that every fan’s personal gripes is the sole responsibility of Kathleen Kennedy? Hell no. But ignoring all the Krazy Kath rhetoric, the simple truth is that the ball has been dropped too many times in the last eight years, and Star Wars is still way behind the MCU as the current fan-favorite franchise.
The next step in Star Wars has to be planned carefully, and I think it could well be time for new blood to see in this new era. To try and recapture some of the magic, which does seem to have been lost from this franchise for too long. About 40 years too long!
What is your take on all this, is there anyone out there at this point that thinks Kennedy should stay? Give your opinions in the usual spot below.
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