Zoe Shacklock from the University of Warwick’s Department of Film and Television Studies comments on the announcement of three new Star Wars films.
“This announcement comes in the wake of a series of controversies surrounding Disney’s Star Wars directors - the late-stage replacement of Phil Lord and Chris Miller on the Han Solo movie, and Colin Trevorrow’s firing from Episode IX. As the Hollywood system increasingly moves towards large, ‘cinematic universe’ style franchises, there have been questions about the extent to which directors and writers can exert their own style and ideas within the constricting framework of the studio machine. Giving Johnson his own trilogy seems like something of a reward, and indicates that he is capable of negotiating both the demands of Disney while bringing something of his own vision to the Star Wars universe.
“It is this latter point that has been a particular issue for fans of the series, many of whom want to see something new in the cinematic world of Star Wars. The franchise already has a very popular and much-loved expanded universe in the form of novels and comics, but its cinematic extensions, it seems, remain obsessed with constantly retreading the past in the form of prequels. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, of course - ‘variation on a theme’ has always been one of our dominant storytelling models. But by giving Johnson his own, Skywalker-free trilogy, Disney have very neatly addressed fan concerns about both the constricting nature of their studio, and the strictures of the Star Wars universe itself.
“But the announcement also forecloses any hope for a little more diversity in directorial vision - Johnson is, of course, yet another white, American man. For that, we may have to turn our hopes towards the new live action television series that Disney also announced yesterday, which will air on their new streaming service in 2019. There are few details yet about either the series or the service. But television (and streaming television in particular) has been leading the charge in bringing some much-needed diversity to our screens. Changes in the television industry mean that networks and streaming services can target content towards niche audiences rather than a broad mass, and are more willing to take risks on material. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already demonstrated greater diversity in terms of gender, race and sexuality in series such as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, both in front of and behind the camera. We can only hope that Star Wars follows suit.”
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