It’s the executive crossover event of the season: Marvel Studios’ head Kevin Feige is developing a Star Wars film alongside Lucasfilms’ president, Kathleen Kennedy. On the surface, this news could stem from the fact that, in addition to being an ardent Star Wars fanboy, Feige’s load has been lightened a bit with Avengers: Endgame wrapping up the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s sprawling Phase Three. However, Feige crossing into the Star Wars lane could signal something bigger within the mouse house. Here are five scenarios of what Feige making a Star Wars movie could mean:
1) Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker isn’t good
It’s no secret that George Lucas isn’t a fan of the latest Star Wars films. When he sold Lucasfilm to Disney for $4 billion in 2012, he also provided story treatments for where he thought the franchise should go, which the Disney powers that be ultimately shunted to the side. Although Lucas felt “betrayed” by Disney’s direction for the franchise he launched in 1977 (chairman and CEO Bob Iger admits as much in his new memoir), director J.J. Abrams’s entry into the Star Wars universe with The Force Awakens still fared exceptionally well with critics and at the box office, with a global gross of more than $2 billion. However, for all the cred Abrams built for overcoming the unspeakable atrocities that were Episodes I-III, as well as successfully bridging the gap with the original ’70s/’80s trilogy, Rian Johnson’s follow-up to The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, was divisive with fans and critics, setting a rather precarious stage for the grand finale of Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.
Abrams has shown he’s more than adept at delivering quality under pressure. But The Rise of Skywalker presents the unique challenge of not only righting many of the perceived wrongs of The Last Jedi, but also offering a satisfying ending to one of the most beloved and enduring franchises in film history. There could be early panic on Disney’s side, so perhaps they’re sounding the alarm for Feige’s upcoming Star Wars project as a way to assuage fans ahead of the storm. Shouldn’t all the attention and focus be on hyping up The Rise of Skywalker right now, with only two months until its release? Why couldn’t this announcement wait until after the film comes out?
2) The Benioff-Weiss situation
Coming off of an insanely lucrative and successful six-year run at HBO, Game of Thrones co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were the hottest ticket in Hollywood. So it was no surprise that Disney wanted a piece of the duo. It was announced in 2018 that they were writing and producing a new series of Star Wars films. But then in 2019 Netflix came along with a reported nine-figure deal that could put Benioff and Weiss’s other projects, Star Wars included, on hold.
That said, it may not be an issue of bloated schedules at all. Kennedy has shown no hesitation to fire or remove writers and directors from Star Wars projects before (read: Colin Trevorrow ousted from Episode IX, Phil Lord and Chris Miller booted from Solo: A Star Wars Story). So perhaps Benioff and Weiss’s early treatments weren’t exactly on par with Kennedy’s vision. Enter Disney’s golden boy Feige.
3) Avoiding a Muppets situation
One of the more perplexing franchises under Disney’s umbrella is The Muppets. The beloved gang of furry creatures that gained international acclaim for The Muppet Show in 1976 (and that Disney acquired in 2004) just haven’t caught fire in present-day culture. Spinoffs that were skewed toward more adult audiences such as the shortlived Office-esque TV series The Muppets tanked. An upcoming Disney+ project titled Muppets Live Another Day was scrapped. There’s a new unscripted Muppets short-form series slated for Disney’s streaming service next year, but one glance at the furry gang’s history shows it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not this will stick.
Is Disney worried that Star Wars could be the next Muppets?
Despite the commercial success of Star Wars films that have come out since Disney bought Lucasfilm, none have really gone as smoothly as they should have. Screenwriter Michael Arndt was punted from The Force Awakens, and Abrams was brought on for some heaving reworking. The Last Jedi was what it was. Rogue One was critically and commercially successful, but there was also controversy around the immense number of reshoots it took to get the film where it needed to be, as well as Tony Gilroy effectively taking over Gareth Edwards’s directing duties in the final stretch. Meanwhile, Solo is on record as being the lowest-grossing live-action film in Star Wars’ history, pulling in a relatively paltry $392 million at the box office.
Despite commercial success, it seems Disney hasn’t quite caught its stride with Star Wars—and it could very well go the way of The Muppets, a fiercely loved franchise that Disney doesn’t quite know exactly what to do with. Iger told the New York Times that his studio “might’ve put a little bit too much in the marketplace too fast,” so there might be some desperation on the CEO’s part to pull in someone like Feige and his billion-dollar touch to do some course correction.
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Misinformation is my least favorite kind of information so I thought I’d take a minute to clarify some news that broke today. After a little over a year and a half of working on a project called “Muppets Live Another Day,” @adamhorowitzla #eddykitsis and I have decided, with a heavy heart, to walk away. Some times creative differences are just that. The project, with original songs by Bobby Lopez and Kristen Lopez was to be directed by the great Jason Moore, (director of “Avenue Q” and “Pitch Perfect”). It was meant to be a limited event series that picked up a year after “Muppets Take Manhattan” and was essentially about what happens after you’ve reached the end of the rainbow. It was going to be Muppets by way of Stranger Things and feel like a movie spread over 6-8 episodes. Part of the joy for us, by placing the Muppets in the middle of the 1980’s, was to subvert and comment on our current love for all things nostalgia while at the same time allowing the characters to tell a story that would ultimately lead to and end in present day, revealing some secrets along the way. It has been one of the great joys of all of our lives to write words for these iconic characters. We wish this franchise all the best and thank our partners at Disney+ and ABC Studios for the opportunity to develop something so fun and outside the box. They have been nothing but supportive and terrific and we can’t wait to play again in other sandboxes. While it is sad, I have no doubt this franchise, under its new leadership will find new and wonderful stories to tell. My only hope is that one day you can all hear the BRILLIANT music by Bobby and @kristenlopez5681 wrote for Kermit and company. The music is next level good. In the meantime, Adam, Eddy and I are already cooking up new fun ideas that we cannot wait to share. Until then, long live “The Muppets.” They have given us joy for over 40 years and I have no doubt they will continue to bring us joy for the next 40 years.
4) Softening the blow for Kennedy’s exit
When Lucas sold his studio to Disney, he did so with the caveat that Lucasfilm’s co-chair Kennedy would preside as president. Kennedy represents one of the alarmingly few women in a top executive position at Disney, so, aside from her stellar credentials, she’s become something of a beacon for “inclusion” at Disney. However, her track record stewarding the Star Wars franchise under Disney isn’t spotless (see #3). Could Feige be moving into position to take over? It seems somewhat unlikely given the sheer volume of work on Feige’s plate with Marvel Studios. However, Kennedy’s contract takes her through 2021, and there doesn’t seem to be any news yet of her contract being extended. There might be a chance that Feige coming over to the Star Wars side could mean a deeper involvement than producing one or two films.