Lucasfilm has announced that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy will direct the next “Star Wars” movie, making her the first woman and person of color to helm the franchise. Despite that breakthrough, Matt Belloni tells Kim Masters that Lucasfilm leadership’s lack of creative vision is running the franchise into the ground, creating mistrust on the production of its next film. Plus, Peacock’s streaming services continue to have growth problems.
This conversation has been edited for concision and clarity.
The future of “Star Wars” films: A new hope?
Kim Masters: It's kind of incredible. These movies have all been directed by white men, since the beginning. [Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy] is going to direct this movie, [and] this gives you an opportunity to talk about something that you have been writing about, which is the running of the “Star Wars” movie franchise.
The original sin here starts with Bob Iger pressuring to have one movie a year. On top of that, the nature of this material: You want something that feels original and fresh, but if you deviate from that cannon – which is so locked down and specific – you're gonna make somebody mad. So it's one of those superheroes, superpower, whatever dilemmas that creators face.
The phantom release date
Matt Belloni: I agree with all of that, but — and this is a big “but” — look at the management of the “Star Wars” film franchise. I'm talking about the films, I'm not talking about the “Star Wars'' shows that are currently airing on Disney+, especially the most recent one, “Andor,” which is actually very good, and is bringing in a new, more prestige audience to the “Star Wars” franchise, even though it's the lowest rated on Disney+.
There will be no “Star Wars” movie in theaters from 2019, when “Rise of Skywalker” came out, until at least 2025. Six years, there will be no “Star Wars” movie, and it's because the leadership at Disney, and Lucasfilm in particular, essentially ran this franchise into the ground.
A lack of creative vision
Belloni: They produced [these movies] on Bob Iger’s timeline: quickly and with a lack of creative vision. There have been five movies under Disney: three in the Skywalker series, and then there were two spin-offs, “Rogue One” and “Solo.”
Every single one of these movies had creative problems, and not just, “Oh, we got to get the script right.” We're talking directors fired in the middle of the movie, even though they were ostensibly directing it. We're talking a complete change of direction after “The Last Jedi,” where the fans saw the movie and didn't like some of the changes that they had made. So they just went back to essentially remaking “Return of the Jedi” for that movie.
One after another, it just showed that there was a lack of creative vision and confidence in these movies. And what it did, essentially, is it ran the franchise into the ground. They finished “The Rise of Skywalker” in 2019 and there was essentially nowhere to go with these movies.
So they've gone one after another with these [other] filmmakers’ [visions]: the “Game of Thrones” guys, “We're going to do a trilogy.” Rian Johnson was going to do a trilogy. Patty Jenkins, the “Wonder Woman” director, actually did a promotional video dressed up in a flight suit saying that her movie “Rogue Squadron” was going to be the next one, and then lo and behold, she falls off her project.
The skeptics strike back
Belloni: When a “Star Wars” movie actually goes into production is when I will believe it.
Masters: I understand the skepticism and nobody sets out to make a bad movie. I think that effort was to make something original, but not different, and that is a very difficult prospect.
In other news: Peacock has growing pains
“Girls5eva” is a comedy on Peacock, [or] was for two seasons. Funny. Great cast. Tina Fey involved, a sort of a fresh show. Peacock didn't go for a third season of this Emmy-nominated [show] – nominated for Best Writing – and Netflix is picking it up.
This not only underscores the pressure on Comcast and NBCUniversal to make this transition to streaming at a time when revenue from more traditional media business, cable channels, and whatnot is declining steadily. But it speaks to this ability that Netflix has to make hay of stuff that other outlets can't seem to launch.
Netflix is on the hunt
Belloni: We see one after another. Netflix is sort of treating these other less successful outlets as its farm team for potential hits. [It] did with “Cobra Kai,” which was on YouTube the first couple seasons, and moved over to Netflix, [and became a] huge hit, Emmy nominated. They did it with “You,” which was a Lifetime show that came over to Netflix and was a hit. They did it with “Manifest,” which was an NBC show, and then when it went on Netflix, it became gigantic, and they're going to do more.
So this is a strategy. This is not a one off. Netflix is out there looking for things that it can pick off, and with a global audience. They're going to take something that may have been marginal and maybe it was a fan favorite that was a cult show on a service with 15 million subscribers, [and] put it in front of 225 million people worldwide. It could be a hit.
Masters: See what happens.
We had Meredith Scardino on the show talking about “Girls5eva” a while back and it is a good show. So I'm happy for her.