This is technically not a new development — it happened last summer, but the public just found out — but apparently Dave Filoni has been promoted to Executive Creative Director of Lucasfilm. This role no doubt allows him much more creative control over the various Star Wars projects in the works, which seem to be mostly TV shows for Disney Plus at the moment, which makes sense, as “Clone Wars” Season 7 and “The Mandalorian” — two projects Filoni led — were bright spots during a time when Lucasfilm struck out monumentally with its film franchise, with “Solo” losing money, and its sequel trilogy dividing fans and evaporated merchandise revenues, which is where most of the value of the Star Wars franchise is.
It’s very telling that in 2020, despite the fact that there was no “Star Wars” movie released that year, Hasbro’s Star Wars toy sales rose 70 percent almost entirely because of The Mandalorian, when before, when there were regularly-released theatrical films, sales were falling — a telltale sign that people of all ages just didn’t connect with the characters and world of Disney’s theatrical Star Wars films.
What makes Star Wars so profitable as a franchise is its ability to — even through its bad installments — connect with a wide range of people, as whether you love or hate them, Episodes 1-6 had this consistent vision of a galaxy far, far away that was bursting with creativity, life and possibilities, with even disposable extras having their own little backstories and individual personalities that got you to want to explore this world, and Filoni understands this, as he was mentored by Star Wars creator George Lucas for many years. While Lucas is not always perfect in communicating his ideas, Filoni understands what he’s thinking and what works about his vision, something none of Lucasfilm’s theatrical directors under Disney ownership have gotten.
The world of Star Wars that Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Ron Howard, and partially Gareth Edwards (in my opinion, “Rogue One” almost stuck its landing) created feels like what you would get if a robot made Star Wars. They’ve made perfectly fine films, but they have no heart, with the sequel trilogy really letting the franchise down by being an incoherent mess that often goes too far creatively in the wrong directions, but never has the guts to try things that might actually work, and let them stand on their own as their own thing.
For the most part, Disney’s Star Wars films have been decent, but decent films devoid of personality — of a mark of an auteur — aren’t going to compel you to revisit them after your first viewing. Love it or hate it, the reason why Star Wars is the financial juggernaut that it is is because in every instance where media from this franchise sticks with audiences, there is a form of a willingness to take risks, and play in the giant sandbox George Lucas created, while being respectful and appreciative of everything that came before them.
The single greatest thing Filoni has done for Star Wars through his many shows in the franchise is make Star Wars feel special again. Through “Clone Wars” and “The Mandalorian” alone, he’s brushed off the failing, deconstructionist realism the theatrical films have been pushing, and has shown us it’s OK to think that Boba Fett is awesome, it’s OK to want to think that Luke Skywalker, and the Jedi are awesome. It’s OK to indulge in the cheesiness of the prequels. It’s OK to have fun with Star Wars. It’s OK to love this franchise, and you shouldn’t feel bad for doing so because a lot of what’s in it is unrealistic, or absurd. This universe is fun because in part because it is so different from our own, and it is filled with all sorts of possibilities.
The sequel trilogy is so bizarre in the regard that it’s almost mad that people like Star Wars, taking almost every chance it can to belittle it in hopes of taking it in a new direction, but they lose sight of what makes the series special, and its “new direction” is far inferior to what came before it.
Promoting Filoni is a smart choice because he’s proven to bring value to what was a depreciating franchise, and it’s a fantastic choice for fans, because it guarantees Filoni will do what he always has done, but on a much larger scale: Give us stories that we’ll love, that are respectful of everything the franchise has done, understands what Star Wars is and why it works, while breaking new ground in ways that make sense, and have soul.