The Rise of Skywalker opened, for all intents and purposes, yesterday.
With it comes a history of Star Wars that has been, at times, wonderful, strange, questionable and awful. What started as an independent feature by a visionary creator, evolved into a product for the taking by one of the most well-known brands ever to exist. Yes, Disney.
Over these 40+ years, the brand has seeped into popular culture, toys, media, and that dark little space in every fanboy and fangirl’s minds in such a way that no matter how good or how bad the next iteration of the next story in the next part of the Star Wars Universe…someone is always gonna get the axe because of it.
The Star Wars axe has resulted in many casualties.
From Josh Trank to David Benioff & D.B. Weiss to Phil Lord and Chris Miller to numerous others who attempted to make their mark on the Star Wars Universe and either never got a chance to, bowed out before they had a chance to, or got a chance, fucked it up, and were booted out before the Matrix could fix what was already off track. And at the helm, these days, of keeping them all in line? Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy.
But that’s not the story. The story, it seems, is that Kathleen Kennedy herself is about to get the Star Wars axe herself, and the rainmaker himself…Marvel’s Kevin Feige, is about to take her place.
The rumblings have been getting stronger over the last few weeks. With the final chapter in the 9-film nein-ology coming to an end, and enough egg on her face to make three omelets for hearty breakfast customers, it’s an opportunity to shift Kennedy off the day-to-day of Star Wars, hand her a Producing shingle as a way to keep the news trending in a positive light, and hand the keys to the Force-led Kingdom to a man who knows how to take a brand, extend it into twenty years of success, and deliver the kind of long term profits that Bob Iger and Walt Disney hoped for when they paid billions of dollars for Lucasfilm in the beginning.
The announcement won’t come until the New Year; we’re hearing January or February, after The Rise of Skywalker has a holiday in which to make its money. But everyone already knows, the film isn’t going to generate more than any of the previous iterations, and this will simply be yet another reason for handing Kennedy her hat and pointing her to the door. But the announcement won’t even touch the box office of ROS. If anything, it will tout the success of the latest film, the closing of the Skywalker saga, and what a great opportunity for Kathleen Kennedy to use that as a jumping off point to start her own endeavor, funded by Disney and Lucasfilm. What a perfect time for her, now that she’s been the steward of the brand through this very specific milestone, to go off and be a creative Producer like she was before she ever took over for Lucas.
Feige is the perfect candidate for her replacement. He knows how to handle big brands, is constantly finding new and unique was to build a Universe around said I.P., and Iger and Disney love him. The only question will be, can Feige balance Marvel, Lucasfilm and the Spider-man movies over at Sony all at once? Will his level of creative success continue when he’s got so many huge balls in the air?
That remains to be seen, but the consistent opinion on Kennedy, is that she hasn’t been able to turn this pot of Lucas gold into the fortune that Disney originally hoped for. And all the drama around the hiring and firing of Directors, the mopping up of mistakes on films and the general downward turn of profitability for the brand was never going to keep her in this position.
While The Last Jedi delivered OK box office, it was the fan backlash that became the straw that broke the Tauntaun’s back. That, plus the Solo disaster, the Game of Thrones‘ producers making a deal, then hightailing it to Netflix, and the lack of foresight on having Baby Yoda merchandise in the stores for Christmas…the hits just kept on coming. And Kennedy is tired. She’s oh so tired. She, like Rian Johnson, realized that in the Star Wars Universe, sometimes, you just can’t beat back the fanaticism and pure hatred that the fanboys and girls of the Internet can bring upon your creations.
The bottom line? It’s her time. It’s just about how to message it and when to tell the world that she’s moving on.
The fans will rejoice. Some will complain. But mostly, it will be yet another minor ripple in the Force. And as we very well know, where one ripple occurs, another one rises to take its place.
In this case, it’s Force Feige for the win.