Star Wars is going to get some help from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the showrunners of Game of Thrones. The official news is that the duo will be writing and producing a series of Star Wars films that are separate from the Skywalker series and the new trilogy that Rian Johnson is creating.
This is exciting news for a number of reasons, but before we let hype cloud our judgment, let’s look at how this announcement is a strong indication of where the franchise is headed.
So Long, Star Wars Stories
Between this announcement and Rian Johnson’s new trilogy, it’s almost certain this spells death for the Star Wars Story anthology films. Disney has struggled to figure out how to handle the series outside of the trilogy films. Their initial reaction was to make a number of standalone prequel movies attached to notable characters and events in the history of Star Wars.
That’s limited their scope in terms of storytelling and it doesn’t seem to have paid off with general audiences. Rogue One hasn’t caught on with casual viewers, and as much as fervent fans matter to the franchise, it’s the wider audiences that make or break a movie. The same lack of strong engagement looks to be happening with Solo. Yes, super fans are pumped but regular moviegoers don’t match their enthusiasm.
That has to do with a lack of familiar continuity and a feeling that the brand is too diluted to follow from movie to movie with these Star Wars Story entries. Tapping the Game of Thrones showrunners to develop a serialized set of films will win over a lot of audience members who don’t feel as tapped into the more fan-targeted stories that the anthology films have been attempting. A feeling of continuity is important for moviegoers and the Star Wars Story films just haven’t provided that.
More Ensemble Movies
Benioff and Weiss are experts at balancing a number of characters in a story. That’s always been a strong element of the best Star Wars films, but the only movie that felt like a genuine ensemble piece was Rogue One. Finding the right groove for that number of characters didn’t work in that film (some characters were underwritten and/or underdeveloped), and Disney looks like they became more interested in anthology films centered around one iconic character (i.e., Solo, a rumored Obi Wan one-off, etc.).
If that’s out the window, it’s possible that Benioff and Weiss could be brought on to help make Star Wars films that feel much larger in terms of characters. That would be a fresh approach to the series and its usual focus on singular strong protagonists. Juggling multiple characters and seemingly disparate storylines that actually do connect together would be a great use of Benioff and Weiss’s skills.
Building Out the World
A lot of fans have complained that the non-trilogy films have been too scared to really expand the world of Star Wars in riskier ways. Benioff and Weiss are well-experienced at shaping an expansive and vast world that feels true to itself while still offering surprises and unexpected additions to the mythology.
This will be crucial if Star Wars wants to continue to grow as a universe. We can’t stay stuck in the same modes of thought with these stories. Heck, The Last Jedi was commenting on that very concept, by doing away with familiar storytelling ideas and established lore. If Benioff and Weiss are given true creative control over the trajectory of their films, they have the potential to open up the world of Star Wars in ways that Disney might have been hesitant to do.
The Shape of Things to Come
Overall, the hiring of Benioff and Weiss might also signal the moment that Disney sees how they need to proceed with Star Wars on a larger scale. If anthology movies and prequels aren’t working, perhaps their game plan will now be self-connected trilogies or series.
The franchise has always been associated with clearly defined sagas. It’s possible that Disney recognizes this and now wants to replicate that structure with each successive film. Maybe the plan is to have concurrent sagas alternating at the box office. For example, we get one of Rian Johnson’s entries one year and then a Benioff/Weiss film in the following year. It would be an interesting experiment to see if audiences can line up with these separate sagas.
Hopefully, Disney won’t get cold feet with these creators like they did with Gareth Edwards, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller. If Benioff and Weiss are really given the reigns to deliver something new to the world of Star Wars, we could be in for a real treat.