Star Wars Is Taking A Page From The Marvel Cinematic Universe - Here's Why That's A Good Thing

Toward the end of the Lucasfilm Showcase panel at Star Wars Celebration, Kathleen Kennedy talked about how George Lucas's vision for "Star Wars" going forward was to explore the past, present, and future of the timeline and the universe. To that end, the television projects that were announced only mostly fit that bill. "The Acolyte" will take us deeper into the past of "Star Wars" than we've ever seen in live-action to the era of "The High Republic." 

The Second Season of "Andor" will show us a growing Empire in the time before the battle of Yavin. The continuing adventures of "The Mandalorian," "Ahsoka," and "Skeleton Crew" will show us a galaxy in the midst of resurgence after the end of the Empire. These are all really safe periods of time. But when they made announcements for the films, Lucasfilm swung for the fences with movies set in three different time periods ranging from 25,000 years before any other "Star Wars" storytelling, all the way to the future of New Jedi Order, established a decade and a half after the events of "The Rise of Skywalker."

One thing is clear, though: the filmmakers and minds behind "Star Wars," under the astute direction of Kathleen Kennedy, are taking their own points of view and tastes, and adapting them into different flavors of "Star Wars." Some might say this is "Star Wars" acting too much like Marvel, with vast, culminating, and different, disparate styles of movies, but I think this is a great thing.

Marvel and the interconnected universe

Marvel has moved forward with a big, interconnected universe (that feels very much like a comic book) and threads it across different genres, times, and space. When you watch "Guardians of the Galaxy," you get a space comedy. When you watch "Ant-Man," you're getting heists and science fiction. When you watch movies like "Shang-Chi," you're getting classic Kung Fu movies in a superhero universe. "WandaVision" is as different a show as it could possibly be from "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," but they all exist in the same cohesive universe, telling stories that add together across different genres. Seeing "Star Wars" lean into that is really heartening, actually.

George Lucas has always done this, really. Part of the DNA of "Star Wars" is cramming all kinds of disparate film DNA into the movies and TV shows and showing how "Star Wars" can do it all. That's why you can cross "The Hidden Fortress" and "Flash Gordon" and come out with "A New Hope," or take parts of "Ben Hur" and Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid" and toss them into "The Phantom Menace."

When Lucas started work on "The Clone Wars," he worked hard to do two things. First, he expanded the palette of "Star Wars." He told stories that could be called westerns and thrillers. He adapted Alfred Hitchcock movies straight into a galaxy far, far away. He had the editor of "Apocalypse Now" come and tell a story with Joseph Conrad-levels of darkness inspired by Kubrick's "Paths of Glory."

The second thing he did was instill that spirit of what he thought "Star Wars" could be and the unique alchemy of what it was to Dave Filoni as his right hand. The new generation, led by Kathleen Kennedy and Dave Filoni, are taking those lessons to the next level of "Star Wars" storytelling.

During the Lucasfilm Showcase panel at Star Wars Celebration, Jon Favreau credited Filoni for exactly that. "Everyone has this guy's number. He cares deeply and pours his heart and soul into the production we're about to talk about, but he also does it for us. Everyone has a view of what 'Star Wars' can be or do. Dave is unique in that he never squashes your idea, but helps it fit in with the tradition of George Lucas."

The Mandoverse

The thing we all love most about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is how the storylines are able to culminate in massive events, allowing the characters to cross over. It makes the universe feel very connected and coherent. Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau have really been leading that charge, taking "The Mandalorian" and using it as a launchpad to spin off shows, characters, and ideas that have started in other places like "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Star Wars Rebels." Then, they pulled them together even tighter. Ahsoka was introduced in live-action in "The Mandalorian," made a brief appearance in "The Book of Boba Fett," and is now getting her own show. But her show is finally paying off a storyline that was the culmination of her stories in "The Clone Wars" and "Rebels."

Grand Admiral Thrawn is being set up as the Thanos of the "Star Wars" universe and with the trailer for "Ahsoka" showing us one, terrifying shot of him from the back, it seems as though the Dave Filoni film will have an impact for fans of "Star Wars" television the same way all of the separate movies of the Marvel Universe led to "The Avengers." With some looking at "The Mandalorian" as the best thing to come from this new era of Lucasfilm, it makes a lot of sense for them to lean in that direction.

The Ten Commandments of the Jedi

As we look to the far past of Lucasfilm's announcements today, we have to go back 25,000 years to James Mangold's project set at the "Dawn of the Jedi." Mangold spoke on the panel of that same spirit that Favreau mentioned. He thought about "what kind of genre movie I wanted to tell in 'Star Wars.' I was thinking a biblical epic, like 'The Ten Commandments' in 'Star Wars.' Where did the Force come from, and how did it happen? We came up with an incredible story to tell, 25,000 years before [Yoda] was around."

It seems ridiculous on its face. When people think about "Star Wars," do they think about biblical epics? Certainly, the pod race in "The Phantom Menace" took its cues from some of those sorts of films, but how can you tell one of these big Cecil B. Demille stories in "Star Wars"? It feels like the bold sort of challenge, exactly the sort George Lucas would try to swing to the fences for. Lucas was the guy who took us back to the fall of the Republic and the Jedi with "The Phantom Menace" and gave us a movie unlike anything anyone expected. And it was a good thing. I don't think anyone could doubt that "The Phantom Menace" and the entire fabric of the prequel trilogy has stood the test of time for almost 25 years.

Doing something new, blending new genres into the fabric of "Star Wars" is exactly how you keep it vital. I think this is one of the things that made "The Force Awakens" and "The Rise of Skywalker" some of the weakest installments of "Star Wars." I love them, granted, but they didn't exactly work to tread new territory or wow us with something new.

The Asian cinema influence

As we look to the next part of the timeline we're filling in, we look to "The Acolyte." Leslye Headland is running the show, and she's committed to bringing an entirely different flavor to "Star Wars" than we've ever seen. The footage shown looks like a classic Kung Fu movie. "Because we were taking place in a part of the timeline when we were peaceful," Headland told us in the audience, "I went back to George's inspiration: Kurosawa, martial arts films, Wuxia. Master-Padawan, teacher-pupil, father-daughter, sibling-sibling, the spiritual war going on in this part of the timeline. 'Yojimbo.' 'Hidden Fortress.' The Shaw Brothers, 'Come Drink With Me,' 'Touch of Zen' ... There's lots of homage to these for the stunt work on the show."

And it shows. This show looks and feels different, not just because of the timeline, but because it has the perspective of a completely different filmmaker in a completely different era. The Sith are in hiding. "I wanted to delve into the 'Star Wars' universe and tell a story from the perspective of the villains. 'Frozen' meets 'Kill Bill' is what I pitched. Kathy didn't kick me out of the building, she was intrigued. But we're set between the ending of the High Republic and the Prequels. This is when the bad guys are outnumbered, they're the underdog. I'm excited to show you some things we've never seen in live action."

And that's exactly the sort of thing they should be chasing.

Kathleen Kennedy's Amblin roots

Kathleen Kennedy has produced some of the most legendary family movies of all time. Even if you were to just mention "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" and "The Goonies," that would be enough to make her a legend. So when Jon Watts wanted to tell something with that Amblin entertainment vibe, he wanted to match the wonder of what he saw in those movies produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg and bring it to the world of "Star Wars."

By the looks of the footage we saw and the attitudes of the kids starring in the project that came out on stage, they really nailed the vibe. It looks and feels like "Star Wars," but it's a distinctly different flavor.

But it's still part of the rest of the universe. Vane, one of the pirates featured in this last season of "The Mandalorian," played a prominent role in the trailer for this show, bringing even more of that interconnectedness. Maybe the total audience of "The Mandalorian" won't cross over to watch "The Skeleton Crew," but some of them will and some of them will find that it's exactly the show for them.

And that's what this is all about, creating different entry points for different feelings and genres of "Star Wars."

The Path of the Skywalker

One of the biggest promises made during the sequel trilogy, which has some of the most ardent, die-hard fans in "Star Wars" — was that Rey Skywalker would be continuing the legacy of the Jedi.

With the announcement that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy will be helming a film, starring Daisy Ridley, in this era after the time of the sequel trilogy, we're getting to see a new take on the Jedi as they move into a new era. Comparing and contrasting that to James Mangold's version, and Leslye Headland's, and George Lucas' is going to be fascinating and provide a lot of mythological storytelling.

This will likely be the continuation of the galaxy we all wanted to see after "Return of the Jedi" that the events of "The Force Awakens" robbed us of that are now being explored by Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau. Of all the projects, this is one that I'm almost most excited for—though, if it's not apparent, I'm excited for all of them. Daisy Ridley brought such a wonderful character to life as Rey, and I think most "Star Wars" fans are champing at the bit to see what she'll do as Rey Skywalker. (Especially knowing we know she can talk to Luke Skywalker.)

Something for everyone...

It feels like the point of all of these different projects is that they each have a completely different flavor and they all serve a slightly different audience. Not everyone is going to want to see all of these. Some of us — like me — are going to want to watch all of them. And I think that's really what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done best. They're going to rely on the stories people love (I mean, the trailer for Ahsoka name drops "Heir to the Empire), and continue building on what they have in the most interesting of ways.

It's a good time to be a "Star Wars" fan and the future of "Star Wars" is very bright unless you run a YouTube channel that runs news of Kathleen Kennedy's "impending departure" every few months, in which case her continued success might grate on you. But for the rest of us, we're going to be well-fed in a galaxy far, far away for the foreseeable future.