A crowded stage for a crowded slate Credit: Kate Green via Getty
Once again at Star Wars Celebration, fans across the globe gather to hear the big announcements. “Big,” however is often not the best descriptor for these announcements due to the secrecy Lucasfilm likes to wrap around its various projects. Precious few release dates were given, for instance. But we got some pretty juicy details about already-announced projects, which is exciting too. So here’s everything we learned at ExCel London about the Star Wars galaxy’s movements across eras, the small, and the big screen.
The question on everybody’s lips at Star Wars Celebration 2023 was whether a new slate of live-action films would be announced. It’s been four years since a galaxy far, far away has been visited on the big screen with several projects from the likes of Kevin Feige, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, J.D. Dillar and Patty Jenkins being shelved. But by the end of the Lucasfilm Showcase, fans got a huge answer when studio president Kathleen Kennedy announced three new films set in the past, present and future of this cinematic universe’s timeline – including the return of Daisy Ridley as Rey.
“This really spawns from what George Lucas said years ago that he created Star Wars to move forward and backward along a mythological timeline,” Kennedy said. “Now we are looking to broaden that timeline, building a rich future, expanding upon the present and going deep into the past to tell our stories.”
Whether these individual films will be the first in three new trilogies set across the timeline is yet to be confirmed, but after the tepid response to Solo: A Star Wars Story and, The Rise of Skywalker, along with the shelving of several big screen projects announced at previous Star Wars Celebrations, Lucasfilm is keeping its cards close to its chest.
What we learned about Star Wars: New Jedi Order Ridley earned a major roar when she turned up on stage to confirm that she would return as Rey in Star Wars: New Jedi Order, joining director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on stage. “I’ve always been attracted to the hero’s journey,” Obaid-Chinoy said. “I’m attracted to the promise of a New Jedi Order and I’m attracted to immersing myself in a Jedi Academy with a powerful Jedi Master.”
“My heart is pounding,” added Ridley. “I’m very thrilled to be continuing this journey.”
Set 15 years after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and written by Steven Knight, Ridley’s Rey will be that Jedi Master guiding a new generation of padawans and rebuilding the Jedi Order as a new Dark power tries to tear it down.
What we learned about Star Wars: Dawn of the JediAt the other end of the Star Wars timeline – 25,000 years after the prequel series, in fact – James Mangold will direct Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, telling the tale of the first Jedi to wield the force in an era of chaos and oppression. Mangold describes it as a “biblical epic” akin to The Ten Commandments that will grapple with the dawning of the force.
What we learned about the untitled feature set in The New Republic era Long-time Star Wars creator, writer, executive producer and director Dave Filoni will helm his first live-action set in the current era of The New Republic. Kennedy explained that the film, executive produced by Filoni’s Mandalorian collaborator Jon Favreau, would center on the “escalating war between the Imperial Remnant and the fledgling New Republic,” and bring together many of the narrative threads and characters from the Disney+ series including The Mandalorian, Book of Boba Fett and Ahsoka.
“There were a whole bunch of stories I grew up with in the expanded universe and there were a lot of plans in the New Republic,” said Filoni. “We’re drawing on new things that were created in the meantime, and we’re bringing them all together. As we said, we are going to enter this epic battle that does take place, unfortunately, for our heroes after the events of Return [of the Jedi] and before The Force Awakens.”
What we learned about Ahsoka
Filoni is certainly keeping busy at Lucasfilm; he was on stage to announce the August 2023 release of Ahsoka, with Ahsoka Tano herself, Rosario Dawson alongside her co-stars Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Fans got a glimpse of the actors as Sabine and Hera, who were first introduced in animated form in Star Wars: Rebels. Several characters from this animated series will be seen in live-action including Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi) and Grand Admiral Thrawn, who makes a small appearance in the latest trailer. “If this does well, maybe we’ll get a second season,” said Dawson. “It’s up to y’all. I’m ready if you are.”
What we learned about Skeleton CrewFiloni and Favreau also gave an update on Skeleton Crew, the Amblin-esque series led by Jude Law who plays a Jedi guiding some tween characters played by Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Kyriana Kratter, and Robert Timothy Smith who find themselves on a dangerous journey to get home. Set during the Mandalorian time period, this might be the most suburban location we’ve seen so far in the Star Wars universe with the trailer showing the kids at school, going home to picturesque houses and riding speeders in a forest. But in true Goonies fashion, they find themselve lost in the galaxy and facing pirates (including the Nikto pirate from The Mandalorian), gunfire, and being locked up. “This is what we used to do with all the Amblin movies,” said Kennedy. “Even though kids were in those movies, they weren’t necessarily just kids films and that’s very much the vibe of how we’ve approached this show.”
Created by MCU Spider-Man’s Jon Watts and Christopher Ford, episodes will be directed by Watts, David Lowery, the Daniels, Jake Schreier, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Lee Isaac Chung. “We have a great list of people from all different walks of cinema come together,” added Kennedy. Skeleton Crew is currently in post-production and will hit Disney+ later this year.
What we learned about The AcolyteThe Acolyte was another major talking point during the showcase with creator Leslye Headland (Russian Doll) describing it as “Frozen meets Kill Bill”—though she did not confirm if there would be musical numbers. Likely she was referring to Frozen’s sisterly dynamic as she described the series about “a spiritual war,” set 100 years before the prequel trilogy during the High Republic era.
“We are taking place during a part of the timeline that is peaceful and there isn’t really a war for our Star Wars,” Headland said. “I went back to George’s inspirations of martial arts films, Kurosawa, samurai films. Films that were about deep, personal interconnectivity. So Master-Padawan, teacher-pupil, but also father-daughter, sibling-sibling, that became the war for us.”
The first footage certainly shows a reverence for chanbara cinema with plenty of shots of the Jedi Temple, Jedi wielding lightsabers and martial arts sequences involving Amandla Stenberg and Carrie-Anne Moss. Yojimbo and The Hidden Fortress are big visual references too, said Headlands, as well as wuxia classics like Come Drink With Me which similarly centered on a female warrior. Stenberg said of working with Headlands, “She has an emotionally profound way of approaching the darker sides of ourselves and doing it in a style of magical realism that really appeals to me.”
The Acolyte will also see the return of replacement Chewbacca actor Joonas Suotamo as a Wookiee; this time as a Jedi Master. The series is still in production having completed four episodes with the shoot set to wrap in May and the series out in 2024.
What we learned about Andor Season 2Also in production with an August 2024 release scheduled is the second half of Andor. “Physically we started shooting in November,” said show creator Tony Gilroy. “We’re about halfway, we’re going to shoot through August so we will spend another year on the post production, the music, the visuals and I suppose we will come out the following August.”
Gilroy shared a few scenes from season 2 which hints at a more espionage, spy game feel with Diego Luna’s titular hero sporting some dapper garms and a mustache in one scene, Kyle Soller’s Syril Karn rocking his natural curls and pretty much everyone armed and ready for the Rebellion to really begin. “If we do not stand together,” Mon Mothma says in one moment, “We will be crushed.”
Acknowledging that Andor will end with this second season, Gilroy said, “If you know your ending, it really helps. There are a lot of shows — shows that I love — and they’re trying to figure out where they’re going. We know where we’re going. It’s kind of like the escape from prison: you know where you’re going.”
In a separate panel on the making of Andor, Gilroy confirmed that every three episodes will represent one year, four years in total, until the timeline connects with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The final scene, in fact, will end with Cassian going to the Ring of Kafrene as a fully-fledged Resistance agent. “He joined the Rebellion and we were never going back on that,” said Gilroy. He’s a committed member now – that internal debate is over.”
Andor might be coming to an end but Lucasfilm clearly has no plans to end this franchise. Of course, if they are of the same high quality as Gilroy’s politically-charged series then that might not be a bad thing.
What we learned about Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Elsewhere on the Lucasfilm roster is the Indiana Jones franchise and Harrison Ford’s final outing as the part time teacher-part time adventurer. While Ford literally phoned it in, sending a video message, Phoebe Waller-Bridge offered a little more insight into her character Helena, who is Indiana’s god-daughter.
“They haven’t seen each other for a very long time and in some ways she’s the worst thing that could happen to him at this time in his life, but also the best thing,” Waller-Bridge said. Indy is approaching retirement but gets sucked back into face off against Mads Mikkelsen’s Nazi villain who wants to do better than Hitler with the help of the Dial of Destiny to turn back time.
The trailer shows a serious amount of de-aging technology will be used to flashback and forth in time from Indy in the 40s to the 60s as well as the return of John Rhys Davies white-washed performance as Egyptian ally Sallah. The film was shot in various locations including Glasgow, Sicily and Morocco, and a sneak peek at a tuk-tuk chase scene shows the Indiana Jones franchise’s penchants for Orientalism and high-octane chase sequences are still intact.
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