Movies & TV / Columns

Breaking Down Disney’s Big Star Wars and Marvel Announcements

December 12, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
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Let’s get it out of the way right now. Everyone was a winner when it comes to the future of Star Wars and Marvel projects. I’m still digesting all the announcements and while I might be excited about everything, I’m impressed by the amount and scope of what we got. 

Star Wars
Remember in 2019 when then–Disney CEO Bob Iger admitted that releasing five movies in four years was “a little too much, too fast” and adding, “You can expect some slowdown. … I think we’re going to be a little bit more careful about volume and timing.” 

Disregard that.

Head of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy revealed some huge news, including plans for Patty Jenkins to direct the next Star Wars feature and that Hayden Christensen will be back for the Obi-Wan miniseries.

Getting into things, Disney announced that over the next few years it is planning to launch 10(!!!) Star Wars series on Disney+. That’s huge and me thinks The Mandalorian has a lot to do with it. 

When it comes to Jenkins, she will direct the next theatrical Star Wars movie, Rogue Squadron. It is due out Christmas 2023, and is a personal story for Jenkins, who shared a video explaining that she has long wanted to make a fighter pilot movie in honor of her late father, fighter pilot William Jenkins.

Kennedy also revealed two new series, which will come from The Mandalorian executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni: Rangers of the New Republic and Ahsoka, starring Rosario Dawson. Both will take place within the timeline of The Mandalorian.

“These interconnected shows, along with future stories, will excite new audiences, embrace our most passionate fans, and will culminate in a climactic story event,” said Kennedy.

Personally, I love this. It’s a big “universe building” move that will strengthen what we love about Mandalorian and build it into new directions. I’m all for this. 

The news kept coming as Kennedy surprised everyone with the news that Hayden Christensen will be back for the Obi-Wan miniseries starring Ewan McGregor. Christensen will return to play Darth Vader, of course. “This will be the rematch of the century,” said Kennedy. In a video shown to investors, McGregor stated, “The most beautiful thing of all is that it’s brought me back together with Hayden.”
Want more? I was really blown away by this as we got word that Lando was going to be developed by Justin Simien. Donald Glover, who played the suave character in Solo is back and I’m excited for the possibilities. 

By this point I’m shocked that the hits kept on coming! Diego Luna’s Rogue One prequel was revealed to be called Andor, and is currently in production, while a series from creator Leslye Headland was unveiled as The Acolyte, described as a mystery thriller set in the final days of the High Republic era.

Oh, and let’s not forget Visions, Bad Batch, and A Droid Story. AND we’re going to get another Star Wars movie courtesy of Taika Waititi.

While the news was heavy on Star Wars we also got word that Lucasfilm was commitmented to making another Indiana Jones movie (coming from director James Mangold in July 2022. Harrison Ford will turn 80), Jon M. Chu’s small-screen Willow adaptation (also 2022), and an adaptation of Tomi Adeyemi’s 2018 fantasy novel Children of Blood and Bone.

Turning to Marvel…wow. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced a huge number of new projects, including Disney+ series and theatrical films that set up the future of the Marvel cinematic universe.

And it’s pretty damn cool. 

The big news is Disney is bringing in the first family of the Marvel universe, the Fantastic Four, helmed by Jon Watts. Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm have long deserved a proper big screen translation and the time looks to be right.  
For me, it’s all about DOOM! I can only hope they get him right and make him a big player from the start and not just a “villain of the movie”, one and done baddie. 

Feige went on to announce several new TV projects for Disney+, in addition to those that are already in the works. First up is Secret Invasion, a series centering on Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, joined by Ben Mendelsohn as the Skrull Talos. 

Also getting his own Disney+ series is Don Cheadle. War Machine, a.k.a. Colonel Rhodes, who will be the lead in Armor Wars, which Feige says is “a classic Marvel story about Tony [Stark]’s worst fear coming true” — his tech falling into the wrong hands.

Feige also announced the new Disney+ show Ironheart, which also introduce teenager Riri Williams from the comics, a genius tech mind who follows in Tony Stark’s footsteps and builds her own suit of armor. Dominique Thorne has been cast as Riri.

Let’s note that James Gunn is currently working on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Feige also revealed that the writer-director will film a Guardians holiday special, to debut exclusively on Disney+ in 2022. In related Guardians news, Baby Groot will also get his turn in the spotlight in I Am Groot, a series of shorts debuting on Disney+.

Feige also provided updates on previously announced films and TV shows. He shared new trailers for WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter and Soldier, and Loki, all of which will debut on Disney+ in 2021. He also provided some updates on the Hawkeye series, confirming that Hailee Steinfeld will star alongside Jeremy Renner and new cast members Vera Farmiga, Fra Free, and Alaqua Cox.

Feige confirmed that Tatiana Maslany will star in the She-Hulk series as lawyer Jennifer Walters, and she’ll be joined by her cousin Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo. Also returning from the Hulk sphere is Tim Roth’s villain Abomination, from the 2008 Incredible Hulk.

Marvel also shared a first behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming Ms. Marvel series, introducing newcomer Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan. A sizzle reel teased the show’s coming-of-age tone, and the series will launch on Disney+ in “late 2021.”

Feige also confirmed that Vellani’s Kamala will star alongside Brie Larson in the upcoming Captain Marvel 2. Nia DaCosta will direct the sequel, which will also pair Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel with the adult version of Monica Rambeau, who is played by Teyonah Parris and will make her debut in January in WandaVision
We got casting details about the recently wrapped Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (which stars Simu Liu), as well as Taika Waititi’s upcoming Thor sequel, Thor: Love and Thunder. Returning cast members Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Tessa Thompson will also be joined by Christian Bale, making his MCU debut as the villain Gorr the God Butcher. Wow.

Rejoice as we’re getting a third Ant-Man movie, directed by Peyton Reed and titled Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer are all returning, and they’re joined by Kathryn Newton as Cassie Lang and Jonathan Majors as the villain Kang the Conquerer.

WHEW! So much goodness! What excites you the most because, for me, I just can’t choose!