Former editor at The Hollywood Reporter and a writer at the new subscription-based website Puck Matthew Belloni blasted The Walt Disney Company for re-upping Kathleen Kennedy’s contract as President of Lucasfilm.
In an article on Puck discussing Kennedy’s reign as President of Lucasfilm, Belloni reported, “Kennedy has a lot of good things happening at Lucasfilm, and I’m told she recently re-upped her deal for another three years.”
However, he also noted, “But Star Wars as a film franchise is a disaster, and someone else should be given a chance to fix it.”
In fact, Belloni spends most of the article pointing out just how disastrous Kennedy has been for Star Wars.
He notes, “the litany of botched productions and missed opportunities could form the curriculum for a film school seminar called Franchise Mismanagement.”
He then lists off a number of those botched productions and missed opportunities beginning by pointing out the obvious, “There isn’t a single Star Wars film project on track to make it to release before 2024, so at least five years between movies.”
Next, he points to the numerous changes in directors through Kennedy’s tenure which includes Tony Gilroy being brought in to overhaul Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One film and Ron Howard replacing Phil Lord and Chris Miller on Solo.
Belloni even points out, “the bland version of Solo failed to crack $400 million worldwide, becoming the first Star Wars movie to lose money, while Lord and Miller went on to win an Oscar that same year for the brilliant Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.”
He then returns to the problems with directors noting that she axed Colin Trevorrow from the third film in the trilogy and brought J.J. Abrams back to direct The Rise of Skywalker.
It’s not just the fact that Solo: A Star Wars Story lost money. The sequel trilogy bled viewers and dollars as each film was released.
The Force Awakens earned $2 billion at the worldwide box office and $936.6 million at domestic theaters.
The Last Jedi saw its worldwide box office tumble to $1.3 billion and its domestic haul fall to $620 million.
The Rise of Skywalker would just barely make it over $1 billion at the worldwide box office. It’s domestic box office fell to $515.2 million.
From there, Belloni criticizes Kennedy’s creative direction with the franchise stating, ” Force Awakens, after a rocky development, was considered a well-executed mix of fan service and fresh characters. But after allowing Johnson to kill off Luke Skywalker and the villain Snoke in Last Jedi, Kennedy and Co. freaked when superfans didn’t like some of the creative deviations from the Star Wars canon. So rather than defend or extrapolate on his ideas for Episode IX, Lucasfilm just minimized or ignored them. The Force could inhabit anyone, until it couldn’t… that kind of thing.”
He added, “It all contributed to a sense that even though this is the premiere, A+ Hollywood franchise, the overall story wasn’t mapped out, and nothing really mattered to its overseers.”
This is almost understating the issue of creative direction at Star Wars. There appears to be absolutely none and the ground rules of the series that were laid out in George Lucas’ original trilogy, especially concerning the Force, were thrown into a trash compactor for Disney’s sequel trilogy.
For Pete’s sake, Star Wars creatives actually introduced a literal rock as a pilot of a starship in their new The High Republic publishing initiative.
A video introducing the rock on the Star Wars website stated, “Leox Gyasi is the eccentric pilot of a vessel known simply as The Vessel, co-piloted by Affie Hollow and navigated by Geode, who appears to be a rock.”
Belloni conclude his piece stating, “After nearly a decade in charge, it seems clear Kennedy isn’t that person, and doesn’t have that team in place, for Star Wars to thrive as a film franchise.”
“If Feige, who is working on his own Star Wars film, can’t take on all the movies, and Favreau and Filoni don’t want it, then Chapek needs to find some new blood,” he added.
It doesn’t appear that Chapek has any plans of finding any new blood. At The Walt Disney Company’s 2021 Annual Meeting of Shareholders in March, the Disney CEO was asked by a shareholder if he had plans of firing Kennedy.
Chapek answered, “We’ve been absolutely thrilled that we can have the kind of creative talent in our company, the likes of Kathy Kennedy running Lucas. And we look forward to having Kathy directing the activities of the entire Lucasfilm organization for many years to come.”
What do you make of Belloni’s commentary? Do you think Kennedy should still be in charge of Star Wars?