Opinion: To Avoid Disaster In His New Role, Dave Filoni Should Heed Qui-Gon Jinn’s Recent Lesson On Institutional Corruption
Dave Filioni is getting a promotion at Lucasfilm. The man in the Stetson hat who joined Lucasfilm Animation in 2008, after being hired by George Lucas himself, is stepping up to the role of Chief Creative Officer at Disney’s Lucasfilm. For Star Wars fans, however, this presents some promise and some potential peril.
Ever since he directed The Clone Wars animated feature film — and eventually serving as supervising director of the hugely popular Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series — Filoni has worn several ‘hats’ in his time helping shape the Star Wars universe. In the Disney era, the creator most notably worked with Jon Feavreau on The Mandalorian, Star Wars: Rebels, and Ahsoka; the most recent live-action on Disney+.
While Ahsoka was not a commercial success compared to other Star Wars projects Filoni has guided, it was in many ways the culmination of a decades-long journey to tie together elements of Star Wars lore between every era: the Prequels, Original Trilogy, and Sequels.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Filoni offered some insights into his new gig, which will have him more involved at the early stages of Star Wars projects — a departure from his previous involvement after the development had already taken shape.
This is significant. That means when Star Wars floats a potential new film, director pick, or TV series, it is likely to fit into Filoni’s vision for the franchise.
Say what you will about Dave Filoni, but he’s not a Star Wars creator without vision when it comes to the galaxy far, far away. Previously, Filoni was in a more responsive position, where dictates were being handed down from on high by Kennedy and company, and his job was to make those stories worked.
“I’m not telling people what to do,” Filoni says. “But I do feel I’m trying to help them tell the best story that they want to tell. I need to be a help across the galaxy here, like a part of a Jedi Council almost.”
That Jedi Council in this case is the likes of Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy and Head of Development Carrie Beck. There, Filoni hopes to inject his creative vision into the genesis of Star Wars ventures. I wish him luck.
Star Wars is at a pivotal moment in its history. While consistent critical acclaim and universal love from the fans have never been enjoyed by Star Wars in any era since 1977, things as of late have been especially rocky. The Mandalorian has given Star Wars a taste of success on the small screen, but the cinematic side of the business has faced challenges since The Last Jedi, a notoriously divisive installment, and the sloppy finale of The Rise of Skywalker.
Filoni is not universally beloved within the fanbase, but it’s hard to imagine another creative in the halls of Lucasfilm with as much history and name recognition as a serious Star Wars storyteller. He’s walked an explosive line in the fandom between loyalists to the pre-Disney Expanded Universe, prequel nostalgists and the unabashed ‘lovers of everything’ who will ride or die for anything with the Star Wars logo slapped on it.
That’s how you get Filoni projects elevating Grand Admiral Thrawn from the exile of Star Wars Legends, recasting Hayden Christensen in the role of a de-aged Anakin Skywalker, and going deep on the Mandalorian lore that no doubt appeals to the tastes of older Gen-X Star Wars fans who felt left behind by the Sequel trilogy.
Also on Filoni’s horizon is the announcement of a live-action feature he is supposedly set to direct. This project, revealed at Star Wars Celebration in April, promises to bridge the narrative gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. One must wonder if the promotion to Chief Creative Officer might change the game plan.
Filoni’s new title could be a good omen for Star Wars stories in the years ahead. Directors and producers can only do so much to make bad ideas greenlit by executives work on screen.
Unlike the J.J. Abrams or Rian Johnsons of the world, Dave Filoni has a demonstrated love of the world’s great myths that brought so much magic and wonder to Star Wars in the first place. His work on The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Ahsoka, (Mortis Gods, The World Between Worlds, wormhole travelings Loth-wolves) is living proof of how deeply Filoni thinks about the Force.
There is a problem here though.
Executive roles are not great for creatives who like to ponder the big questions of the universe. I’m reminded of a recent Star Wars novel by Claudia Gray, Master & Apprentice, where Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn is offered a spot on the Jedi Council while he is still training Obi-Wan Kenobi in the years before The Phantom Menace. Qui-Gon is torn. He doesn’t feel like a good mentor to young Kenobi, and the role on the Council is highly prestigious — a dream come true for any Jedi.
Qui-Gon wants to study the Force more deeply, and he’s becoming interested again in mysticism, prophecy, and the legends of Jedi lore that the Jedi Council considers to be nonsensical and even dangerous. He knows the Council is tainted by politics and a managerial mindset. He respects the likes of Yoda, Mace Windu, Ki-Adi-Mundi, and Plo Koon, but he knows that his ability to study the mysteries of the Force will be frozen by joining the Council. So Qui-Gon eventually declines.
Dave Filoni could do a lot of good working alongside Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, serving as a balancing force for the projects she might want to see produced. But there is no doubt that Filoni’s appreciation for the magic of the Force will be tested in this position.
May the Force be with him.