MOVIE PREVIEW – With Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron movie pulled from Disney’s calendar, will there be a new Star Wars movie after all, or has the Force gone out of the project?
Star Wars has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. Following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, the galaxy far, far away has made a big comeback (at least on the live-action front) after more than a decade of inactivity. Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit cinemas in December 2015, quickly followed by Rogue One in 2016, then The Last Jedi in 2017, and Solo in 2018 and finally, Rise of the Skywalker in 2019. The franchise did well, with Solo being the only film of the bunch not to gross a billion dollars at the worldwide box office.
Despite all of these box office successes, it’s been almost three years since the last Star Wars movie hit the big screen. Although Disney+ series such as Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and most recently Andor have kept the franchise alive and in the public’s mind, there is currently no telling when we will see another Star Wars adventure in cinemas. Disney and Lucasfilm have announced and spoke about several films following the rise of Skywalker, but none have materialised. The most likely of this bunch was a Rogue Squadron movie, which Patty Jenkins would have directed. Now, however, even that film has been pulled from Disney’s release schedule. The making of Rogue Squadron has been a very public roller coaster ride, so here’s what we know about this movie that may or may not still be happening.
What is the film about?
Rogue Squadron was first announced in December 2020, with a release date set for Christmas 2023. The announcement was made a few weeks before Jenkins’ latest film, Wonder Woman 1984, hit theaters and HBO Max. According to a written announcement on StarWars.com, the film will “introduce a new generation of starfighter pilots who ‘earn their wings’ and risk their lives in a high-speed thrill ride that pushes the limits”. Although no specific time period is specified, the description suggests that the film will set the Star Wars saga in a future era of the galaxy, suggesting that the story could take place after the events of Skywalker’s ascension.
The announcement was the biggest to come out of the Lucasfilm portion of Disney’s 2020 investor day. The announcement was accompanied by a video of Jenkins talking about his excitement for the film. He described his desire to make “the greatest fighter pilot movie of all time”. He says he was inspired to make the film as a tribute to his father, who was himself a fighter pilot. The video eventually ended with Jenkins suiting up, donning a helmet and walking towards a nearby X-Wing. The film’s potential certainly set the internet alight, but Rogue Squadron has never really materialised in the years since. It is now in doubt whether the film will even get made.
Patty Jenkins’ busy schedule
One of the initial factors in the development problems of Rogue Squadron was Patty Jenkins’ busy schedule. Although the reception of Wonder Woman 1984 was not as positive as that of the first Wonder Woman film, Jenkins largely retained her status as a big-name director in Hollywood. He directed Charlize Theron to Oscar glory with 2003’s Beast, worked on several lauded TV series in the early 2010s; he almost directed Thor: Dark World, but it wasn’t until 2017’s Wonder Woman that Jenkins really got into the mainstream atmosphere. Wonder Woman was a huge hit, and that’s exactly what Jenkins needed. He finally established his place in the industry and revitalised his career as a hugely talented director with a knack for franchise films.
That’s why it was such a big deal when Star Wars managed to sign Jenkins for a new feature film in the franchise. But Jenkins was already working on two other big projects at the time. The first was a major retelling of the Cleopatra story starring Gal Gadot. The second was a third Wonder Woman movie that would complete Jenkins’ trilogy of films with the character. As Jenkins was busy balancing these three major films, the filming schedule for Rogue Squadron had to be pushed back from 2021, and there is no further information as to when filming would take place. Then in November 2021, news broke that the film would have to be postponed again, as Jenkins’ busy schedule would not allow for filming in 2022.
Soon afterwards, Jenkins had to cut back on the projects he was working on to better focus his efforts. This led to him leaving the director’s chair on Cleopatra, and being replaced by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier director Kari Skogland. This move by Jenkins, a month after the reported delay and just a year after the original announcement of Rogue Squadron, signalled that he was once again focused on making the film a reality. However, as 2022 progressed, there were very few updates from Jenkins or Lucasfilm on the project. There was no mention of the status of the film at the Star Wars Celebration convention in May, nor was there any mention of the film at Lucasfilm’s D23 launch in September. Now, some news has finally come in about the film, although (unsurprisingly) not positive. Disney have now completely removed the film from their release schedule, meaning that there is no official word on when or if the film will be released.
Star Wars struggles with new films
This isn’t the first time Lucasfilm has struggled to get a movie to the end of its new Disney-owned era of Star Wars. A seemingly endless string of different directors have come up with exciting new projects only to abandon them due to “creative differences” with the studio. Nearly half a dozen times in the past seven years, Lucasfilm has proudly announced that it was working with an exciting new director, only to part ways with the director later on. Sometimes the film in question was cancelled altogether. The very first director this happened to was Josh Trank, who was set to direct a standalone Star Wars film back in 2014. The film was supposed to focus on the fan-favourite bounty hunter Boba Fett, but after the Fantastic Four disaster in 2015, director Trank was let go and work on the film was halted completely. It wasn’t until earlier this year that the character finally got his own adventure in the Disney+ series The Book of Boba Fett.
Although Disney and Lucasfilm seem to have had (and still have) a good relationship with J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson, the directors of the sequel trilogy, every film outside the sequel trilogy has had serious problems with its director. While Gareth Edwards is still credited as the director of Rogue One, according to several reports, Tony Gilroy replaced him in the director’s chair during the film’s extensive reshoots. Given that Gilroy is at the creative helm of Rogue One’s new spin-off Andor, there seems to be some truth to this. And the second standalone Star Wars story to hit theaters was Solo, which brought even more directorial drama. The directors of 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were infamously fired from the film after shooting had already begun, causing a mad scramble to find someone to replace them while the film was still actively shooting. In the end, Ron Howard got the job, but the resulting film is a mixture of different sounds, which makes it feel like there are always three hands on the wheel.
There was also talk of Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, who was signed on to direct Episode IX of the new trilogy, but was fired just a few years before the film’s release and replaced by J.J. Abrams. Trevorrow’s screenplay for the ninth film, which he titled Duel of the Fates, can be found online. Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were also Game of Thrones showrunners who were hired to direct the new Star Wars trilogy of films that will be released after Skywalker’s ascension. Those films were originally set to be released in 2022, 2024 and 2026, but like so many before them, the two creators eventually parted ways with Lucasfilm before anything too concrete could be said.
Is Rogue Squadron really going to be made?
In going through all the directors, I want to show that it’s not uncommon for Disney and Lucasfilm to create behind-the-scenes confusion with the directors they hire for Star Wars films. Right now, it seems that “creative disagreements” are more common than not. That’s not to say that Lucasfilm and Patty Jenkins are having the same consistent problems, but the fact that Rogue Squad has been taken off the show schedule entirely doesn’t inspire confidence. If everything was going smoothly with the film behind the scenes, Lucasfilm would have probably had Jenkins on hand at Star Wars Celebration and D23 to quell any news of the film site’s troubles. With the cancellation of Rogue Squadron from Disney’s calendar, the next Star Wars movie won’t officially hit theaters until 2025. While it could still be Rogue Squadron, Lucasfilm is developing two other films, specifically with director Taika Waititi and Marvel producer Kevin Feige. However, both films appear to still be in the very early stages of development, despite being announced around the same time as Rogue Squadron.
A Star Wars fighter pilot movie sounds like a surefire contender, especially after the amazing success of Top Gun: Maverick this summer. So let’s hope that Lucasfilm really sticks with the film and tries to make it happen, even if Jenkins doesn’t end up directing it. Since the announcement, however, there has been nothing but bad news about the film. While there is always a chance that Rogue Squadron will see the light of day, it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. And if the film does get made, it seems increasingly unlikely that Jenkins will direct.
Star Wars has been a huge success with its new streaming series on Disney+. Mandalorian has been called as one of the best Star Wars stories since the original trilogy, Obi-Wan Kenobi was one of the biggest streaming hits of the summer, and Andor is currently getting a lot of attention. With series such as Ahsoka and The Acolyte coming next year, as well as new seasons of Mandalorian and Andor, Lucasfilm seems content to keep the Star Wars brand exclusive to Disney+ for now. When we take in account the divisive nature of the franchise’s previous cinematic releases, when Star Wars returns to the big screen, it should be in a new, big way that gets people excited again. A one-off story like Rogue Squadron may not have the power to be the big-screen reintroduction to the brand’s cinematic division that it needs right now.