Star Wars is No Longer Special
The original trilogy kick-started the modern blockbuster era, while the prequels premiered during the beginnings of the billion dollar Summer season, with competition like The Matrix trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter franchise. By the time Disney had the rights, the expanded universe age of franchise cinema was in full swing thanks to their other major property, Marvel. It made sense for Disney and Lucasfilm to try and replicate that model. On top of the central Skywalker focused trilogy, many spin-offs were announced, starting with Rogue One and Solo, with rumored plans for movies centered on Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
All the reasoning behind such decisions is sensible, but what it has done is ensure that Star Wars movies are no longer the long-anticipated events they once were. Once upon a time, fans had to wait years or even decades for a new Star Wars film: Now, they’re guaranteed a new one every year, with the possibility of multiple annual releases, TV shows, and much more. Marvel pulled it off with their cinematic universe, but the cultural context was far different from that of Star Wars, as were the pressures. The expansive nature of Star Wars was more rooted in its expanded universe beyond the movies, including books and video games, which were popular but didn't always reach the general audiences who saw the films. Bringing the franchise's focus outside of the Skywalker Saga and doing it with increasing frequency makes the series plentiful and common. Lucasfilm and Disney seem to have assumed that audiences would automatically care about these prequels or spin-offs, and that doesn't seem to be the case. Even the ever popular Han Solo couldn't entice fans to see a prequel. If these films start coming out two or three times a year and are focused more on side-characters whose appeal is more rooted in the hardcore fan-base, the franchise could further lose that special shine it used to possess when it was a rarer treat.
Star Wars Has a Director Problem
It has become impossible to discuss Star Wars without delving into their repeated issues with hiring and firing directors. First there was Gareth Edwards, hired to direct Rogue One but replaced in the re-shoots with Tony Gilroy, who later admitted to extensively rewriting the film. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired from Solo with only a few weeks of shooting left and replaced by Ron Howard, who reportedly re-shot around three-quarters of the film (bringing the final budget to around $250m, making it one of the most expensive films ever made). Colin Trevorrow left Star Wars Episod IX before production started and The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams took over his duties. Josh Trank departed an undisclosed spin-off movie - rumored to be a Boba Fett story - after his adaptation of Fantastic Four performed poorly with critics and audiences, with rumors of disasterous behind the scenes issues.
It is not uncommon for projects to lose directors, be it through a resignation or firing. Disney has a history with this in their animation department, including Brenda Chapman being removed from Pixar’s Brave, and Jan Pinkava being replaced on Ratatouille by Brad Bird. Such drama does not always mean bad things for a film, but regardless of what you think of the finished products of Solo and Rogue One, it’s clear that a pattern had started to form at Lucasfilm.
Lucasfilm’s original plan seems to have been similar to Marvel’s in terms of hiring talent: Bring some bright young rising stars on board and let them tinker in the sandbox of Star Wars, putting their unique stamp on the material while adhering to the wider plan. However, Rian Johnson aside, it’s become obvious that Lucasfilm would prefer a safer bet. They replaced those youthful hot-shots with reliable old hands whose robustness and familiarity with the major studio system made it easier for Lucasfilm to get the results they want. Ron Howard may not be the coolest director, but his approach is more in line with the old-school studio system Lucasfilm is more keen to replicate. The rumors that a Boba Fett film will be helmed by James Mangold (Logan) and the news that the first live-action series will be run by Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book) suggest this is the route they wish to continue taking for their long-term plan.
This chopping and changing tactic is messy, makes Disney and Lucasfilm look flighty, and costs a lot of money. It doesn’t inspire much confidence in audiences, much less potential talents looking to sign onto the next project. It shouldn't have taken the studio this long to realize that this was the tactic they wished to use.