What would Star Wars look like with Kevin Feige in charge? President of Marvel Studios since 2015, Kevin Feige has earned his place in history as the architect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He's about to take his biggest step beyond Marvel, though, with recent news that Feige will produce a mystery Star Wars movie. Little is known about the project at this stage, but apparently Feige has told a major actor he has a role in mind for them.
There's a sense in which the news shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Feige grew up with Star Wars, and he's always loved the franchise, to the extent that the MCU has countless nods to a galaxy far, far away. What's more, both Lucasfilm and Marvel are owned by Disney, meaning this was reportedly all arranged after a high-level meeting between Feige, Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy, and studio co-chairmen Alan Horn and Alan Bergman.
There's been some speculation that Feige will ultimately succeed Kathleen Kennedy at Lucasfilm. Assuming that's even on the cards, it still feels to be quite a distant prospect, given Feige has discussed his long-term plans for Marvel. For all that's the case, it's interesting to speculate just what approach Feige would take if he ran Lucasfilm like he has done Marvel.
Kevin Feige Would Build A Universe
Let's start with the overarching strategy. Lucasfilm's initial Star Wars strategy has been to continue the saga, with occasional (now discontinued) spinoff movies like Rogue One and Solo. The problem with this approach, though, is that it means the galaxy only really grows in tie-in mediums. A movie may introduce a new world, like the junkyard planet Jakku, but it will be left to the novels, comics, and TV shows to fully flesh out that planet. Rogue One introduced the Force cult known as the Guardians of the Whills, but anyone who wants to know more about them will have to refer to tie-ins. Every Star Wars movie unveils new characters, aliens, and worlds, but they're only explored on the big screen to the degree they affect franchise heroes like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, or Rey.
That strategy clearly can't continue, given the trilogy of trilogies is coming to an end this year. In truth, though, Kevin Feige wouldn't want to work that way in the first place. Where Lucasfilm had built a saga, Feige would want to build a universe. Just as with the MCU, he'd consider every project to be the next brick in his building, going on top of what had gone before, and ready for another brick to be placed above it. That's the way Feige has done the MCU, where a Wakanda Easter egg in Iron Man 2 can lay the foundation for a Black Panther movie eight years later, or where Ant-Man's brief glimpse of the Quantum Realm can become the key to Avengers: Endgame. Fans would need to prepare for a Star Wars Cinematic Universe.
The Expanded Universe's Influence On Star Wars Would Increase
Feige is best known for his skill at adapting material from one medium to another, and ironically Star Wars would play to that strength. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm, they declared the old Expanded Universe to be non-canon, or "Legends." Lucasfilm has been mining Legends for its best ideas, with characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Noghri assassin Rukh appearing in Star Wars Rebels; there can be no doubt, however, that Feige would step things up a notch. He grew up during what he calls the "Dark Times," the period when there were no new Star Wars movies coming out. As such, when the Expanded Universe really exploded in popularity in the '90s, Feige is known to have been a fan.
It's difficult to say exactly what Legends Feige would choose to adapt. He'd most likely do a mix, with some high-profile brands brought back - say, Knights of the Old Republic, which was set 4,000 years before the formation of the Empire. Meanwhile, Feige would also probably pick up some more obscure ideas as well; under his lead, Marvel has been willing to gamble with more unexpected franchises, such as Guardians of the Galaxy and next year's Eternals.
How Kevin Feige Would Choose The Next Generation Of Star Wars Directors
The early MCU slate included experienced directors such as Shane Black and Jon Favreau, but the pattern has changed as Feige has become dominant at Marvel. Nowadays, Marvel Studios tend to sidestep already-established A-list directors in favor of up-and-comers such as Ryan Coogler, the Russo brothers, and Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden. Feige has repeatedly noted that he doesn't care whether a director can manage spectacle; as far as he's concerned, he already has a team who can do that. Instead, his focus is on whether or not a director can present a strong character journey. Feige and his team fine-tune their lists - with an increasing interest in increasing diversity - and then settle down in a screening room at Walt Disney Studios' Burbank lot. They watch everything their potential directors have done, getting a sense of how they operate, and only then do they arrange a meeting.
Feige has learned the cost of studio interference, and as a result he chooses his directors carefully. While every director is expected to match the Marvel style, they're also given a massive amount of leeway. That's why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a political thriller, Thor: Ragnarok is a slapstick superhero comedy, and Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera with a killer soundtrack. When Feige has recruited the right director, he allows them to make their own unique film.
It's safe to assume that Feige would follow similar patterns with Star Wars. The Feige franchise would probably transition away from the likes of JJ Abrams, instead moving towards riskier, less-experienced figures. Feige would take the opportunity to increase diversity behind the scenes, a dramatic change given 96 percent of Star Wars' directors have been white and male to date.
Diversity Would Increase, Not Decrease
Diversity has proved to be a contentious subject among Star Wars fans, but there's strong evidence it would increase under Feige. He seems to be of the same mind as Disney CEO Bob Iger, who recently criticized arguments against diversity in superhero and sci-fi blockbusters. "I've been in the business long enough to have heard every old argument in the book," Iger observed in his book The Ride of a Lifetime, "and I've learned that old arguments are just that: old, and out of step with where the world is and where it should be." Iger was one of Feige's strongest supporters in the push to produce both Black Panther and Captain Marvel. With Feige in charge, it's safe to assume the Star Wars franchise would change shape, with more female stars and lead characters of different ethnicities.
Feige Would Finish What Kennedy Started
Kathleen Kennedy has become a somewhat divisive figure in the Star Wars fandom, in large part because of a major backlash against Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Solo's disastrous box office performance. No doubt critics would hail Kennedy's being replaced by Feige as a potential course-correction. The truth, however, is very different. If Feige ran Lucafilm in the same way he has done Marvel Studios, then he'd simply be finishing what Kennedy has started.
While Kennedy's first focus has been upon completing the Star Wars Saga, it's always been clear that she wanted to move on to building a universe; the spinoffs were essentially preparing the way for that, and Kennedy appears to be moving forward on this regardless. Kennedy's Lucasfilm has recruited Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to develop a new Star Wars movie series, a trilogy that's generally expected to take place in the Old Republic, hundreds of years prior to the Original Trilogy. The Last Jedi may have been divisive, but the studio has also signed up its controversial director Rian Johnson to work on a new trilogy as well, suggesting they want the future of Star Wars to be far more diverse in terms of tone and style. Feige would just continue this trend.
Lucasfilm has been attempting to become more diverse, with a female lead for the Sequel Trilogy and a historic female second unit director for Star Wars 9, but in truth they've only taken a few faltering steps. Kennedy has repeatedly said she wants to hire a female director, for example, but it still hasn't happened, even though it's been talked about for years. The issue appears to be with the process Lucasfilm is using to choose their directors. "If somebody actually moves through the process of making movies and wants to make a Star Wars movie," Kennedy explained in one interview, "and shows that they have actually stepped into the role on that level, of course we're going to consider a woman," . The problem, of course, is that if every studio "of that level" waits for another studio to give a female director a chance first, then they never get an opportunity to demonstrate their skill at all. Feige's approach to choosing directors is drastically different to Kennedy's, because his focus is on the character journey and not on the spectacle. As a result, it's reasonable to assume he'd choose a female director a lot sooner than Kennedy.
There's an odd sense, then, in which Kevin Feige would the continuity candidate for Kathleen Kennedy. And that should give Kennedy's vocal detractors pause, because it suggests that her corporate priorities and overarching strategy are just what Star Wars needed to move beyond George Lucas. Kennedy's contract has been extended to 2021, so she's not moving aside anytime soon; meanwhile, Kevin Feige is also signed up as producer of Marvel movies through to 2021 as well - including the high-profile Spider-Man: Homecoming 3, which was part of a major deal between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures. Given that's the case, don't expect any Lucasfilm shakeup for a few years at least.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019