I don’t know when certain studios began spending an entire weekend touting all of their upcoming content, but Disney has certainly mastered the process. The latest D23 Expo took place this past weekend, and you have to hand it to the Mouse House — the folks over there know how to put on a show.
I don’t care as much as I used to about the Star Wars and Marvel Universes — the law of diminishing returns, and all — but I am always interested to see what they have on the horizon in the coming months and years because while there are always Marvel movies in the hopper, news of a new Star Wars flick is always welcome. Especially when it becomes clear that this particular property has decided that its immediate future is on television, and not the big screen.
Before we get further into the weekend’s news — and the inevitable discussion surrounding Indiana Jones 5, which you better believe is coming — I think it’s worthwhile to take a moment to examine this new strategy by Kathleen Kennedy and the Lucasfilm team, and why it’s an excellent short-term plan.
Don’t get me wrong, Lucasfilm could really help itself by putting out some new movies. Any movies, really. I think we can all agree that we’ve had enough of the Skywalkers, but at the same time, there are plenty of other possible stories to be told within the framework of this enormous universe that George Lucas created. Movies are what made it, and movies will perpetuate it, but until Kennedy and her leadership team settle on the right filmmakers to do that, their focus on TV is a solid substitute.
The Diego Luna-led Andor is up next, and anticipation is high based on what I’ve seen online. Personally, I don’t see the point of a miniseries prequel to a solid-but-unspectacular movie — Rogue One — in which all of the major characters die, but I appear to be in the minority about this, as others seem interested in characters that literally have no future.
Setting that issue aside, I’m excited for Season 3 of The Mandalorian, new seasons of Ashoka and The Bad Batch, and Skeleton Crew, the new series from Spider-Man trilogy director Jon Watts, because these shows allow for more character development and a deeper exploration of the Star Wars universe than their theatrical counterparts. These shows not only keep the franchise active but they can also be used to introduce new characters and build a foundation for new movies, whatever they may be and whenever they arrive.
That character development thing is part of why much of Marvel’s best stuff since the end of the Infinity Saga in 2019 has come on the small screen. Pardon me for saying, but I would put Hawkeye, Loki, WandaVision, and what I’ve seen so far of She-Hulk above just about every movie Marvel has made in the last three years, with the possible exception of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Full disclosure, I haven’t had the chance to watch Ms. Marvel yet, though I’ve heard good things, and the less said about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Moon Knight, the better. Still, four winners out of six is a much better percentage than the movies have given us (for the record: No Way Home and Shang-Chi were good, Black Widow, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Eternals were bad, and the Doctor Strange sequel was meh).
So these Star Wars announcements were welcome where I live because they show that one of Hollywood’s most valuable franchises is not content to rely on old models, even if Lucasfilm should be giving us just a touch more faith that Star Wars will return to theaters sooner rather than later.
Marvel’s announcements were more varied, of course, because the MCU is more balanced between film and TV. Kevin Feige announced the cast of Thunderbolts and confirmed reports that WandaVision helmer Matt Shakman will direct the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, which is scheduled to hit theaters just 26 months from now.
I’m not sure I care about the Thunderbolts movie — Marvel is starting to dig pretty deep into the barrel if you ask me — but the Fantastic Four news interested me, simply because that property is teeming with rich ideas for good storytelling. Sure, the three previous Fantastic Four movies failed miserably, and I was bummed to see Watts exit because I loved the notion of him tackling that property, but Shakman is an interesting choice and I’ll hold further comment until I see a cast announcement, whenever that might be.
Marvel unveiled a whole bunch of trailers and footage that threw fans into a frenzy, though the one I can’t wait to see actually hails from Lucasfilm, and it’s not even Star Wars-related. A few D23 attendees I know, and who know me well, told me I’m going to lose my mind when I see the first footage from Indiana Jones 5. Harrison Ford took the stage and announced that this is, indeed, his final outing as cinema’s greatest adventurer, and he got a little emotional in doing so. So yeah, I’m sorry I missed that, and you can bet I’ll be one of the first people to watch that footage online, whenever Disney decides to share it (or a full trailer) with the rest of us.
Ford actually looked like he was having fun last weekend, especially in a photo posted online of him with his Temple of Doom co-star Ke Huy Quan, who is certainly having himself a moment thanks to his supporting turn in Everything Everywhere All at Once. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ford look as happy as he does in that photo, and when you see that kind of joy on the face of someone whose work you admire, it sort of fills you with anticipation as well, doesn’t it?
I didn’t really stop to think about it until I sat down to write this week’s column, but as I did, it occurred to me that this photo was the highlight of D23, from my perspective. It wasn’t footage from a movie, casting news, a director announcement, or a list of new TV projects, it was a photo of two actors reuniting after nearly 40 years, and the pure, unadulterated bliss that both clearly felt in that moment.
Sometimes, movies and TV shows give us that kind of pure bliss — something that reminds us why we shlep to movie theaters and buy tickets, or subscribe to a streaming service. Other times, it’s the people who bring that beloved content to life. Harrison Ford played two of the best characters in movie history, he’s been in more great movies than I can list here (The Fugitive would be at the top of that list, though, if I did), and even though I’m a little sad that I’ll only get to see him play one of my all-time favorite characters one more time, I’m also genuinely excited, and even more so because Ford looked truly happy and at-peace with hanging up Indy’s whip.
Call me a softie, but sometimes, it’s little things like that that get you, y’know? Well, that, and big news of brand new Star Wars movies on the horizon… but hey, we can’t have everything, can we?
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for nearly 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.