Since it was conceived in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been the home for fun, big budget blockbuster films that have brought in billions of dollars and captured the hearts of fans around the world. Is there another such franchise that can make such a claim? Why yes, there is, and like Marvel, it's also owned by #Disney.
Acquired in 2012, #Lucasfilm is the company that has given us film series like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, the latter of which has been dominating headlines and the box office since its 2015 return with The Force Awakens. Overseen by a new story group, Disney has stated that all media going forward will be part of a shared canon, including books, comics and TV shows. We've had all three, but after three seasons of Star Wars Rebels, the animated series on Disney XD, I believe it's time Disney exercised their partnership with Netflix to replicate their success with Marvel.
The Marvel Formula
The Marvel films have a certain obligation to moviegoers. One of them is they have to be PG-13, so as many people as possible can see them, especially families. It's part of the reason they're able to churn in the big bucks, even if the success of Deadpool put a slight dent in that theory in 2016. In order to tell some of the darker and more mature stories in the Marvel Universe, the studio turned to Netflix to produce a series of shared television shows to tell the tales of those powerful few who are fighting crime on the street level (aliens not welcome here).
What we got was some of Marvel's best material, with the likes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage already impressing fans and critics alike, with all three garnering Rotten Tomato scores of 98 percent, 93 percent and 96 percent respectively in their first seasons, while Iron Fist, Punisher and Defenders will likely have a similar impact once they're released. In a statement in 2013 when the Marvel/Netflix deal was made, Marvel president Alan Fine had this to say about the platform:
"Netflix offers an incredible platform for the kind of rich storytelling that is Marvel’s specialty. This serialized epic expands the narrative possibilities of on-demand television and gives fans the flexibility to immerse themselves how and when they want in what’s sure to be a thrilling and engaging adventure.”
All those series have one thing in common: They're a lot edgier and darker than their big-screen counterparts. The violence is amped up, the characterization gets more breathing room with the longer run times and themes are suitably more mature. It created options for fans and caters to those who may be looking for something more challenging than what is being given to them on the big screen. With that success in mind, is it time Star Wars tried doing something similar?
The Star Wars Canon
The #StarWars galaxy is huge. Not only in terms of raw space and characters, but also in terms of history. In the current canon, the history can be traced back thousands of years, yet the canon TV shows, books and comics have only really explored the areas surrounding the films, especially the events prior to and after A New Hope. This could work well, but it would be nice to see them step away from that for a while.
A seedy crime drama about the smugglers and bounty hunters set during the events of any of the trilogies would work well with what we've come to expect from Marvel's raw take on superheroes. Even better, why not a Game of Thrones/House of Cards-styled political epic, set hundreds of years before the films (but after "The Rule of Two" events, which would be better suited for film). Multiple point-of-view characters, coupled with new costumes, technology and locations would be unique enough for the show to stand on its own while filling in the blanks to draw both casual and hardcore fans in. For a more in depth look at where a live action Star Wars show could go, click here.
While there has been talks at ABC (which Disney owns) about doing a live-action show, I think #Netflix is the better option for total creative freedom and not being held hostage to commercials and basic cable censors. Marvel does have a live-action show on ABC as well, Agents of S.H.I.E.LD., and while it may boast better visual effects, the quality of the story or the characters just isn't as good as what we get on Netflix. ABC stated in an interview in early 2017 with Entertainment Weekly that the possibility of a Star Wars show on their network is something that is far into the future. So why not have Netflix step in first?
The 'Underworld' Legacy
Before Disney acquired Lucasfilm for the bargain price of $4 billion, George Lucas himself was working on a live-action Star Wars series titled Underworld, which was rumored to be about the criminal underworld of the planet city Coruscant in the time period between Episodes III and IV. (Fun fact: Rogue One's Saw Gerrera was originally conceived for Underworld).
Lucas had planned to to do a 400-episode run, 100 of which he actually got around to writing but stated in 2010 that the show would have cost too much to make. When asked about Underworld in 2015, Kathleen Kennedy had this to say when talking to SlashFilm about if the scripts are dead and gone:
"No. No, interestingly enough, that’s an area we’ve spent a lot of time, reading through the material that he [Lucas] developed is something we very much would like to explore."
A lot has changed since 2010 in terms of technology and access. Shows like Game of Thrones can get away with $6-10 million dollar episodes, while Netflix's Daredevil cost the producers $200 million in the first season. And let's be honest here, Game of Thrones looks amazing:
Setting either previously mentioned premise before the events of the films would allow the showrunners to work in tandem with the story group in creating something completely new and unexpected instead of simply giving us the same look and feel we've come to expect across all media thus far. Bringing Star Wars to Netflix may be bold, but it would be the perfect platform to expand the universe, not shrink it, which is something the Star Wars spin-offs should be avoiding.
The main difference between Marvel and the would-be Star Wars shows is that the latter isn't bound by pre-existing material. It doesn't have to be faithful to any source material, and the further away they step away from the films, the more this rings true. The look and tone can change quite a bit while still retaining that Star Wars feel, preventing alienation. Sowing the seeds of the Republic amidst the criminal conspiracies that would help shape the last form of government before the Empire took over sounds like a fresh and compelling series to me, the lovechild of House of Cards and Daredevil. Here's hoping someone takes that shot.
What do you think of a potential Star Wars TV series on Netflix?