Dave Filoni Is Right Where Star Wars Needs Him to Be

There has been a great disturbance in the Force. As if, somehow, millions of voices suddenly cried out “what if Dave Filoni got a promotion?” and were suddenly answered. But while the ascension of the Clone Wars and Rebels producer to the upper echelons of Lucasfilm may give Star Wars fans tired of his particular approach to the saga pause, there’s an argument to be made that, even for his critics, this is a good move.

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“To truly help filmmakers, it was really important for me to experience it firsthand,” Filoni told Vanity Fair of his new role as Lucasfilm’s Chief Creative Officer. It’s a gig that gives him a broad involvement in the developing future of the Star Wars galaxy as it navigates a refocused slate of movies, and continuing streaming TV efforts that Filoni already helped get off the ground alongside producer Jon Favreau. “I can also lend a perspective on the challenges that telling these stories will present. I feel more capable of actually being helpful outside of just saying, ‘Well, Jedi are like this, and Sith are like this…’”

In many ways, the role is much more akin to his time as an executive producer on Clone Wars and Rebels than it is his overseeing series like The Mandalorian and Ahsoka. It’s involvement in the broad creative picture of Star Wars’ future, ideation, and guiding of talent, rather than necessarily direct involvement in terms of direction or writing. That’s not to say that Filoni won’t play a big part on that level going forward—he of course has his own upcoming “Mandoverse” movie, and should Ahsoka get a seemingly inevitable sophomore season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have a similar level of involvement with his most cherished character as he did with season one. But otherwise, we’re much more likely to see less of Filoni at that level than we have more recently—and honestly, if you look at his filmography, he’s arguably never been that much of a writer or a director until his burgeoning transition from Lucasfilm Animation to live-action projects.

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And it’s a role that plays to many of Filoni’s strengths. Critics of his work in Star Wars, especially in live-action, point to either inconsistent character work, peculiar writing and pacing choices, or flat direction, all of which are valid. The blame cannot solely be put at Filoni’s feet for the flaws in any of these projects, but there is a clear style and tone to his work on The Mandalorian and Ahsoka that doesn’t gel with every part of the audience. Combined with broader frustrations—oft-levied complaints such as a reliance on characters from animated works like Ahsoka or Bo-Katan, or more broadly the current era’s reliance on familiar faces and nostalgic cameos at the cost of undermining either newer characters’ journeys or muddling the legacy of those old faces—that can make Filoni an easy target to point at to express a general distaste for Star Wars’ recent direction.

Except what Filoni really gets right about Star Wars so often is not really these specific beats and the moment-to-moment of the narrative, but its larger ideas—which is exactly the kind of focus he will have in his role as a CCO, and one more akin to the kind of relationship he had on Clone Wars with George Lucas. Lucas didn’t have a direct hand in writing or directing the animated series, but was in writing rooms with producers and the creative team to offer tonal suggestions or big-picture ideas. For as many faults as you can point to in shows like Mandalorian, Book of Boba Fett, or Ahsoka, there’s a lot of good ideas, even if the execution on a scene-by-scene level isn’t always there to match—the latter’s exploration of a more democratized view of the Force or its critiques of systems like the Jedi Order and the New Republic, Boba’s (admittedly limited) exploration of the Tuskens, The Mandalorian’s own navigation of its titular peoples’ culture. And, more often than not, these are widely scoped ideas and Star Wars worldviews that Filoni has explored for years, lifting out of material first navigated on series like Clone Wars and Rebels. Gearing him toward that sort of broad thinking across the franchise’s future places him in a role that he is best suited in to further explore and extrapolate those ideas.

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It also, as Filoni himself also noted, lets him work with a wide array of talent—a wide array of perspectives, which is something Star Wars desperately needs, coming out of a period where a handful of people, Filoni included, have had their hands directly in much of the current material. We were already beginning to see the seeds of that as Lucasfilm has tried (and, largely so far, not quite yet achieved) to rearrange a post-Rise of Skywalker slate for the franchise. Before his announcement this week as CCO, Filoni was just one of a group of directors involved in what now appears to be most immediate future of Star Wars on film, alongside James Mangold and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. In the realm of TV, Mandalorian aside, we have creative talent largely new to working on Star Wars guiding the likes of The Acolyte, Skeleton Crew, and Andor. Moving Filoni into a position much like Lucas’ in the latter days of his ownership of Lucasfilm—involved broadly in ideation, but focusing on bringing in a new generation of creative talent to carry out those ideas—as Star Wars seeks to navigate this evolving post-saga era makes room for that diverse array of perspectives to take shape instead of, as his promotion can be reductively seen, handing him the direct reins over every project in the works.

And that’s what Star Wars is in need of—not just someone who can guide a more broad creative vision for a franchise that has felt lost in recent years, but one who can make way for a range of creatives with their own lenses and perspectives on the franchise, to let it become more than a singular defining view of it. If that’s what Filoni’s elevation leads to, Star Wars’ future is looking a little brighter than it has in some time.

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