How Star Wars Can Finally Have a Marvel-Like Shared Universe
The Mandalorian, Ahsoka, The Book of Boba Fett, and Rangers of the New Republic are meant to connect. Is this the start of the Star Wars shared universe on Disney+?
Last December, Disney announced seven new Star Wars film and TV projects, giving us a look at what the next few years in the galaxy far, far away will look like both on Disney+ and in theaters. While the Rogue Squadron movie directed by Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) was the absolute mic drop of the evening, equally impressive is Disney’s plan for the small screen: several new series that expand the stories of fan-favorite characters like Ahsoka Tano and Lando Calrissian. Most intriguing of all is that many of these shows are designed to connect and interact with each other. In other words, Disney is finally getting what it’s always wanted for Star Wars: a shared universe of screen projects meant to emulate the interconnectedness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Storytelling synergy has existed for a long time between Star Wars movies, books, comics, and games, but rarely in the Marvel way where one series or movie directly teases or leads into the next. Sure, Skywalker Saga films technically work that way, but those three trilogies are really one big story. But in Marvel’s case, it’s par for the course for a tonally unique series like WandaVision to still set the stage for the next Doctor Strange movie or Captain Marvel 2. The foundation of Star Wars wasn’t really built that way back in 1977 but as a contained trilogy of movies.
Then Disney+ changed everything with The Mandalorian season 2, which not only introduced beloved animated characters Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan Kryze to live-action but also ended with a teaser for the next Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett, which is out in December. And The Book of Boba Fett doesn’t just star the infamous bounty hunter; it’s also a showcase for Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand, an assassin who first appeared in the first season of The Mandalorian.
Today, Marvel fans take this shared universe storytelling structure for granted, but this is still very new territory for Star Wars. Whether it works or not will likely depend on how many Mandalorian fans flock to Boba Fett later this year. But Disney is betting big on this approach.
The House of Mouse has already ordered two other series set during the same time period as The Mandalorian and Boba Fett, which take place five years after Return of the Jedi. The intriguing Rangers of the New Republic was reportedly conceived as a spinoff series for Mando associate Cara Dune before actor Gina Carano was fired from the franchise earlier this year, but I doubt that’s the only connection these series will have with each other. Meanwhile, Ahsoka will likely continue the hero’s search for Grand Admiral Thrawn right where it left off at the end of The Mandalorian season 2 episode “The Jedi.”
Disney isn’t just trying to cash in on the success of The Mandalorian with spinoffs for the show’s most popular characters, though. The company also confirmed in December that all of these shows will ultimately converge in a big story event. That sure sounds a lot like the end of a MCU phase. Are Mando, Ahsoka, Bo-Katan, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, and friends eventually going to team up against Grand Admiral Thrawn in an epic Avengers-like finale? It sure feels that way.
And the studio might not just be reserving its shared universe approach for the post-Jedi shows, either. Rogue One prequel Andor and Obi-Wan Kenobi are both set many years after Revenge of the Sith but before the Original Trilogy, and there’s a good chance the Lando series will also be set at some point during this era, with Donald Glover returning as the charming scoundrel. (While Disney hasn’t confirmed any details about the latter project besides the fact that it’s happening, the studio has been trying to make a Lando spinoff with Glover for quite a few years.) The timelines won’t line up quite as cleanly, though. Obi-Wan Kenobi takes place 10 years after Revenge of the Sith in 9 BBY (Before Battle of Yavin), while the events of Andor will unfold in 5 BBY.
But one rumor suggests that Ewan McGregor will appear as Obi-Wan in Andor, too. Far from an official confirmation, it’s still an intriguing possibility if true. With both series set to premiere in 2022, Disney could make the Jedi Master the character that ties both (or all three) pre-A New Hope series together, just like Mando is the common denominator across all of the post-Jedi shows. And could this all lead to an eventual big event that will see Obi-Wan, Cassian Andor, and Lando set up for their roles in the Original Trilogy era?
It’s true that The Mandalorian spinoffs present much more intriguing storytelling paths than a potential Obi-Wan, Andor, and Lando shared universe for the simple fact that we know where the heroes in the latter series are ultimately headed. Meanwhile, the future isn’t set for Din Djarin, Bo-Katan, Ahsoka, Boba Fett, and their friends. But if Disney is leaning into what’s worked with Marvel for the Mando shows, why wouldn’t it try the same with the others?
Marvel has shown that building towards big events across multiple stories can lead to massive payoffs (both in terms of storytelling and the box office). Why can’t the same work across all Star Wars screen projects, especially now that the franchise isn’t only reserved for movie theaters, where it has always been treated as more of a once-in-a-decade event than something more fluid like the MCU? Away from the big screen, Star Wars can shape a different future for itself that doesn’t have to fit into a trilogy or an epic saga about good vs. evil. In fact, The Mandalorian has already started that process with stories that feel much more intimate but that also flesh out the galaxy in a way the movies haven’t.
And if Disney wanted to eventually connect the pre-Hope shows to the Mando ones for an even more interconnected universe on Disney+, it wouldn’t even need a specific event or series to bridge the two eras. The Original Trilogy is already there as the bridge. New characters introduced in Obi-Wan, Andor, and Lando could jump from one era to the other just as easily as Bo-Katan and Ahsoka have. This is especially true for characters introduced in Andor, which takes place only about 14 years before The Mandalorian. That’s the tiniest of time gaps when it comes to Star Wars. And the inverse is already happening: Fennec will appear in animated form in The Bad Batch, which is set after the Prequels as well.
When the Skywalker Saga concluded in 2019, it really felt for the first time ever like the possibilities were endless for Star Wars on the big and small screens. Star Wars no longer needed to tie back to Luke Skywalker (The Mandalorian cameo notwithstanding) and his family drama. On Disney+, Star Wars has found new ways to explore the galaxy far, far away while introducing us to new characters and places to love. Now comes the next frontier: a shared universe, a first step into a larger world.