The galaxy far, far away is expanding. On Tuesday, Lucasfilm – the studio founded by George Lucas, and now owned by Disney – announced this week that Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss had been tapped to direct a new series of Star Wars films. These films would be independent of the ongoing sequel trilogy set to conclude in 2019 with JJ Abrams’ Episode IX and the new trilogy in the works from The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson.
On paper, this seems like a perfect match. Benioff and Weiss will get to work on their space opera after finishing the final season of what is arguably the most popular TV show in the world. They brought to life rich and complex characters whose feuds and intrigues form the heart of Game of Thrones and proved capable of handling scale and providing spectacle when needed. Who better to shape the future of the world’s most popular film franchise?
But look below the surface and there are concerns to be had, not the least of which is how the writing style and tone used for Thrones will translate to Star Wars. Violent and sexual imagery has been central to Benioff and Weiss’ work over the past seven years, contributing heavily to the emotional impact of the show’s biggest scenes. That won’t be an option in Star Wars, which has always been family-friendly, even before it became a Disney property.
It’s possible that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy hired Benioff and Weiss to put a mature spin on the beloved franchise – Rogue One killed everyone, even if it came more out of necessity, so it’s clear that ‘there is room to be dark and adult – but the likelihood of that happening is low. Making a Star Wars movie that’s not for kids may hurt Disney a bit at the box office, but more importantly, it potentially robs them of billions in merchandising.
No release date has been officially set, but given the current Star Wars slate, the first movie from the GoT creators likely won’t arrive until 2021-22. In the years that follow, we will probably discover the direction and the freedom that the studio offers them. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll be replaced, which has become an often-used option at Lucasfilm.
The biggest concern, however, stems from a closer inspection of Game of Thrones. For most of the first five seasons, HBO’s drama has been sculpted around the written words of author George RR Martin, whose unfinished novel series – A Song of Ice and Fire – serves as the source for the adaptation. Beginning with the sixth season, which aired in 2016, Benioff and Weiss based their show on information Martin personally revealed to them.
Almost immediately, it was clear that Thrones was going to be a different show, for better or for worse. Where characters, conversations, and well-developed subplots were the order of the day, it was now about getting from point A to point B. This problem only became exacerbated at the dawn of season 7, with incredible plots and a change in character behavior. completing impossible deadlines.
Given that Martin has already spent half a dozen years on the still unfinished penultimate book in the series, it’s likely that The Winds of Winter – as it’s called – will be denser and richer than the previous entries, taking its time to explain and justify the motivations, while peeling back other layers of our favorite characters, each time it finally came out. The showrunners of Thrones, meanwhile, have contracted their final two seasons — season 7 had seven episodes and season 8 will only have six — which makes one wonder why they’re in such a rush.
HBO would have had no problem giving them more episodes and more seasons – Thrones is its best advertisement and that’s why there are five spin-offs in development – so it must be Benioff’s decision and Weiss. The show has suffered on almost every account (except the show) since the showrunners ran out of books to refer to, so why weren’t they willing to invest energy and time in fleshing out the world themselves ?
Put that in the context of the blank canvas they face with Star Wars, and it doesn’t inspire confidence. In a statement, Kennedy praised the two for their “mastery of complex characters, depth of story, and richness of mythology.” The last of them is a byproduct of Martin’s research and writing, and the other two went out the window as soon as they were on their own, as we’ve already explained.
Of course, none of this takes anything away from their work over the first five seasons. Simply having a good book does not guarantee a good adaptation; countless filmmakers have failed to deliver on the promises of a novel’s premise and readers’ hopes, so credit goes to Benioff and Weiss for bringing Martin’s words to the screen in a way that impressed both critics and viewers. And even though I have reservations, I want them to succeed with Star Wars.
For much of its existence, the galaxy was filled with black and white characters. Newer entries – particularly Rogue One and The Last Jedi – have been more mature in this aspect, giving us individuals who can’t easily be attributed to “heroes” and “villains”. And if Benioff and Weiss can wear the best Game of Thrones feature, the different shades of gray, there would be nothing like it.