Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products.
Star Wars Celebration 2022 was held this weekend in Anaheim, California. It was the 14th official Star Wars, and although the second and third were held in Indianapolis in 2002 and 2005, I’ve never actually attended one. Shame on me. If it ever returns to Chicago, maybe I’ll change that.
Like most conventions, SWCC is 90% vendors selling you stuff and 10% interesting new reveals or announcements by major corporations using the promotional opportunity. In this case, this is a convention run by Lucasfilm on behalf of Lucasfilm. Therefore, shows aren’t held annually and usually correspond with a big anniversary or forthcoming release. Past conventions revealed information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and The Mandalorian, for example. Cool panels loaded with big-name guests like actors and directors seem to be the gem of the weekend, if you can win access via lottery system … or watch along at home via someone’s livestream.
Look, in a different era of my life, I was a big convention guy, including San Diego Comic Con. My last time around was 2013, and I got to sit in the fabled Hall H during presentations featuring Tom Cruise, Alfonso Cuarón and the casts of The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. I saw the X-Men: Days of Future Past reveal trailer. I was there when Tom Hiddleston appeared in costume as Loki and ordered all of us to kneel … and everyone did. That’s a cherished memory, along with the experience of waiting outside for hours alongside total strangers just to snag a seat in the convention hall. Leaving all of that up to a lottery system? I’m not really into that idea. Maybe I’m just grumpy.
In 2022, it’s much easier to enjoy those big-deal panels thanks to fandom “influencers” who surreptitiously record them to gain likes and follows — which is good for everyone at home because, for some reason, Lucasfilm and other major corporations still try to make the in-person experience unique by showing special trailers and sneak peeks, and making announcements. Although it’s admittedly neat to be in the same room as the folks behind Star Wars and other properties, it’s also been really fun this weekend to just follow along with the show from the comfort of my own home. It’s been a big show for cool announcements.
I feel like writing about them. Keep in mind, this is neither an exhaustive list nor a news post. I just felt like gushing.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi
My thoughts on Part I and Part II are available already, and I plan on following up with essays on the remainder of the series (which I am enjoying immensely). I understand some of the criticisms (sure, some of the chase scenes could be better) and don’t really get some of the others (I don’t have any issues with the dialogue). It’s nice to have a Star Wars series that feels tailor-made for fans of the prequels with higher-quality material that acknowledges that trilogy’s strengths without succumbing to its weaknesses. In many ways, Obi-Wan Kenobi feels like the best type of material found in The Clone Wars, which really redeemed that era in the overall saga. I understand completely why those who never found much to love in The Clone Wars would be turned off by Obi-Wan. Oh well.
Star Wars: Jedi Survivor
This is the follow-up to Jedi: Fallen Order, a game I found frustrating, repetitive and unplayable. However, you can watch the entire game’s story in the form of beautifully animated cutscenes on YouTube, and it actually forms a really cool tale set around the time of Obi-Wan Kenobi. I will probably enjoy Jedi Survivor the same way.
Star Wars: The Mandalorian — Season 3
I can’t find a link to the leaked trailer, which only played for audiences at the show and is being stricken from YouTube as fast as fans can re-upload it. What I did see in that trailer makes me pretty excited. It seems the series is about the story set up in Din Djarin’s show-stealing episodes of The Book of Boba Fett: He and Grogu are traveling to the ruins of Mandalore to redeem Din in the eyes of their culture because he took his helmet off. It would seem Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) is pretty pissed off at him for taking the Darksaber, too, setting up some inter-Mandalorian conflict where the disparate clans will converge on their home world to reclaim it. The budget looks heftier, and they’ve added Rick Famuyiwa as an executive producer, which is incredible news given his contributions to the series so far. Most importantly, though, is that it appears Din will meet Babu Frik (or at least similar Anzellan characters), thus commencing the cultural re-appraisal of The Rise of Skywalker, a stupid movie I love quite a bit. If the prequels can be reclaimed in-canon by new material, it won’t take too much for the sequels to find new legitimacy.
Star Wars: Ahsoka
Ahsoka is the series with the most to prove. It’s clear Dave Filoni is going to tell the story he teased back in 2018 with Ahsoka and her friends from Rebels on the hunt for Ezra Bridger, their Jedi comrade who seemingly perished in the finale of that show. Ezra went missing along with Grand Admiral Thrawn, conveniently removing them from the original-trilogy timeframe but leaving them viable for stories after Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi. It would seem this is that story. I guess Ahsoka will only air five years after the end of Rebels, which is about the length of time between Marvel movies, but somehow this wait has felt incredibly long by comparison. I can’t wait to see who they cast as Hera Syndulla, Ezra or Thrawn. There’s so much incredible potential here for everyone who loved Rebels, and I hope the live-action iterations make newcomers love them, too. The trailer only shows us the backs of Sabine Wren and Hera, unfortunately, but we did get the onstage debut of the most important member of the Ghost Crew: Chopper, a totally psychopathic droid whom fans have determined has the largest kill count of any character in the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars: Skeleton Crew
Before he made two great Spider-Man movies (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: No Way Home) and the MCU’s worst movie (Spider-Man : Far From Home), director Jon Watts made a name for himself with the wonderful indie Cop Car, about two young kids who steal a police vehicle and the nasty cop who chases them down. Skeleton Crew, produced by Watts, Filoni and Jon Favreau, sounds like Cop Car but Star Wars. It also has Jude Law, who would make a really great sassy droid. Sounds good to me.
Star Wars: Andor
I mean, it looks fine, but Rogue One as a whole is vastly overrated because the characters suck, and I don’t see what story there is to tell about Cassian Andor before the movie hands him Jyn Erso’s character development because nobody writing or editing that movie had any idea what they were doing besides killing time before a cool space battle at the climax, which they almost ruined by inserting Darth Vader for the sake of a cool YouTube clip.
Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi
Going into Celebration, Tales of the Jedi was a big mystery for fans of the animation side of things. We knew it existed because Lucasfilm employees received holiday gifts citing it as a project they worked on in 2021, but there was otherwise no indication of an ongoing project by that title in any press releases or at any promotional events. The title has a lot of meaning for long-term fans: It was one of the first ongoing Star Wars comic series, chronicling the adventures of ancient Jedi long, long before A New Hope. Those remain some of the best comics produced by the Dark Horse era (and will finally be collected by Marvel this summer). It would be absurd to expect Disney to adapt stories about historic Jedi, of course, given their emphasis on the High Republic era these days, but the title itself created plenty of room for idle speculation.
It turns out Tales of the Jedi is a six-episode miniseries written by Filoni and animated in the same style as The Clone Wars and The Bad Batch. Half of the episodes will center on Ahsoka at different points of her life. One episode is about her Force sensitivity being discovered; the series trailer implies another is set between The Clone Wars and Rebels, revealing when she got her white lightsaber crystals. I’m interested to see these stories about Ahsoka but more intrigued by the other ongoing story arc — the tale of Count Dooku’s decision to leave the Jedi Order.
Dooku is a character ill-served by George Lucas’s poor writing in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones — then again, aren’t they all? — and his choice to leave the Order has always been one of the more interesting untold stories in the prequel era. He was, after all, a prestigious Jedi Master who happened to train Qui-Gon Jinn, the man who brought Anakin Skywalker into the fold. I know the novel Dooku: Jedi Lost tells some of this story, but I prefer the animated material and I’m sure there will be some contradictions. Oh, well. We’re getting more Dooku, along with young Qui-Gon and Yaddle, into the mix. The trailers make it seem like Dooku fights Yaddle at some point, too, and I’d like to see if that explains where she disappeared to after Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. Perhaps I am the only person who gives a shit about that. Someone has to.
I’m really excited for Tales of the Jedi but can’t help be a little let down that it is only six episodes split across two main story arcs. It feels like the easiest possible lay-up for the animation division to tell stories about different Jedi from every era. I would love to see some stories about Rey Skywalker training Finn or Luke Skywalker founding his new Jedi Order or even some of the odder members of the council seen in The Phantom Menace, like Yarael Poof.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2
I wrote about every episode of The Bad Batch, and by the end of the first season, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down by the fact that we saw very little actual development among the titular group of characters or the world being built around them. I hope that changes in Season 2, and I’m going to let the public trailer hype me up a bit. It appears we’re really building toward the Clone Civil War implied by canon to happen around this time. The Batch all have altered costumes, which is great for a moron like me who like buying multiple figures of every character.
Most exciting: Clone Commander Cody is back, helping wayward Batch member Crosshair hunt down our heroes. Cody is an important clone for a number of reasons, but to put it simply: He was Obi-Wan’s commander during the war and one of the Jedi’s greatest allies. For those not up on The Clone Wars, Cody is last seen attempting to kill Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. His fate in Disney’s new canon has always been a big hanging thread, and I’m excited to finally get some answers in that direction. I wish this was coming out sooner.
Star Wars: Visions
I guess we’re getting more Visions. I liked Visions. I will watch more Visions.
Star Wars Movies
Not much was revealed about the future of Star Wars movies. Supposedly the next one will be released in 2023, directed by Taika Waititi. That sounds good, I guess, but Disney+ has thus far done a generally good job with the franchise, and I don’t know what sort of story will necessitate the size and bombast of a big-screen film. Audiences didn’t care for Solo: A Star Wars Story, which, in hindsight, feels like a dry run for the sort of material that has become popular on the streaming service. Presumably Waititi’s story won’t have any connection to the Skywalker Saga, so we’ll see how it goes.
Otherwise, there isn’t much to talk about. Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron seems to be on hiatus again, but I feel like Top Gun: Maverick has now given that movie a whole hell of a lot more to live up to than cultural memories of the original Top Gun.
Star Wars Publishing
I do not read any of the new novels, so that’s a shrug from me. I have been underwhelmed by the entire High Republic era, although I do think good stories might be found within that fictional timeframe; Star Wars: The Acolyte on Disney+ sounds OK! I’ve felt like the Star Wars comics from Marvel have been treading water for awhile now. Charles Soule’s run on the main Star Wars book and Greg Pak’s run on the Darth Vader title have both been stellar as far as I’ve read them, but the surrounding line of titles has felt kind of uninspired. Doctor Aphra has never been as good as Kieron Gillen’s initial stories, and Bounty Hunters is a bit of a yawn from me. The ongoing Crimson Reign saga mostly plays as a depressing reminder we’re never going to see Qi’ra in live-action again. I think my interest started dying during the interminable War of the Bounty Hunters story, when Boba Fett did absolutely nothing cool. I do not know why Disney’s version of the character is such a loser. Don’t hit me with that “he was a loser in the original trilogy” nonsense, either, it’s no excuse for lame stories now.
Star Wars Toys
Here’s the Serial Consumer part of all of this rambling, at long last. There were a few major toy announcements at this year’s Celebration, and a few announcements of new material that will make for great toys.
One of my most expensive Star Wars hobbies is an ever-expanding collection of replica lightsaber hilts. I’ve been fortunate enough to have plenty of friends visit Galaxy’s Edge in Florida and California, and they’ve happily sent me back a few of the exclusive hilts found at the parks. I own 13 hilts total — seven from Galaxy’s Edge, five of Hasbro’s attached-blade models and one in the newer Force FX Elite style. There were announcements for both the parks and the Force FX Elite lines at Celebration, and it’s all very tempting.
The parks are going to start selling a few new hilts in the coming weeks (hopefully when friends are there!), including Plo Koon, Darth Sidious, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Episode III) and one I’ve hoped for for as long as I’ve collected: Qui-Gon Jinn. I will definitely find a way to get Qui-Gon’s someday, although I hope it isn’t quite as fat-necked as the promotional pictures make it seem.
The other three are interesting but not priorities. Plo Koon is, sadly, one of the least-inspired sabers. Like most background Jedi, his is just a variation on a style and thus not particularly unique. I would feel differently if his Phantom Menace-era orange blade was still canon, but Attack of the Clones made it clear that Republic-era Jedi wielded only green and blue blades. Darth Sidious is a cool design, particularly the gold, but not a priority for me. I would love to own Obi-Wan’s lightsaber, as seen in Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi and A New Hope, but Hasbro has already announced a Force FX Elite version of the same saber, and those tend to be higher quality than the product found in Disney’s parks. I will have to wait and see what reviewers think of them before making a decision because it will be expensive either way.
Speaking of Hasbro: It unveiled the newest HasLab project this weekend, a $500 crowd-funded replica of Reva Sevander’s double-bladed lightsaber from Obi-Wan Kenobi. HasLabs are high-level Kickstarter style projects. The most recent Star Wars Haslab, a Rancor, failed to find enough backers because Hasbro was too stupid to extend the deadline until fans had seen the finale of The Book of Boba Fett. This time around, Hasbro is asking for 5000 backers for their $500 lightsaber. Price-wise, $500 isn’t out of line for a double-bladed Force FX Elite, seeing as most of those go for between $250 and $300 retail. But will this project succeed? Absolutely fucking not.
There just isn’t the audience for this high-priced replica, particularly with so many competing products available from both Hasbro and Disney parks. All respect to actress Moses Ingram, but Reva isn’t an iconic villain. She isn’t even the most iconic Sith Inquisitor character and never will be. It’s a bizarre choice for a HasLab product, and, in a way, I feel for the team behind it: They probably didn’t know about the other similar announcements this weekend.
I am the target audience for a Sith Inquisitor replica lightsaber. I have spent $400 on a lightsaber set before (my Jedi Sentinel Limited Edition set). I know the next lightsaber I buy will cost me $200 or more. $500, on a month where I have a healthy set of hobby side-gigs, is a stretch but not an impossible one. But you know what? The damn thing doesn’t even spin! What a disappointing project.
I’d like to take a second to shill for a lightsaber I’d like to buy that may well come to exist. Galaxy’s Edge is holding its second lightsaber vote. The winner will become available at the parks within the next year or so. This time, the choice is between six little-known lightsabers wielded by supporting characters throughout the saga. Personally, I’m rooting for Quinlan Vos, a favorite of mine in both the old canon and the Disney canon. It’s a green saber, too, my favorite. So if you’ve somehow made it this far, please head over to the website and cast your vote.
Depending on whether Qui-Gon is released in time for my buddies’ trips to Galaxy’s Edge, I believe my next lightsaber will be the Force FX Elite Darksaber, which should finally hit most stores this summer and maybe experience a few sales or price drops.
6” Black Series Figures
This is where most of my money ends up, of course, almost passively. I recently took inventory of my collection and counted 275 figures. The MSRP of my collection (which I’ve usually found at under MSRP) is around $5,000. That’s a lot! It’s kind of ridiculous! There are moments in my life where I look at my collections of things and feel a little weird about it, but there are much more frequent moments where I am bored or depressed and find hunting these little toys makes me happy, and serves as a bond with many close friends. Can’t put a price on that!
This was a big weekend for 6” figures. First, Hasbro is acting quickly to fill out the Obi-Wan Kenobi sub-line of figures. They’ve traditionally had some trouble keeping figures current with new releases on Disney+. Everything for The Mandalorian has a year delay or more. Thankfully, that’s not going to be the situation this time around. I’ve already pre-ordered Obi-Wan (Wandering Jedi) and Third Sister (Reva) figures, who are listed as #01 and #03 for the line. They announced Fifth Brother, Second Sister and the Grand Inquisitor this weekend, too, numbered #04, #05 and #09 respectively. We can assume Darth Vader will be announced as #02, leaving us with mystery figures in slots #06, #07 and #08. As a fan of the show and an idiot who will buy every toy he can find related to it, that’s very exciting news. I hope one of them is Leia Skywalker and another Naja Delan. Hell, I assume we’ll see Qui-Gon eventually, so give me a repaint of the exiting Qui-Gon figure with some sparkly blue paint and call him Qui-Gon (Force Ghost). I’ll fucking buy it.
A few of the other announcements were all must-owns for me, including Darth Maul (The Clone Wars), Twi’Lek Jedi Aayla Secura and a brand-new Archive Series release of Leia (Boussh costume), which I’ve hoped to see made available again for a long time.
The most surprising reveal is that Hasbro will be releasing mainline figures based on characters from the classic game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a favorite of mine I actually replayed during the height of the pandemic. Those games featured some incredible characters and visual designs, so I’m excited to see some quality figures.
Aside from what has already been announced, it’s pretty obvious a lot of these new Disney+ series will produce great new figures over which I can salivate. Off the top of my head, I know I’ll probably buy an updated Ahsoka from her series, as well as any of the Ghost Crew who show up with different costumes from their animated forms. I would love to buy at least Hunter from the new Bad Batch looks, although I’m not as high on buying another Echo, Tech or Wrecker. Hopefully we see a post-war Commander Cody in 6″ form. I’m sure the third season of The Mandalorian will produce plenty of neat new toys. Maybe Andor will, too, but I do not need another version of Cassian, and it appears the show has a gritty aesthetic that may not lend itself to much more than cool new Stormtroopers. Tales of the Jedi will give us a Jedi Dooku, if we’re lucky, and some more prequel-era Jedi if we’re even more fortunate.
I’ll leave you with a final anecdote that kind of brings this all together. On Friday, I met up with my friend and fellow collector Greg for lunch at a local Arby’s. Normally we’d meet at McDonalds, but this time we both wanted to try Arby’s new Wagyu Beef Steakburger. Ads claim the patty is made from a mixture of 52% Wagyu and 48% ground beef, cooked sous vide style to create a crisp outer edge and a juicy pink middle. I don’t know what Wagyu beef is, but frankly it sounds too fancy for Arby’s, whose menu mostly consists of pink slurry formed into a roast beef product I find compelling and delicious. Our Wagyu Beef Deluxe burgers came with ranch dressing and bacon, for some reason, perhaps to hide the flavor of the actual meat, which was more or less equivalent to something found in a school cafeteria. Fortunately, I liked cafeteria food quite a bit. It was a “fine” burger. Easy going in, but somewhat stubborn on the way out; I spent about an hour afterwards desperately regretting ever putting it into my stomach. I probably won’t eat one again. Solid C+ for effort.
The reason I tell you this story isn’t the burger, though. It’s the company. When I pulled up to Arby’s, I saw Greg’s SUV parked near the entrance. I knew it was his car, but the person in the front seat made me do a double take. It appeared to be Greg with long brown hair. My brain recalibrated and realized, no, it was Greg in a JEDI ROBE. I was so excited. It was awesome. Greg wore the robe into Arby’s for the entire meal, in honor of Obi-Wan Kenobi day. That’s commitment.
I definitely need one of those.