The Near and Slightly-Distant Future of Star Wars

When Disney first announced their purchase of Lucasfilm and takeover of the Star Wars movie franchise, there was a mixture of joy and panic.

There was excitement for more movies in a franchise that many thought would take a temporary cinematic respite. But another group thought Return of the Jedi ended well enough to not warrant a succeeding trilogy, though they were still intrigued to see what Disney would come up with. They also panicked at the intention to make annual movies, alternating between new numeric installments and spinoffs.

Fortunately, the new initiative has turned out well thus far. The Force Awakens garnered more praise than any movies in the prequel trilogy, though it received criticism by vocal fans for reusing narrative concepts from A New Hope. Meanwhile, the biggest fans of spinoff Rogue One are those who had problems with TFA. This doesn’t confirm that annual instalments are a good idea after all, as it can take a few years before franchises can start feeling tired. This could become the case faster if, say, The Last Jedi is a little too close to The Empire Strikes Back, or if Solo: A Star Wars Story is as bad as its title.

From Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The movies have unsurprisingly given Disney a significant revenue boost, thanks not only to excellent ticket and home video sales, but also excessive merchandise sales. They’ve been successful enough that they’ve already confirmed their plans for the slightly distant future. Though The Last Jedi has yet to open in theaters, and Episode 9 won’t release until 2019, another trilogy has already been announced. This will be handled by Rian Johnson, who directed TLJ and was chosen for the job because of his supposedly exemplary efforts on that movie. It must be an impressive film.

These plans sound like next-level milking on the surface, but the little news we know makes the prospect intriguing. Instead of being a continuation of the current episodes, the story in this new trilogy will occur separately from the so-called “Skywalker Saga,” in a different part of the universe in a different time. Precisely where they’ll take place in the timeline wasn’t specified, and likely won’t be for years; but way too many fans see this as Disney’s chance to create films that occur during the era of the Old Republic. Many older stories were ejected from canon when Disney took over, including well-liked examples like the Knights of the Old Republic games. These movies could take inspiration from them. Since more people watch movies than play video games, the content will seem new.

Of course, they could also take this opportunity to explore other unseen aspects of the galaxy, far, far away from what even longtime fans are familiar with. There are plenty of editorials from those who want to see Old Republic films, but others want something unexpected.

I’m fine with either plan, personally. I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough upon first hearing about plans of a new trilogy, but the fact that it will be set outside the Skywalker saga was enough to pique my interest. You think you’re out, but they pull you right back in. There’s no confirmation as to whether this trilogy will start immediately after Episode 9 in 2021 (and a year after the third spinoff film — perhaps an Obi-Wan film), which presumably will be determined after Disney observes attitudes towards the franchise to see if people are burnt out.

The new trilogy isn’t all: Disney also announced plans for a live-action TV series, which will help kick off their new streaming service in 2019. Like the new trilogy, this was announced with no details. Disney needed something big to start their service with, to potentially win over anyone who rolled their eyes at yet another company starting yet another streaming service, and this will be it… if it’s good.

Concept art for the canceled Star Wars 1313, which also would have taken place between Episodes 3 and 4.

It also renewed discussions about Star Wars: Underworld, a TV series previously planned by Lucasfilm well before the Disney acquisition in 2005 announced by George Lucas himself, who was set to serve as executive producer. It was planned to include stories outside those explored in the movie trilogies, set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to budget allocation issues and a lack of resources. The chance of this new series having similarities to Underworld isn’t as likely as the new trilogy being set in the Old Republic. Pin that on other recent canonical works like Rogue One and CG series Star Wars Rebels being set during this timeframe, though the series could take some ideas from it. Details should be announced late next year at the earliest.

This could also be seen as Disney getting even more excessive with Star Wars content, but only if a CG replacement for Rebels is coming after the current fourth and final season concludes. It will be overwhelming if a new CG series and a live-action show are running simultaneously, even though both wouldn’t have the same tone.

The Star Wars brand has been just as much of a cash cow as expected for Disney, but that’s fine if they can maintain the quality. Fortunately, they have the talent to keep this up at their whim. If steam runs out for the franchise, it’s not like Disney doesn’t have several others they can use — especially if a deal with 20th Century Fox goes through.

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