The Future of Star Wars

Right now, Star Wars fans are practically made of questions as they wait to see The Rise of Skywalker in theaters this week. It’s the final chapter of the Skywalker saga that began in 1977, and fans are wondering how/if it will come to a satisfying conclusion. But on top of that, with no specific plans announced by Luasfilm, they’re wondering what’s next for Star Wars.

Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has been making the rounds to promote The Rise of Skywalker, and while she wasn’t prepared to make any announcements (at least not until January 2020 after the movie has been in theaters for awhile), she did confirm a couple general details, which includes moving beyond the trilogy format and more.

Speaking with The Los Angeles Times in an extensive piece about the success, struggles and future of Star Wars, Kennedy acknowledges that the end of the Skywalker saga signals a shift into new territory. The Lucasfilm president said:

“Obviously, that’s what’s we’ve been spending so much time talking about, and it’s a really important transition for Star Wars. What we’ve been focused on these last five or six years is finishing that family saga around the Skywalkers. Now is the time to start thinking about how to segue into something new and different.”

Lucasfilm already tried something a little different by attempting the A Star Wars Story line of spin-offs. While Rogue One was a good shot out of the gate, Solo disappointed at the box office. But they both had their own issues behind the scenes. Rogue One needed significant reshoots after principal photography and elements of the story changed drastically because of it. Meanwhile, Solo replaced directing duo Phil Lord & Chris Miller with Ron Howard in the middle of production.

Will the future of Star Wars be a little less troublesome? It’s hard to tell, but it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing elsewhere either. Most recently, Game of Thrones duo David Benioff and D.B. Weiss walked away from what was supposed to be a new trilogy in the Star Wars saga, supposedly because they didn’t have the time to spend on it along with their big new Netflix deal. But even the Skywalker saga had some creative clashing as director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly left Episode IX long before it was called The Rise of Skywalker.

However, Kennedy says this game of director musical chairs isn’t an indication of continued problems:

“Nobody in our business develops something with one person, that’s it, and everything goes perfectly. That’s a fairly common part of the process. We fall under incredible scrutiny because it’s ‘Star Wars.’ Because of the quality I’m striving for, I’m reaching out to top talent, and vice versa.”

Indeed, the development process for any movie in Hollywood is a complicated process. That’s why so many projects take years, sometimes over a decade, to get off the ground. And when you’re dealing with one of the most popular franchises in the world, there’s a lot of scrutiny. Combine that with the fact that Kennedy is under close watch by some of the more skeptical and concerned fans, seemingly for both being a woman and not George Lucas, and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of armchair criticism.

Josh Trank exits Star Wars

The Future of Star Wars

That complicated development process has helped Kennedy and the rest of the team at Lucasfilm figure out where they need to go next. But Kennedy already has some vague details that she confirmed. The LA Times story says Kennedy confirmed that they will not be abandoning the new characters created in the most recent trilogy. That means we could see more adventures with Rey, Finn, and Poe, maybe even Kylo Ren if he gets redeemed and survives. But would those stories be as interesting knowing the overall Star Wars arc involving them has been complete? What other stories do those characters need to have told?

Besides that, Kennedy says Lucasfilm’s new approach to Star Wars will be to move beyond the standard trilogy format:

“I think it gives us a more open-ended view of storytelling and doesn’t lock us into this three-act structure. We’re not going to have some finite number and fit it into a box. We’re really going to let the story dictate that.”

The trilogy format can be restricting, especially if your story is more contained and doesn’t require three films to tell it. Surely the success of The Mandalorian has shown that Star Wars stories can be told without being feature films either. That’s why the Obi-Wan Kenobi movie (which was once thought to be a new trilogy) is now becoming a series on Disney+. Perhaps the same thing will happen with other titles that may have once been intended to be another Star Wars Story.

Even though the new direction of Star Wars isn’t going as smoothly as, say, the path that Marvel Studios has had to build their cinematic universe, let’s not forget that Marvel had their missteps early on too. The Incredible Hulk was a bit of a slog, and Thor didn’t get things off to a great start for the God of Thunder. Oh, and Iron Man 2 was just plain bad, even if it was a box office success. Star Wars has much more of a blank canvas than Marvel Studios, which has decades of comic books to draw inspiration from, and figuring out what the franchise can be beyond the Skywalker saga is a challenge that requires mistakes to be made. Yes, there are plenty of Expanded Universe stories that can be utilized for Star Wars movies and TV shows, but reconciling them with the new canon also poses a challenge in itself. So it’s not as simple as some fans think.

At the end of the day, Kennedy is one of the most successful producers Hollywood has ever seen. You can’t let a few struggles behind the scenes of one of the most highly scrutinized film franchises allow for a sweeping judgment about her capabilities as a producer. We’re talking about a woman who was behind some of the most influential movies of all-time, including E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Gremlins, Jurassic Park, The Sixth Sense and many more. Maybe we should give her some time to figure out where this franchise goes next. If fans can wait 15 years for a prequel trilogy, and 10 years for a sequel trilogy, they can be patient while the future of Star Wars gets sorted out.

An announcement about the next Star Wars movie is expected in January 2020.

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