We live in a time when the future of the Star Wars franchise seems unclear. With Disney owning the franchise rather than Lucas, it's doubtful they are going to have an end point in mind, and end to the story, if you will. The purchase of Lucasfilm cost Disney over $4 billion and they are not only going to want that back quickly, but to start turning a profit. That profit comes in a variety of different ways, but one certainty is that making new movies is the best way to increase that revenue stream -- as new toys, new books, new games, and new merchandising are all possible when there is a new movie.
The question for audiences is not whether they will continue to make new movies, but what form those movies will take. As far as we are aware, there are no confirmed plans for a fourth trilogy in the main Star Wars saga of movies. It's possible Star Wars Episode IX could be the last film in the saga series, and perhaps that depends on the performance of the standalone movies. Rogue One in 2016 was commercially a huge success by anyone's standards, crossing the $1 billion mark earlier this year. When compared however to the box office takings of the most recent main saga film, it made roughly half of The Force Awakens massive $2 billion plus in box office. Maybe the more casual audience just didn't show up for Rogue One, and it is doubtful that the untitled Han Solo movie will come close to matching the box office haul of this year's main saga movie, The Last Jedi. Do Disney then have plans for a fourth trilogy sometime in the future? That's the question I ask myself.
Disney seem intent on trying to produce one Star Wars movie per year long after Episode IX, and the idea seems to be that these will consist of unique, non-saga movies in the vein of Rogue One and Han Solo. We have heard many rumors regarding some of their ideas, the Boba Fett film that Josh Trank was attached to, rumors of one or two Obi-Wan Kenobi movies starring Ewan McGregor and even talk of a younger Yoda movie. The idea is sound, end the story properly, but use the universe to build all kinds of stories from within that timeline. However, when Disney review things at the end of Episode IX's cinematic run, will they decide that they like making double the money every two years and ask Kathleen Kennedy to line up episodes 10-12? I'd argue that this decision must have been made already.
Part of the problem Disney faces is deciding all this before the script for Episode IX is finished. If they decide they want to push ahead with a fourth trilogy, then they may have to sow the seeds for future installments within the script Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connally are currently writing. There's no way that they can afford to wait until the release of Han Solo, Episode IX is rumored to start production this coming January before Han Solo is even released. Disney won't even truly know how well The Last Jedi has performed by the time cameras start rolling on the conclusion to this trilogy.
We can also add some rumored leaks and comments from Bob Iger and Kathleen Kennedy to this equation.
At Star Wars Celebration in April, Kennedy, speaking with Fandango, said:
"I certainly foresee movies past nine. Whether or not we carry on the Skywalker saga...You know, George [Lucas] always intended nine movies, and whether we continue that or not is something we're talking about right now. If the story warrants it, we'll absolutely do it. If it actually inspires new ideas, then we'll probably head in that direction. We just don't know yet."
This followed a supposed Lucasfilm insider leak who spoke to Star Wars News Net. The source said:
"Since Star Wars is a generational thing, there will be a gap between the sequel trilogy's end and the new trilogy's arrival. Lucasfilm will want to starve the market of Star Wars movies for a time."
And speaking at an event in Santa Monica in March this year Bob Iger CEO of Disney said:
"We're starting talk about what could happen after Episode IX. About what could be another decade-and-a-half of Star Wars stories."
If we consider all these factors, the conclusion for me is that Disney absolutely will make sure there is somewhere to go for a fourth trilogy if they so desire, whether that be three to four years down the line, or ten, as rumors suggest. The danger of not doing this, of not having any upcoming Star Wars "main event" to get audiences buzzing again, is that the series could well become stale, or watered down. We are currently awaiting the ninth Star Wars film ever to be released in cinema over the period of 40 years. Disney could double that by 2027 and without a new trilogy to build around, the series could lose some if its event status, which propels it beyond other blockbusters.
I wonder about the contracts of the likes of Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. Would we find some sort of clause that brings them back for a fourth saga somewhere down the line? It's possible, but chances are they'd have to re-up their contracts. We may not find out for a long time, but Disney would be crazy not to consider this option and place all their eggs in the standalone basket, despite the success of Rogue One. Whereas if the leaked reports are to be believed, Disney will starve audiences for ten years with no main saga movies, so that bringing them back will be a big deal. It makes sense, it gives time for the characters to have developed, and for the actors to age naturally.
Star Wars has been a huge part of my life, I grew up with it and it helped shape the person I am today. When Revenge of the Sith finished I honestly thought I'd never see another new Star Wars film again. Will I remain as invested in one standalone movie per year, every year until it's as predictable as Santa Claus at Christmas? I doubt anyone of us would, but I'd bet the farm that Episode IX will not be the last Star Wars saga film I see at cinemas and I would expect there to be some room to move forward planted into this trilogy to future proof their plans, it would be an oversight if they didn't.
What do you think? Do you agree with me that Star Wars 10-12 are an inevitability, or do you think Disney will be happy making standalone stories from here on out? Let us know in the comments section below.