Disney detonated a series of massive bombshells this week with their cascading media announcements, including a cheap subscription fee for their streaming service, a new Marvel TV show, and at least one new Star Wars TV series. However, the biggest revelation was Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy’s decision to develop a new Star Wars trilogy by The Last Jedi‘s Rian Johnson (Looper), who will write and direct (at least) the first installment.
While it’s hardly shocking that Lucasfilm is planning new Star Wars content far, far into the future, it’s rather surprising that they’ve chosen to jump headfirst into another trilogy right away (instead of creating a few more anthology films, for example).
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of this new trilogy strategy, and also some possible directions that these new films should explore…
No Characters Named (or Blood-Relations of) Skywalker
It’s finally time to say goodbye to the Skywalkers. Every Star Wars movie to-date (including Rogue One) involved the Skywalker family and their galaxy-wrecking squabbles, to lesser or greater extent. The Last Jedi will mark the end of Princess Leia’s story, and possibly Luke’s as well. The Skywalker saga will (likely) span 10 films when all is said and done (I’m assuming Episode IX still contains at least one character from the Skywalker bloodline).
Now is the time to invest in new characters and conflicts that do not involve a Skywalker — the Star Wars franchise is bigger than just this one extended family. Introducing new narratives and characters who have no connection to the Skywalkers may risk alienating long-time fans, but it will also create a completely new jumping-on-point for the next generation of movie-goers. (Let’s be honest, if you saw the original Star Wars during its initial theater run, you’re getting old.) Let’s give the kids some new heroes and stories to share with their kids and grandkids, eh?
Develop A New Conflict Beyond Rebels vs. Empire
We’ve been living with the same galaxy-wide conflict since 1977, it’s time to invest in new groups and organizations to breathe fresh air into the galaxy. Rebel forces have been pitted against Imperial troops since before many Star Wars fans were born. Granted, George Lucas muddled things with his prequels (both the Trade Federation and the Old Republic were ham-fisted implementations, at best). Put another way, how many X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter battles can we before the whole enterprise just feels stale?
Lucasfilm needs to invent a major new antagonist, something we haven’t seen before. Perhaps a new kind of evil so dire that it compels Rebels/New Republic and Imperials/First Order to work together against their common foe… or something else entirely out of left field. The Star Wars movies have become predictable, in large part because they haven’t bothered to develop a new threat or elevate their known crime organization, Black Sun. After all, Snoke and Kylo are just updated versions of Vader and Palpatine, Rey is the new Luke, etc.
For Star Wars to appeal to audiences for multiple decades into the future, Lucasfilm cannot keep repeating the same old beats. Ask Ridley Scott what happens when a filmmaker goes to the well once (or three times) too often.
Explore More Alien Races And Cultures
While the human character’s relationships and conflicts are at the center of the Star Wars phenomenon, it’s the aliens and droids that remain the coolest, yet least examined parts of the franchise. Why not develop a major storyline around Wookiees, Jawas, or Bounty Hunters? Sound crazy? Well, Pixar’s been killing it for twenty years with movies about fish, cars, monsters, bugs, and children’s toys — How about a WALL-E-style Star Wars movie with R2 units? Not so crazy after all.
Additionally, Star Wars movies have traveled to so many amazing places that are populated with diverse and interesting creatures. Lucasfilm should pick one of these planets, fully develop a new species, and give it a central role in the upcoming trilogy, and then see where it goes — James Cameron proved that audiences will line-up to watch goofy blue giants riding pterodactyls in Avatar, as an obvious example.
Take A Break From Jedis And The Force
The force, lightsabers, and Jedi/Sith put Star Wars on the map, but after eight movies, multiple TV shows, and a boatload of videogames and novels, they’re simply not as exciting nor as fresh as they used to be. Sometimes the best way to generate new excitement and interest in a character or concept is to put it on the shelf for a while. Marvel Comics did this recently with Wolverine, who returned to the canon after four years off — fans were ecstatic, by the way.
What does a Star Wars trilogy without the force look like? If Solo turns out to be something cool and successful, why not build the next trilogy on the back of the Milennium Falcon. In other words, what’s so bad about playing in a new sandbox full of smugglers, bounty hunters, and the criminal factions from the Outer Rim for awhile… and then bring the Jedi and Sith back in a subsequent trilogy with a vengeance!
Change-Up And Embrace Different Sub-Genres
Rogue One proved that Star Wars can work in multiple genres beyond straight-up sci-fi; Solo appears to lean into comedy, as you may have heard. Most of the Star Wars films to-date have involved a sprawling, intergalactic conflict as the backdrop to the ongoing Skywalker story, but Rogue One was a full-on war movie (and a little bit film noir too), and that movie pulled few punches with its interpretation of the war genre — fans were into it too; to the tune of over $1 billion worldwide.
Perhaps Johnson should look to Marvel’s movie successes for inspiration. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was an espionage film, Ant-Man was a heist picture, Dr. Strange was kinda-sorta a horror film (well, that’s what they were going for anyway). How cool would it be to see a martial arts movie in the Star Wars universe? Gangster, disaster, mystery, or detective genres could all totally work too. Imagine a variation on the buddy-cop genre with Boba Fett and IG-88 as bounty hunters forced to work together to capture and bring an assignment home alive… crap, that’s basically the plot to DeNiro’s Midnight Run — but I would totally be the first in line for that movie!
Be Bold, Be Brave, Embrace Change!
Star Wars as a franchise is at crossroads. The safe bet would be to continue telling the same Star Wars stories with the same characters, conflicts, and locations that have already been well-established. Arguably, this has worked like gangbusters for James Bond (but even this franchise is questioning its future). I believe the key to Rian Johnson’s new Star Wars trilogy is embracing change, doing something no one expects, and seeing the reaction… if it doesn’t work, at least they tried. Marvel has proven that even a successful formula can (and should) survive tinkering and experimentation.
Modern cinema is far too competitive these days to rely on past successes. Few movies and franchises these days are finding success by leveraging the past, instead those franchises that are bold enough to take risks and connect with different audiences are the ones that we’ll be talking about years from now.
Are you ready for a fourth Star Wars trilogy on the heels of The Last Jedi? Let us know in the comments down below!