With news that the Star Wars franchise could likely continue into the 2030’s, fans have been clamoring for information on where the beloved saga will be heading next. A purported leak of all the studio’s upcoming projects – including an Obi Wan spin off and a YA romance-esque film – recently made rounds, and while the legitimacy of such a list is definitely questionable, the excitement over it shows how hungry Star Wars fans are for any kind of news about Episode IX and the 2020 anthology movie.
With Star Wars Celebration coming up soon, it’s likely we’ll get some announcement concerning the future anthology films there. It will be a cherry on the top of an already packed weekend, and while any announcement about the next anthology film won’t be as massive as the The Last Jedi reveals we’re no doubt getting, it’ll still be an exciting treat for fans. There’s no guarantee we’ll get a title announcement, but if Disney wants to get the hype train moving then now is the time – especially since there will be no Star Wars Celebration next year.
That leaves us with the question of what should be the next anthology film – a hotly debated topics. There are as many options as there are opinionated fans, and an entire galaxy-full of possibilities. Let’s review some of the best takes, and talk about what might make future anthology films really shine.
One of the most prominent rumors surrounding the Star Wars anthologies is whether or not the films will revisit popular legacy characters. Despite Rogue One scribe Gary Whitta saying that future anthologies would probably steer away from legacy characters, that hasn’t stopped fans from eagerly speculating that famous characters, both major and minor, will take the lead in a film of their own. Some of these ideas are a little far out there (it’s doubtful anyone wants to see a Gungan-related anthology film) but some definitely fall into the realm of possibility.
Perhaps the most popular fan theory is an Obi Wan Kenobi standalone. Everyone from the most casual fan to Ewan Mcgregor himself seems to be interested in bringing the famed Jedi back to the big screen. It wouldn’t be a rumored leak of upcoming anthology films without the mention of a Kenobi film or trilogy. The only problem with a Kenobi film is what the plot would be. Outside of fighting Darth Maul on Star Wars Rebels, he seemed to lead a quiet life on Tatooine. However, as one fan suggested, a darker character piece in the vein of Logan might provide an interesting take on the character, though it is doubtful that we will ever see an R-rated Star Wars film.
Another popular theory about the anthologies is that one would center on controversial character Boba Fett. As fans know, you either love or hate the Fett, and those that love him insist that a Fett anthology would be the perfect next step for Lucasfilm. Rumors say that filmmaker Josh Trank was working on a Fett film for Lucasfilm before splitting from the studio. A Fett movie would most likely split the fanbase, and not in a positive way. However, the rumored bounty hunter ensemble film, where Fett would not be the lead, might be a smarter choice for the studio, as it wouldn’t have the risk of being too divisive among the fanbase.
These are by far the most popular anthology theories, but they are not the only ones. Other fans are keeping their fingers crossed for a Yoda centric anthology film, while others are still hoping for films or a TV show set in the Old Republic era, based on the popular Knights of the Old Republic video games. Even Rogue One’s Baze and Chirrut are the subject of anthology film speculation (though obviously the film would be a prequel). The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams joined the chorus of fan speculation, saying he’d be interested in the film centered on the mysterious Knights of Ren.
It remains to be seen whether or not Lucasfilm will opt to choose a legacy character to center the third anthology film on. The young Han Solo movie will definitely fulfill fan desires to see an origin story told on the big screen (two stories if you count a young Lando making an appearance), but legacy characters do not necessarily mean a great story. What Lucasfilm really needs is to focus more on the quality of the anthologies, not just trying to appease fans by putting as many familiar names in as possible. Rogue One’s legacy characters worked because they served the story, and it would be impossible to tell a young Han story without Chewbacca and Lando. Making legacy films for the sake of appealing to the fanbase might backfire and produce less than stellar products.
The Key to a Good Anthology
Rogue One, while drawing some middling reviews, was a box office smash and has drawn praise from die hard fans for its unique story and characters. Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso and her merry band of rebels managed to capture audience’s attentions and affections, despite a majority of the film’s characters being original creations and not legacy characters. Obviously there were a few exceptions, but the film left the majority of the heavy lifting to new characters, with positive results. The film also was a success despite having a tone that was vastly different from the films that came before it. It was a gamble for Lucasfilm, and one that paid off handsomely.
If Lucasfilm wants to keep the anthologies successful, Rogue One provides a strong model for that success. This is not to say that every anthology film should be a gritty war drama. However, each anthology film should tell a unique story with a majority of original characters, and stand on their own rather than depend on audiences having watched all the films that have come before it. This is not to say that a couple of legacy characters can’t get origin stories; the Han Solo movie is filming now, and it’s likely Lucasfilm will give into fan pressure and make an Obi Wan film. But a majority of these films should be originals, telling stories set in the enormous Star Wars galaxy that don’t necessarily intersect with the stories of legacy characters.
Or, if Disney must choose legacy characters, choose ones that haven’t been overdone. Saw Gerrera’s appearance in Rogue One was a poignant easter egg for The Clone Wars fans. Similarly, Tarkin is hardly a fan favorite, but his appearance was also a clever nod to the originals and filled in the blanks on his story before his first appearance in A New Hope. There are a vast array of characters who have appeared in The Clone Wars, Rebels, and the novels that could be explored in film that would not be the same, somewhat over-used legacy characters. They all have interesting stories, so why not explore them, rather than relying on fan favorites for the sake of nostalgia?
The Skywalker saga should be confined to the episodes only. There, the legacy characters make sense. You can’t have the baton passed to new trio Rey, Finn, and Poe without the presence of Luke, Han, and Leia. However making spinoff movies exclusively about the same characters whose stories have populated seven episodes would be a wasted opportunity. Rogue One proved that Lucasfilm is willing to take risks with storytelling and stakes, so to return solely to legacy character films where fans know the ending in advance would be to the studio’s detriment.
The anthology films also provide an opportunity for Lucasfilm to explore different genres and tones than the episode films. The Skywalker saga is good old fashioned fantasy fun. Rogue One was a war drama. The Han Solo film is being billed as a western/comedy/heist movie. All of these fit into different genres, and as a result make them completely unique from one another. In order to keep audiences from getting Star Wars fatigue, Lucasfilm needs to continue to deliver unique films that aren’t all cooke cutter copies of each other.
Consider the complaints made against Marvel films. Some critics have argued that all the films follow the same formula. Visually and tonally, most of the films seem to be the same. Star Wars has a chance to buck that particular complaint by hiring different directors with different visual styles and ideas to write and direct anthology films. This will keep the films fresh, and prevent them from falling into cliched traps.
This is not to say that all legacy characters are bad, and we should never see them in any future Star Wars films. However, they should be exceptions, not the rule. By keeping the legacy characters mostly in the Skywalker saga, and making the anthology films about original characters, the anthologies serve their purpose as being anthology films separate from the main saga. They can be true standalones in a sense that they tell individual contained stories that embellish and add to the overarching Star Wars mythology, rather than just be the same characters we’ve seen before.
The Star Wars anthology films are a genius way to expand the mythology of the series and explore new stories not connected to the Skywalker family. Rogue One set a good precedent for future films, and now what remains to be seen is whether or not Lucasfilm can live up to the promise of the anthologies with future films. The Han Solo film has already generated controversy over casting decisions and the choice to make Han Solo not the character’s real name. Hopefully the film will not be divisive but a fun romp through the character’s origins.
But let’s hope that instead of choosing to generate origin story after origin story, Lucasfilm takes this chance to step away from formula and deliver original stories set in everyone’s favorite galaxy. By keeping things fresh, hiring directors with unique visions, and choosing to focus on original characters rather than legacy characters, Lucasfilm could become the studio that perfects the cinematic universe.