Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is developing an all-new trilogy set in the galaxy far, far away, and it’s exactly what the franchise needs at this point in time. Disney famously acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012 and went right to work on a full slate of annual film releases that wouldn’t just add to the Skywalker saga, but also flesh out other aspects of the canon. A key selling point of Star Wars‘ new future was the prospect of spinoff movies that presented an opportunity to expand horizons and add to the lore. However, in the early going, things didn’t exactly go that way.
While both Rogue One and Solo introduce new characters and locations to the film series, there’s no denying that they were limited with what they could achieve, having to be boxed into a pre-existing continuity and hit certain story beats. They seemingly flew in the face of the creativity and innovation Star Wars was born on, leaning much too heavily on what had come before, rather than pursuing new directions. With the announcement of this new Johnson Trilogy (as we’re unofficially calling it), the property is finally going to be liberated from the one thing that’s been holding it back. Lucasfilm is learning from their mistakes.
Star Wars and Nostalgia
The Force Awakens and Rogue One collectively brought in more than $3 billion at the worldwide box office, so they obviously struck a chord with audiences. That said, one common criticism of the two is that they were perhaps a bit too nostalgic for their own good. Episode VII aped direct plot points from A New Hope (a cute droid with top secret information, planet-killing weapon) and was seen by some as a rehash of that seminal film. Rogue One arguably took things a step further in the fan service department, shoehorning in cameos from “the cantina guys,” revealing the truth behind the Death Star’s weakness, and telling us why Luke Skywalker was Red 5 during the Battle of Yavin. Even Darth Vader’s famous hallway scene received some pushback in certain circles, who saw it as little more than wish fulfillment for those yearning to see the Dark Lord unleashed.
Solo, it seems, is going to be more of the same. The spinoff operates as an origin story for one of the franchise’s most iconic characters, and plot points unveiled by Disney CEO Bob Iger scream low-hanging fruit. Among the topics Ron Howard’s film is expected to cover how Han’s lifelong bond with Chewbacca formed and how Solo won the Millennium Falcon from his buddy, Lando Calrissian. Granted, this could be done in an effective way, but on-paper, Solo runs the risk of falling into the same traps as George Lucas’ prequels, asking questions that never begged to be answered in the first place. From a cynical point of view, the two entries of the Star Wars Story line read as business-orientated decisions, designed to capitalize on the brand’s classic iconography with films that were easy to market to die-hard fans and casual viewers. It made sense for Lucasfilm to play things a little safe, but some were frustrated by their slavish devotion to the ancient religion of the original trilogy.
And though Lucasfilm is only a few years into the great Star Wars renaissance, they may have been subject to the infamous “franchise fatigue” hot takes if they hadn’t announced the Johnson Trilogy now. Solo is where some viewers might have started to tire of the story group retreading familiar ground. It will be the sixth film (out of 10) to feature the Falcon in a meaningful capacity. It will mark Chewbacca’s seventh appearance in the live-action movies. Just two and a half years after Force Awakens gave us the last of the adventures of Han and Chewie, we’re going back in time to see the dynamic duo wreck havoc in their younger years. Again, Solo could turn out to be entertaining, but there are only so many times you can go back to the same well before things grow stale. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, it was a longterm play, so everyone involved behind the scenes was going to have to start looking ahead sooner or later.
The outlier to this nostalgia craze is The Last Jedi, which was written and directed by Johnson. Of course, the eighth episode in the Skywalker saga will have plenty of familiar elements, but it also represents a real push in a fresh direction. From the beginning, the script has been the recipient of high praise, with Adam Driver stating it creates a new set of rules for the franchise. Mark Hamill was infamously shocked by the depiction of Luke, and the cast has been adamant about the surprises that are in store. Episode VIII was the first Star Wars film to have a smooth production, and Johnson said he would helm another installment in a heartbeat, so Lucasfilm would have been foolish to let him slip through their fingers. Mortgaging their future on his vision reads as a smart decision as they look to avoid the problems they’ve had lately.
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