Star Wars: The Last Jedi really didn't go the way we thought, proving to be the most controversial entry since Disney's resurrection of the series with a backlash perhaps even on a par with the highly divisive prequels. Considering how both The Force Awakens and Rogue One have been marked out by a sense of universal praise, could this see Lucasfilm change course on the franchise going forward - either with the plot of Episode 9 or further into the future with more spinoffs and Episode VIII director Rian Johnson's new, separate trilogy?
In the weeks since The Last Jedi dropped, there's been much debate over where the line lies in terms of critical and audience reaction, as well as how its box office stacks up against its predecessors. This, rather than speculation on the future or simple geeking out over using hyperspace as a weapon, has been the prominent discussion, leading to rumors that the film's ending was changed, or that future projects are in jeopardy (along with the bizarre call for the movie to be struck from canon). What we know is that J.J. Abrams is still hammering out the broad strokes of Star Wars 9, which does leave the door open for some reactionary adjustments. But is that going to happen?
We've seen drastic course corrections a lot recently as franchises try and expand in an annual (or greater) model. Sony's Spider-Man series has spun around several times this decade, with there now three distinct versions of the character coming this year (Peter Parker in Avengers: Infinity War, Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse, and Eddie Brock in Venom), while the DCEU has been heavily criticized for its unclear plans and heavy, last-minute revisions to the likes of Suicide Squad and Justice League in reaction to the reception of trailers and previous movies. Even Marvel has quite openly shifted films around the slate to allow for the entry of Spidey/removal of Inhumans (of course, in that case the shifts tend to be in the positive direction).
With that in mind, it's not out of the question that Disney could do something similar for Star Wars. However, based on everything we know about the behind-the-scenes workings at Lucasfilm and how The Last Jedi's reception is actually regarded, that doesn't seem likely.
Lucasfilm Didn't Course Correct on The Last Jedi (This Page)
Lucasfilm Didn't Course Correct on The Last Jedi
The biggest misconception about The Last Jedi to have emerged in the past month is that it was in any way made to be a reaction to The Force Awakens. After all, the pair couldn't be more different; one a loving homage to the original trilogy, the other a conscious divergence in almost every way possible. And, as the most persistent criticisms of Episode VII is that it was a "remake" of A New Hope (slightly untrue - it has comparable plot beats, but with a different character story at its core), and Episode VIII also moved focus away from some seemingly-established plot threads, this is taken as proof of a change in direction.
That is, plainly, not true. Rian Johnson was hired to write and direct Episode VIII in June 2014, eighteen months before The Force Awakens hit. By the time of that much-hyped December 2015 release, he'd already finished the script for 8 (which J.J. Abrams loved) and started filming some scenes in Ireland, with principal photography starting in February 2016 - when Episode VII was still in theaters. There was, evidently, no time to change course - the film we got is the film we were always going to get regardless of how the first of the sequel trilogy was received. In fact, the impact goes the other way - Johnson's arc for Luke actually led to Abrams changing the final scene of the film to avoid a plot contradiction. It's further worth noting that The Last Jedi was completed on schedule with minimal reshoots, meaning there weren't any major changes made mid-production.
Even the talk of retcons doesn't quite work. Many of the aspects that are commonly cited as being adjusted- the Knights of Ren, hermit Luke, and Rey's parents - are all actually pretty faithful to The Force Awakens' story: the Knights were as passive a concern there as they are in the follow-up, so them not appearing in The Last Jedi is a continuation of approach; there's no firm suggestion of Luke actually still being a Jedi hero; and Rey's parents are quite clearly set up as nobodies throughout Episode VII, perhaps most pointedly when Maz says as much to her. The only thing that may have changed is Snoke, who Johnson only realized he was going to kill while working on Kylo Ren's arc, but that choice will nevertheless have been made before his debut hit.
This is all public information and really rather obvious following the news cycle, although really only stems from a bigger misunderstanding.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019