Star Wars: Episode IX is being seen as a course-correction by Lucasfilm following the commercial disappointment of Solo. The galaxy far, far away soared to incredible heights during the first few years of the franchise's Disney era, but the hot streak came screeching to a halt this past summer. Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story, the spinoff film detailing Han Solo's adventurous youth, became the first installment in the series to lose money at the box office. It ended its run earning only $392.8 million worldwide against a budget that ballooned past the $250 million mark.
That unprecedented development forced Lucasfilm to hit the pause button and re-evaluate their strategy for Star Wars moving forward. Other planned anthologies for characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett are reportedly on hold, and Disney is planning for a slowdown after Episode IX debuts next December. As for Star Wars 9, there's pressure on it to not just end the Skywalker saga on a high note, but also prove Solo's performance was a fluke. The franchise may not need a massive course correction despite its tumultuous past year, but Lucasfilm is still doing what they can to ensure another Solo situation doesn't happen.
In Variety's report about Episode IX director J.J. Abrams seeking a substantial deal to develop multimedia projects for a studio, they briefly touch on the upcoming Star Wars film:
"He’s [Abrams] currently working on Star Wars: Episode IX, which has been billed as a course correction at Lucasfilm after spinoff films like Solo failed to meet the label’s high commercial expectations."
It is vital for viewers to be cognizant of what exactly Lucasfilm is attempting to correct here. Abrams has already stated Last Jedi backlash will not influence his creative decisions on Episode IX. So, right now, it doesn't look like the sequel trilogy finale will play as a knee-jerk reaction to the polarizing Last Jedi debate. Instead, Lucasfilm is positioning Episode IX as the antithesis to Solo, which should be easy to accomplish. The spinoff's biggest problems (besides the substantial reshoots, of course) were its competitive release date and lackluster marketing campaign. Episode IX is opening over the holidays in 2019, a similar window to Force Awakens, Last Jedi, and Rogue One. Going by the box office results of those films, Disney is looking at another member of the $1 billion club. The company's marketing department will also be out in full force generating hype with a prolonged campaign that spans months (hitting the same beats of Episode IX's predecessors) instead of squeezing everything into a shortened period of time.
While it's great Lucasfilm is managing Episode IX much better than Solo, Abrams' latest is also a film that practically sells itself. It's the final chapter of a story audiences have been following for more than four decades and will definitely be positioned as a must-see cinematic event. That's a far cry from a Han Solo origin story, which, while generally well-received, wasn't exactly in high demand. Episode IX is also going to be the first new Star Wars movie after a 19-month gap, meaning general audiences will be primed and ready for another trip to the galaxy far, far away.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019