Star Wars Fandom is Divided on the Skywalker Saga
Ironically, one of the greatest issues facing the Sequel Trilogy is that fans care too much about the Skywalkers and the Solos. They've had decades to imagine what the legacy of Luke, Han, and Leia would look like, and as a result, when Lucasfilm actually revealed that legacy, it was something of a disappointment. For Leia and Han, for example, the fiery romance had ended in them drifting apart after their son fell to the dark side; the galactic peace Leia had fought so hard for had been destroyed by an Empire Redux.
But nothing has been more controversial than Luke Skywalker. J.J. Abrams, writer/director of both The Force Awakens and Episode IX, is well known for his "mystery box" plots. He sets up a mystery, such as Luke's self-imposed exile, with no idea what the outcome will be. As a result, Rian Johnson was faced with an unenviable challenge; how to explain why Luke had abandoned the galaxy in its hour of need, not even returning after the destruction of the Republic capital. Johnson's answer was that Luke was essentially punishing himself, unable to forgive himself for a moment of weakness that he believed had tipped the galaxy towards the dark side. Luke had even gone so far as to cut himself off from the Force, explaining why the use of Starkiller Base didn't draw him out after he sensed millions of deaths. It most certainly wasn't what fans had expected, and as a result, The Last Jedi has divided the fanbase. As writer-director Kevin Smith explained, "Some people, it hit them the wrong way in a big way. I’ve seen, it’s not just people going like, ‘Oh, I didn’t like it,’ when they don’t like it. It’s vitriolic, as if somebody f-cked up their childhood."
In truth, there was probably no way to please everybody with the Sequel Trilogy. This is Star Wars, not Star Peace, so the galaxy was always going to have to be embroiled in a new conflict. Good drama and storytelling necessarily subverts expectations. Still, given the controversy with which this has all been received, Lucasfilm is wise to draw a line under the Sequel Trilogy and move on to new projects. The Skywalker Saga will be completed with Episode IX, so why draw out the controversy by continuing that legacy? It's better for Lucasfilm to develop other projects, ones that aren't weighted down by decades of fan expectations.
The Future of Star Wars is More Exciting Without the Skywalkers
The end of the Skywalker Saga means that anything can happen in the future of the Star Wars franchise. Reports that Disney was shutting down the anthologies seem to have been premature, and there's some evidence the Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff may begin filming sometime in 2019. Meanwhile, Lucasfilm has plans for two entirely new series of Star Wars movies. Rian Johnson is launching a new trilogy, one set apart from the Skywalker Saga and potentially exploring a previously unseen corner of the galaxy. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, best known for Game of Thrones, are preparing to launch another series of movies.
With the Skywalkers written out of these stories, anything is possible. These tales could be set in the distant past, revealing the secret origins of the Jedi and the Sith; or they could be based in the distant future, revealing what happened to the galaxy centuries after the passing of the Skywalkers and the Solos. Films could be based in the Unknown Regions, introducing new races and terrible new threats; they could deal with whole new concepts, such as an alien invasion by the Grysks. The anthologies have already deepened our understanding of Force lore, with Rogue One introducing the Guardians of the Whills. Future films could go further; would they even need to focus on the Jedi, or could they instead celebrate other Force cults?
If Lucasfilm's approach pays off, there will come a time when viewers experience Star Wars in a different way. Rather than experience it as the Skywalker Saga, with some add-ons and side-stories, they'll instead be welcomed into a massive cinematic franchise - with the Skywalker Saga serving as the seed from which the whole thing has grown. This, hopefully, is a vision that will ultimately unite the currently divided Star Wars fanbase.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019