Why Can't Star Wars Move Beyond the Original Trilogy?

Force Ghosts of Young Anakin, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars Return of the Jedi

Recently, Lucasfilm confirmed that the next Star Wars spinoff is an Obi-Wan Kenobi film, with Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) currently in talks to direct. The news isn't entirely surprising, seeing as rumors have swirled about a solo outing for the Jedi general since the anthologies were first announced, something prequel actor Ewan McGregor still lobbied for. Disney is also considering solo outings for Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, and Boba Fett.

Despite Lucasfilm’s stated interest in moving beyond legacy characters in future anthologies, every currently proposed film relates to established Star Wars personalities. Similarly, Rogue One introduced a number of new characters but hovered inches away from Episode IV: A New Hope – as the first Death Star figured prominently and the film included roles for Grand Moff Tarkin, Mon Mothma, and Darth Vader. The studio still clings to their iconic figures, even though they have an entire galaxy of fresh, rising characters to explore.

Why is Lucasfilm so unwilling to venture beyond their classic personalities?

The Established Formula Works

Star Wars Rogue One Death Star

The enjoyable but safe Star Wars: The Force Awakens established that the formula still works, as a cool $2 billion box office take attests. Initial reports from the Rogue One set, however, suggested Gareth Edwards’ film differentiated from previous films and was, in essence, a war movie with a Star Wars twist. Before things got too far afield, though, Lucasfilm hesitated, instead reshooting several key scenes to make the film feel even more connected.

Their trend of careful filmmaking continued when the studio kicked Phil Lord and Chris Miller off the Han Solo movie. Supposedly, their efforts were too much of a radical departure from the style and tone writer Lawrence Kasdan and studio head Kathleen Kennedy had envisioned. As a result, they brought in Ron Howard to recut and finish the film. Howard is an Academy Award-winning director, but he’s also a filmmaker with an established style that fits well within the folds of Lucasfilm. With the picture back on course, he’s already teased several links to the mainstays of the franchise, including the Empire (understandable, given Solo’s purported naval background) and perhaps even the Death Star. Again.

Their desire to avoid making waves is somewhat understandable - after all, Star Wars fans are a finicky bunch. Play it too safe and a chunk of the fanbase grumbles about a lack of originality. Wander too far from the established lore or tone and another subset will berate the film as not Star Wars enough. Considering the massive amount of capital invested into each film, as well as the need to market them to worldwide audiences, some measure of caution makes sense. Even with Rogue One’s enormous success, any misstep along the way could result in a serious setback to the anthology efforts.

Nevertheless, Rogue One and The Force Awakens both proved characters unrelated to Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewy could carry an in-world film. Coupled with the vast amount of Legends (or Expanded Universe) material to selectively canonize and the growing reach of shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels, the audience certainly exists. So, what’s keeping Lucasfilm from exploring the non-legacy possibilities?

Page 2:  Familiar Faces

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Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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