In case you haven’t heard, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is only the tip of the Disneyfied Star Wars iceberg – there are a whole bevy of standalone (formerly called “Anthology”) films slated for release concurrently with the sequel trilogy, making for one film each and every year until at least 2020.
Which raises the not-so-small question: what should these one-off stories consist of?
So far, Lucasfilm has announced that it’s going to be releasing solo films based on the Rebels stealing the Death Star plans before Episode IV: A New Hope (that’s called Rogue One - to come out next year), a young Han Solo becoming the scoundrel we all know and love (in 2018), and a third film based on one of the most popular Star Wars characters of all time, Boba Fett (that's scheduled for 2020). But is this good enough? With several thousand years and a nearly infinite number of planets and characters to explore, is Lucasfilm hewing too close to the tried-and-true?
We’ve already posed the question of whether or not Lucasfilm and Disney are playing it a little too safely with the Anthologies, but now we’ve decided to put our money with our mouth is: here are our 10 Best Ideas for the Star Wars Standalone Movies.
One of the most magical parts of the Star Wars films – and one of the biggest reasons why they’ve managed to remain so relevant over the past 38 years – is the sheer number of qualities contained within them; they’re thrilling, funny, sad, uplifting, visceral, contemplative. And one of the most exciting aspects of the so-called Anthologies is their ability to take just a few of these different elements and zero in on them, exploring them to a degree that would be almost impossible in the breakneck speed of the main films.
So let’s get the silly, fun movie out of the way first: why not do a lighthearted adventure starring, say, a collection of droids? Not only would there be a great deal of humor inherent in the premise, but there would also be the ability to explore just how the droids in the Star Wars galaxy actually operate or function (and we’re talking psychologically or existentially here, not technologically or technically).
Dubious on this entry? Don’t be – Star Wars: The Clone Wars has already proven the point for us with the four-part storyline in its fifth season (starting with “Secret Weapons” and ending with “Point of No Return”), in which R2-D2 and a number of other Republic droids are recruited to infiltrate a Confederate ship and retrieve a piece of highly valuable intelligence. Needless to say, the episodes were surprisingly entertaining and dramatic.
9 The birth of Lord Sidious
Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid) was, up until Disney opted to make the sequel trilogy, the singular, overarching antagonist of the entire movie saga – it is he who infiltrates the Old Republic, institutes its downfall, and manages to court the most powerful Jedi of them all to fall to the Dark Side – and he may even have helped conceive Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) in the first place, to boot.
That’s quite a powerful character, both in terms of personal will and metaphysical ability, but the simple fact remains that, even after the end of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, audiences still don’t know that much about the good chancellor-turned-emperor. Who is he? Where did he come from? How was he recruited by his Sith master, Darth Plagueis – and was Lord Plagueis the Wise truly as powerful in the ways of the Force as Palpatine told Anakin he was?
Indeed, Plagueis just may end up stealing the show; although much in the old Expanded Universe (that is, the giant collection of novels, comic books, short stories, and videogames) was devoted to the mysterious Sith Lord, that’s all been wiped clean now, presenting many golden opportunities for cinematic storytelling.
8 The fall of Jedi Master Dooku
Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), secretly known as Darth Tyranus to his Sith master, Lord Sidious, is one of the biggest wasted opportunities of the prequel trilogy. He is, on paper, a terrifically engaging and endlessly fascinating character – a former Jedi Master (the Padawan of Yoda, no less!) who somehow is seduced by the Dark Side, leaves the Jedi Order behind, and strikes out on a path to, presumably, become as powerful as he possibly can be, both in the ways of the Force and socio-politically, as the Separatist leader.
The Darth Tyranus origin story is enough to create a compelling, anguished narrative (what does it take for a man to betray his entire life and the only “family” he’s ever known?), but the possible inclusion of the secret birth of the clone trooper army is where this potential movie really shines: the huge infusion of action thanks to famed bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) can boost this to the levels of spectacle and intrigue we expect from Star Wars.
7 The origin of the Knights of Ren
In Episode VII: The Force Awakens, audiences are introduced to a brand-new order of Force users, individuals who seem to take the intent and power of the Dark Lords of the Sith and combine it with the structure of the Jedi Knights (hence the name the Knights of Ren).
We say “seem to” because, by the time that movie fades to black, audiences are still almost completely left in the dark about the Knights’ origin – and, also, their structure, history, and composition. It’s obvious that Star Wars shepherd Kathleen Kennedy wanted to leave much more for Episodes VIII and IX to delve into, but it’s also possible that she deliberately left their backstory for the other facets of the SW mythos; we’ve already gotten a snippet in the “Journey to The Force Awakens” publishing program, but the real vehicle can be Ren’s own solo film.
As an added bonus, the movie could also act as a backdoor to a Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) origin story, showing where the equally-left-in-mystery First Order commander came from – and where his ultimate plan may be taking the entire Star Wars saga.
6 The Birth of the Jedi
Viewers know so much about the Jedi Order thanks to the prequel trilogy, which depicts the Jedi Knights’ daily existences, and to Master Yoda (Frank Oz), who gives young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) many insightful lessons in the Force in The Empire Strikes Back, but there's actually quite a bit that we still don’t know. Where did the Jedi originate from? Were they always forbidden to marry, or did this specific prohibition come about from one too many members falling to the passions and fears of the Dark Side?
Here’s one possible theory: the Jedi were merely a background religion or sect until the Dark Lords of the Sith form as an offshoot and rise up to dominate the galaxy. Then, once the Jedi are forced to wrestle back control from their now-mortal enemies, they are instituted as the official police force of the Old Republic (which they help create) – and, thereby, become the massive, well-entrenched entity that we see in the prequels.
Regardless, there’s much about ancient Jedi history that is just coming to light thanks to the sequels, such as the fact that the Jedi Temple on Coruscant wasn’t the first temple and Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) crossguard-laden lightsaber being the original design for the weapon. Seeing the Order’s very beginnings has never been more apropos.
5 The Rise of the Sith
There’s a deleted scene from Episode II: Attack of the Clones that goes into the existence of the Lost Twenty, the only 20 Jedi to ever leave the Order (Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Sith would mark him as number 21, of course). Most of these individuals quit, presumably, due to personal reasons – wanting to get married or tiring of the ascetic lifestyle, for example. But the 20th inductee, Dooku, left to become a Dark Lord of the Sith, and it’s been generally accepted that the first Lost Jedi ended up starting the Sith in the first place.
How is it that the Dark Side of the Force was finally given its own set of followers, and how, exactly, did this make the Force go out of balance (which is the biggest mystery left in the mythos to answer)? Who made the prophecy about the Chosen One, and how is it that Anakin Skywalker’s destruction of the Sith Lords restores balance?
All of these questions and more could be answered in what would be a highly visceral-but-contemplative film – call it the prequels done right.
4 “Star Wars: Lost Stars”
Haven’t heard of Star Wars: Lost Stars? You should. It’s a recently-released young adult novel that has a rather inventive premise: it starts off 11 years before A New Hope, continues on all the way through the original trilogy, then ends one year after Return of the Jedi, following the rather complicated relationship of its two central characters the entire way through. While the protagonists are wonderfully drawn and well-rounded, and while their story is absolutely the heart of the novel, the way the narrative winds its way through all the major plot points of the original films forms a giant part of the book’s draw; it manages to condense decades’ worth of story into a single, manageable, compelling yarn, simultaneously condensing Star Wars into a bite-sized experience while expanding it to show just how wide open its universe is.
An Anthology film like this would be breathtakingly exciting, not to mention refreshing. Forget the small, nitty-gritty story about the Rebels stealing the Death Star plans or how Palpatine gets christened as Darth Sidious – show audiences the biggest, most epic adventure possible, threading its way through most, if not all, of the soon-to-be nine main movies. It would make for an unforgettable cinematic journey.
After completing his six movies, George Lucas set about conquering the next medium with his Star Wars franchise: television. The animated Clone Wars was to have only been the opening salvo, with a live-action series being the main draw.
Known as Star Wars: Underworld to fans, it would have been set in-between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and would have followed the seedy, criminal elements of galactic society, from the bounty hunter Boba Fett to interstellar mafias – producer Rick McCallum even called it the Sopranos of the Star Wars universe, saying that its very adult tone would be more appropriate for HBO than your average television station.
Even though Kathleen Kennedy has recently said she’s interested in possibly reviving Underworld, it still is an engaging – and open – enough concept to justify doing one or more spinoff films based upon it. An R-rated Star Wars? With material that is right out of Boardwalk Empire or Breaking Bad? We don’t care what the exact specifics are – sign us up right away.
There is an interesting little snippet in the recently-released novel Star Wars: Aftermath that provides a bit of backstory on what Emperor Palpatine was up to during the original trilogy: one of his closest advisors (who doubles as something of a Sith historian and/or cultist) discloses that Darth Sidious believed the source of the Dark Side of the Force resided somewhere beyond the galaxy, out in the depths of interstellar space. He, in fact, was so keen on exploring this source and mining it for additional power, he dispatched many individuals into unknown space to build research labs and communication stations.
What ultimately happened to them, we do not know, but it’s a ready-made premise for an adventure film. What would it be like to leave your friends and family behind to colonize intergalactic space – and what kind of bizarre Force-related phenomena did they find? It’s enough to make Yoda’s cave on Dagobah look like child’s play.
1 The Sith Wars
If ever there was a ready-made Star Wars film, this is it.
The Dark Lords of the Sith have risen up to conquer the galaxy (as we know from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s [Ewan McGregor] speech to Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith), plunging the interstellar community into darkness. Now the Jedi have to rise up and engage their distant cousins in a final battle for control of thousands of planets – and the fate of the Force.
Picture it: literally thousands of Jedi Knights dueling thousands of Sith Lords all across the galaxy. The battle scenes could very well play out like Braveheart, only with lightsabers instead of swords and arrows. And by the end, all of the Sith are hunted down and killed – save for Darth Bane (voiced by Mark Hamill himself in The Clone Wars), who ends up going into exile and starting the Rule of Two, which would allow the Sith to remain in hiding for the next thousand years, until they are finally ready to rise up once more to claim their revenge against the Jedi.
Did we miss an obvious Star Wars premise on our list? Is there a concept that you think wouldn’t work as well as Rogue One or young Han Solo? Be sure to let the world know in the comments below.