Celebrate The 50th Anniversary?
Since we've established an Episode X will be made at some point, the task now is to try to predict when we might get to see it. Lucasfilm's plans after Episode IX are unknown, so the best we can do is estimate based on speculation. One thing we are confident in saying is that there will probably be a gap between Star Wars 9 and its hypothetical sequel. It's become a franchise tradition to take extended breaks; there were 16 years separating Return of the Jedi from The Phantom Menace, and Force Awakens arrived a decade after Revenge of the Sith. The question becomes how long of a hiatus will the saga go on.
Episode IX is currently in a state of flux with new director J.J. Abrams rewriting the script with Chris Terrio, but Lucasfilm is eyeing it as a conclusion of sorts. When Abrams was hired for the gig in September, Kennedy stated how excited she was to bring her old collaborator back to "close out this trilogy." Given the phrasing, it's reasonable to assume the ninth entry in the saga will be constructed in a fashion similar to Return of the Jedi - meaning it won't be open-ended and wouldn't require a Star Wars 10 to wrap up any dangling threads. Whatever awaits audiences in Episode IX, they should be able to walk out of the theater feeling satisfied that what they just saw theoretically could be the end if that's what Lucasfilm intended. If the studio announced Episode X for 2021, it would run the risk of undermining the sense of finality that Star Wars 9 will surely have in marketing. Taking some time off, instead of jumping right into the next trilogy, would be the best way to go.
Our best guess at this juncture would be Episode X premiering in the year 2027, which will mark Star Wars' 50th anniversary. This would be eight years after Star Wars 9, admittedly the shortest gap between trilogies, but still enough time for the main cast to credibly portray "older, wiser" versions of their characters. In 2027, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega would be 35 years old, Oscar Isaac will be 48, and Adam Driver will be 44. If the plan calls for Kelly Marie Tran's Rose to stick around, the actress will be 38 when our theoretical Star Wars 10 debuts. This would be a nice sweet spot, as the characters will surely have changed with more years under their belts, but the actors won't be pushing Expendables territory and would still be realistic leads for a tentpole. Certainly, Star Wars 10 would introduce new figures to the franchise (gotta sell that merchandise!), but this new core was such a hit, there's no reason to push them to the back burner to make way for a group of 20-somethings. By the time The Force Awakens was made, age dictated the original big three had to be relegated to supporting roles. If the new gang is part of Lucasfilm's strategy, they won't want to wait until Ridley's pushing 70 to bring her back.
It also goes without saying that Lucasfilm would want to do something major for Star Wars' 50th. Surely, there will be more spinoff movies made, but would the studio rather celebrate the big 5-0 with a random offshoot or the next chapter in a generation-spanning story that's the backbone of the property? There have already been rumors that they plan to deliberately starve the market following Episode IX, so they could rely on other channels to keep the galaxy in the public consciousness before coming back with a vengeance during a milestone year. The last thing Lucasfilm wants to do is subject themselves to franchise fatigue only a handful of years after the great Star Wars renaissance began. As we saw with Force Awakens, sometimes the best thing you can do is not release a movie for an extended period of time, driving up the demand for something new.
Of course, this is all theorizing on our part, but it seems very likely Episode X will grace multiplexes at some point down the line. The new era of Star Wars has gotten off to as great a start Lucasfilm could have hoped for, and if the interest is there, they'd be foolish to arbitrarily end the saga anytime for the foreseeable future. Obviously, there has to be a worthwhile story to tell. If Star Wars is to stay viable, the story group knows the content has to be of high quality. The hirings of Abrams and Rian Johnson (two talented directors) for the sequel trilogy illustrate Lucasfilm's understanding of this, and they'll be on the lookout for more unique voices to come in and continue the narrative in exciting ways. For all the trouble they had with Phil Lord and Chris Miller (and Colin Trevorrow, for that matter), Abrams and Johnson seemed to have enjoyed their experience.
Perhaps one day the Star Wars saga will have a definitive conclusion. As the old saying goes, all good things come to an end eventually, and with the franchise being set in an expansive galaxy, it arguably could be limiting to keep concentrating on the episodes when there's so much more to explore. But after audiences thought Return of the Jedi and then Revenge of the Sith were it for Star Wars, there shouldn't be any illusions Episode IX will be the final chapter. At the very least, there will be one more trilogy for us to obsess over.
- 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: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019