As Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens approaches the two-billion dollar mark at the worldwide box office, finally opening in China over the weekend, and continuing to set records, focus is already shifting to what comes next. And that's by design because to keep the merchandise and licensing hype going, Disney and Lucasfilm are producing new Star Wars films to release every year for the foreseeable future.
This December, opening the same holiday weekend as The Force Awakens did in 2015, will be the first live-action anthology spinoff for the franchise, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and the following summer will see the release of the next core saga installment with Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII. No title has been announced for Star Wars 8 but according to John Boyega, who returns as the First Order Stormtrooper turned Resistance hero, the followup will be "darker."
NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars 7
Boyega, who was just nominated for BAFTA EE Rising Star award, spoke with Vogue about Star Wars and his role of a lifetime. Expressing relief in finally being able to talk openly about Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, the British actor joked about how that's only temporary since he's already having to keep tight-lipped about Finn's next adventure.
"Yes, at last! Han Solo dies, OK? He dies. Phew. It feels good. But now, we just starting work on Star Wars VIII, the next film, so I'm back to keeping secrets again."
Director Rian Johnson was attached to Star Wars 8 very early in the process so he could work with J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm in crafting the larger, big picture story from the get-go so that connective threads could be established correctly in The Force Awakens to allow for Johnson to tell his Episode VIII the way he wanted to do. Johnson already shot scenes as far back as September for Episode VIII and the stars have already seen the script, including J.J. Abrams who wants to direct it and Daisy Ridley who had nothing but praise for the next chapter's script. According to Boyega, "It's great. Much darker, but we're very excited."
"It's great. Much darker, but we're very excited."
As for Finn's part, Boyega says he didn't have to train much physically to get into shape for the first movie but for Episode VIII, he definitely needs to.
"No, for this film we really just took it scene by scene, there wasn't a huge regime. My part in the next film will be much more physical so I might be in the gym a bit more."
Can we assume then that Kylo Ren's swing of his crossguard lightsaber to Finn's back didn't split open his spine then? It was unclear at the end of The Force Awakens (here are all of our Star Wars 7 unanswered questions for more) how much damage Kylo inflicted on poor Finn and how much Rey inflicted on Kylo. All we know is that it was enough to render Finn completely unconscious for the rest of the battle, the travel to the Resistance base, and afterward as Rey left with Chewie and R2-D2 to seek out Luke Skywalker.
As for the darker sequel, Episode VII mirrored Episode IV - A New Hope in a lot of ways that drew criticisms and in the end, the Resistance successfully took out yet another Death Star, destroying most of what was shown to audiences of The First Order. We can only assume, the First Order and its commander, Supreme Leader Snoke, have a massive fleet out there and will be looking to retaliate and continue their quest at galactic domination. In that respect, it sounds as if Episode VIII may be the Empire Strikes Back of the new trilogy, continue to follow the pattern of each trilogy cyclically mirroring the previous.
But if Johnson's take on Star Wars opens with a First Order walker assault on a Resistance ice planet base... Just don't.
The film is directed by J.J. Abrams and stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Max Von Sydow. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk are producing with Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The screenplay is by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.