In the lead-up to last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, word was that Disney's plan was to release a new film in the galaxy far, far away annually until the projects stopped turning a profit. Currently, the studio is alternating between the numbered episodes of the sequel trilogy in the Skywalker family saga and standalone anthology films such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the young Han Solo spinoff. As has become the norm in Hollywood, the studio has a full slate of movies plotted out through 2019, when Colin Trevorrow's Star Wars: Episode IX will premiere.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has mentioned that the franchise shall continue past that point, but at the time he didn't know when future movies would come out or what they'd be about. After The Force Awakens broke several box office records en route to its $2 billion worldwide gross, fans would be justified in thinking Lucasfilm would want to continue that narrative for as long as possible. However, studio president Kathleen Kennedy is considering all options right now, and that includes the possibility of no more episodes following Star Wars 9.
In an interview with EW, Kennedy touched on the future of the lucrative franchise, revealing that the Lucasfilm brain trust is hard at work discussing the best course of action for the next decade. Everything is on the table for now, but she's open to a Star Wars without the legendary Skywalker saga:
“That’s a conversation going on right now, too. I have to honestly tell you, could we [do nothing but standalones]? Sure. But I don’t know. We are looking at all of that.”
The reaction to Rogue One will certainly go a long way in influencing Lucasfilm's decision process. Disney has downplayed the spinoff's commercial expectations, but the film is still poised to be a very successful tentpole. Per the first box office projections, Rogue One is on track to earn $130 million domestically in its opening weekend, which would be a great start. Considering the movie is of high quality and generates substantial word-of-mouth, it should end its run as one of the biggest films of 2016, opening numerous creative opportunities. The point of the anthologies is to show that the universe is larger than the core story, and they'll hopefully strike a chord with people.
Kennedy told EW that she intends to sit down with a group of trusted individuals in January 2017 to take an overview of the franchise as a whole and determine which films they'd like to make next. Obviously, the story group will be involved with these meetings, but also the writers and directors of the movies that are part of Lucasfilm's own "phase one." It will be interesting to see which projects are announced, since there's no shortage of possibilities. Rumors of spinoffs about Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett refuse to die, and new Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich is said to be locked in to a three-picture deal with the studio. It's plausible announcements will be made during Star Wars Celebration 2017, which takes place in April.
Some fans may consider it blasphemous if Star Wars went on without the generational tale that's defined it to this point, but the plethora of new canon materials proves that the franchise doesn't need to rely on a single family to tell compelling stories. Rogue One is an intriguing test for the widespread appeal of the Star Wars brand, and all signs are pointing positive thus far. If the first anthology is a hit, it'll allow Lucasfilm to truly stretch their imaginations by crafting movies that don't necessarily have to tie in with familiar elements and radically go off in new directions. Time will tell, but Kennedy certainly has the right idea.
- Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) release date: Dec 16, 2016
- 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