Forget the Jedi: it's time for Star Wars to end. At least, when it comes to the movies, the series needs a break after Star Wars 9 for the benefit of both Lucasfilm and its increasingly fractured fandom.
It's an odd quirk of Star Wars that for all the use of grand plans and endings in marketing, it returns quicker than a Jedi Force ghost. After the series first concluded with Return of the Jedi in 1983, it was immediately extended by Ewok TV movies, animated series and role-playing games. From there, the Expanded Universe exploded, George Lucas rereleased the original trilogy, and in 1999 started the prequel trilogy. And while Episodes I-III burnt many classic fans, Star Wars never really went away after the prequels either, with video games, TV shows and the continuing comics and novel push only ramping up. In truth, the only time Star Wars actually "went away" was the five-year period between 1986 and 1991. When Luke consoled Leia about Kylo's fall in Star Wars: The Last Jedi by saying, "No one's ever really gone", he may as well have been rolling his eyes at the franchise.
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All that said, while Star Wars clung on after Revenge of the Sith, it was Disney that brought it back to the mainstream and pushed into a new era. Their purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.05 billion was originally met with skepticism, but they really did reinvigorate the series, engaging old fans of multiple generations and bringing in a whole new audience. The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an event bigger than a single movie, setting the stage for grander things to come. However, almost six years on from the purchase and four movies deep into the ensuing series, the picture's a bit different. With the series suffering its first box office bomb with Solo: A Star Wars Story and the discourse exhausting from all sides, maybe it's time for Star Wars to do something totally unexpected and actually take a break.
- This Page: Why A Star Wars Movie Hiatus Is Good For The Franchise
- Page 2: Why A Star Wars Movie Hiatus Is Good For The Fandom
Star Wars 9's Ending Will Mean More If It's An Actual End
Before assessing the state of the nation, there's a strong narrative and pure franchise argument for a break after Star Wars 9. There's always been a major question mark hanging over the sequel trilogy's conclusion of whether it will be a definitive end or leave room for an Episode X, and the start of production seems to have answered that; it's been described as "the final installment of the Skywalker Saga". Of course, there's no real finality to that promise.
While Star Wars continued beyond them, Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith both released as the "last Star Wars movie". Lucas seemed done with the whole endeavor in 1983, and, in 2005, there was nowhere else to go: Star Wars had become "The Tragedy of Darth Vader", and his story was told. In both cases there was the lingering sense there could be more - Lucas' PR savvy meant the media were aware of grander plans in the 1980s (a six, nine or twelve saga, depending on when you asked him), and a prospective Episode VII captured fan imaginations for decades - but it was only abstract. Going into Episodes VI and III, fans expected this to be their last new Star Wars.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice, shame on Disney. Star Wars 9 can not possibly conjure up a similar feeling because everybody knows that Star Wars will soldier on, but that can be helped along by it actually rounding off the current set of movies. The end of an era is still an end of sorts. If there's another Star Wars Story in 2020, or a whole new franchise kicking off in 2021, then it cheapens everything. Star Wars: The Last Jedi succinctly established that the series is more than the Skywalker Saga, but as the originator, it deserves a proper sense of finality.
Now, this needn't mean that the many in-development movies should be just canceled. Rian Johnson's trilogy, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss' series, the various Star Wars Stories (Obi-Wan Kenobi hype will not go away) can all come... just later. There's no need to rush any of these movies (especially after both Rogue One and Solo were subjected to highly-publicized reshoots), and giving them breathing room from Episode IX actually benefits, reducing comparisons and making them anticipated on their own terms.
Disney Can Evolve Star Wars During The Gap
When we say Star Wars movies should end, though, that needn't mean the franchise goes away entirely. Disney will want to keep the cash nerf going, so that's an unfeasible suggestion anyway, but the post-Sith development shows that it's not going to work against what Star Wars 9 being an end means.
Right now, the future of Star Wars is multimedia. Disney's streaming platform will have both The Clone Wars season 7 and Jon Favreau's live-action TV series, Marvel comic and Del Rey books are connecting up and expanding eras, and while EA has bungled things with Star Wars: Battlefront and its sequel, decades of great games show interactive Star Wars can work. There are many avenues that can play to a variety of different audiences - Star Wars: Resistance will likely have little overlap with Favreau's show - but they all connect in a fabric that's as intricate as the beholder wants.
As the post-prequel "dark ages" show, non-movie Star Wars plays to a smaller section of fans than the blockbuster movies, so there's definitely a temptation to go big, but that way of thinking ignores the new media age we're moving into. Our pop culture is increasingly fragmented, with only certain monoliths (Star Wars, Marvel and a few others) breaking through. It may seem like they're somehow better, but there's worth in being able to disperse and navigate the new era, and removing focus on the movies will allow Lucasfilm to do that.
Page 2 of 2: Why A Star Wars Movie Hiatus Is Good For The Fandom
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019