The possibilities are infinite for Rian Johnson's new Star Wars trilogy - although don't expect it to be set after the Skywalker saga. Disney recently announced that the helmer of Star Wars: The Last Jedi would develop a brand new Star Wars trilogy, writing and directing the first installment and (at the very least) overseeing the rest. While the company hasn't revealed much about the upcoming films, they did immediately classify them as “separate from the episodic Skywalker saga”, highlighting just how different they'll be.
This represents a major departure from the current Star Wars gameplan; even the anthologies have involved key characters (Solo) or events (Rogue One) lifted from the main narrative. It also gives Johnson, already gifted storyteller, a broad brushstroke with which to paint the next films movies. So, who are these “new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored,” what will Johnson’s trilogy be about, and of course, when will it take place?
All of these questions are complicated and some of them will likely be answered in the coming months. However, we have a pretty good idea when his trilogy won’t fall.
The New Trilogy Won't Follow-Up The Skywalker Saga
As far as Star Wars continuity goes, the galaxy does have a few limits, with certain areas Lucasfilm seems reluctant to visit in stories, comic books, animated, and live-action. Most recently, the time period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens has been, aside from a few excursions, off-limits; it appears Lucasfilm is blocking anything post-Battle of Jakku, much like George Lucas shut down any Clone Wars tales before launching his prequel trilogy. These restrictions are most likely to prevent spoiling pivotal moments, perhaps most pointedly revelations about the First Order's origins, Snoke's background and/or their link to the Unknown Regions – questions which won't be answered until at least Episode IX in 2019.
You also have more familial details regarding the fall of the Skywalkers that are being avoided. Star Wars: Bloodline, which takes place six years before The Force Awakens – and which Rian Johnson was peripherally involved in –mentions Ben Solo training with his uncle but doesn't disclose anything about his fall to the dark side. With such an extensive period on lockdown, it's easy to conclude Disney has something in mind for those 30-odd years - be that flashbacks, spinoff films, another theoretical animated series, or even the recently announced live-action show. Johnson could brush with that, sure, but the focus seems off.
Indeed, another temporal no-no is anything after Episode IX. After Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren stood toe-to-toe with established icons like Han Solo, there's a clear audience investment that would be crazy to not follow up in years to come with a further trilogy; it would be foolish to bench well-liked heroes and steer right into unknowns. In fact, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy recently noted that they're "looking at narratively... future stories beyond Episode IX with these new characters".
True, nothing says Johnson's new adventures won't follow sequentially from Episode IX, but it's evident that it's a populated area, so placing them chronologically after it doesn't make much sense; all it does is impede the potential development of the saga. If Disney intends to make good on their new and unexplored adventures, he'll need another era to explore, leaving plenty of space for The Force Awakens' new characters to breathe and allow the Mouse House to set up their further exploits.
But if Johnson’s trilogy doesn’t occur around the sequel trilogy, then when will it?
- 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
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017