Fresh from the box office success of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, writer-director Rian Johnson is still thinking through his next Star Wars trilogy.
Back in September, fans were thrilled to learn Lucasfilm had signed Johnson up to launch a new Star Wars trilogy. The studio had clearly been impressed with Johnson's work on The Last Jedi, and he approached them with the suggestion of a new trilogy. They signed up, even though he didn't yet have a plot.
Right now, Johnson is on tour promoting The Last Jedi and that's probably not giving him much time to work on the trilogy. As a result, speaking to THR (via /Film) he explained that it's still early days for the project. He doesn't even know where the trilogy would fit in the Star Wars timeline.
"I'm at the very beginning of trying to come up with it, and honestly, timeline-wise, I'm not sure yet. In a way it's interesting, but in a way it's the least interesting part of it to me. I'm more thinking of what's the story going to be, who is it going to follow? What elements is it going to have? What kind of drama is in it? My head right now is more in that place. I haven't really, really gotten into it. Right now I'm mostly excited by the potential and just starting to form little clusters of ideas of what it might become."
Johnson is a storyteller first and foremost, and so his focus is on the narrative and the characters. Star Wars fans, however, will be just as interested in the timeline question. Will this story be set in the galaxy's distant past, revealing ancient secrets of the Jedi Order? Will it explore the mysteries of the Unknown Regions? Or will it instead be set in the future, at a time when the Star Wars Saga has become a matter of ancient history?
These decisions will prove to be important. If the plot is set in the past, fans will automatically compare it to the popular Knights of the Old Republic games. If it's based in the future, it will need to be a distant one. In 2006, Dark Horse launched the Star Wars: Legacy comic, set 100 years after Return of the Jedi. It was a tremendous series, but it effectively locked the old Expanded Universe in. Writers no longer had freedom to take the story wherever they wished; instead, they were always aware that the universe had to head in a certain direction. It's doubtful that Disney would choose to repeat that mistake.
It's fascinating to see just how much faith Lucasfilm has in Johnson. He admits that he hasn't even decided "what kind of drama" it is. He clearly approached Lucasfilm with nothing more than the desire to make a new Star Wars trilogy. They were so impressed with his work on The Last Jedi that they signed off on it.
Fortunately for Lucasfilm, the experience of directing The Last Jedi seems to have energized Johnson. THR asked if he planned to take a break now The Last Jedi has released, but Johnson seems keen to get back to work.
"We're going to figure out the timing of the next one. We haven't figured it out yet. I'll say, I don't feel like, 'Oh my God, I'm exhausted, I need to sit on a beach for a month.' I feel creatively energized right now. I feel like I want to jump right into work. This whole process has left me feeling ready to jump in and do it again right away. I don't know why. I don't know if that's a good sign."
It helps that, unlike most blockbusters, The Last Jedi was finished early. The film was actually completed in August, giving the writer-director a little more time to relax than would usually be the case.
Although fan reaction to The Last Jedi has been mixed, the reality is that the film is a box office sensation. Given that's the case, Lucasfilm will surely remain confident in Rian Johnson. They'll be eager to see what idea he ultimately pitches, and will trust on The Last Jedi's success as an indication that the trilogy will be another hit.
- 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