In a little over a year from the time of this writing, moviegoers will make a return to the galaxy far, far away when Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters. The cinematic event has been a cause for much celebration - as evidenced by the reaction to the film's first teaser trailer - and fans everywhere have been speculating for years about what the future might hold for characters like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
While the existence of The Force Awakens is seen by many as a (pleasant?) surprise, it is seemingly the culmination of a handshake deal made decades ago between Mark Hamill and George Lucas. While promoting 1983's Return of the Jedi, Hamill revealed that Lucas had asked him if he'd be willing to reprise his role as an "Obi-Wan type" to the new generation for a new movie "around 2011." Even when working on the 1977 original, Lucas had felt the saga's story could span at least nine films.
As it turns out, a lot changed in Lucas' mind between that conversation with Hamill and the present day. One of the main selling points for 2005's Revenge of the Sith was that it marked the last chance fans had to see this beloved series on the big screen, and in Lucas' mind it was the conclusion of the story he had always wanted to tell.
In a 2008 interview with Total Film (hat tip Cinephilia & Beyond), Lucas was asked about the potential for future adventures in the franchise and he appeared adamant that there wouldn't be:
"I’ve left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features. There will definitely be no 'Episodes VII-IX'. That’s because there isn’t any story. I mean, I never thought of anything! The 'Star Wars' story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story."
Granted, this interview took place six years ago and Lucas has obviously had a change of heart since saying these words. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, the impending arrival of Episode VII was part of the announcement (the Mouse House wouldn't have spent $4 billion on something just to keep it dormant). Plus, Lucas seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of more Star Wars films, saying that it was time for him to allow a new generation of filmmakers play in his sandbox.
Furthermore, despite his claim that the core story is finished, Lucas did spend a year developing the sequel trilogy prior to the Disney acquisition, meaning that he was at least thinking about the notion before anything took place. Even though he's not part of the creative team, he's staying on board as a "creative consultant" and is available to answer any questions J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, or whomever helms a new film may have.
The Star Wars movies released to date has mainly been about the rise, fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Regardless of how you feel about the maligned prequel trilogy, Lucas certainly accomplished that goal, ending the narrative in his mind and on his terms. But as anyone with knowledge of the (now defunct) Expanded Universe, Darth Vader is only one branch on a large tree.
By setting Star Wars in an expansive galaxy consisting of various worlds and creatures, Lucas placed his creation in a world without limits. The possibilities for new adventures in the franchise are endless, as we'll see not just in the new trilogy, but also in the spinoffs Disney is planning to release as well. Hopefully, the series will continue to flourish for many more years.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be in theaters on December 18, 2015.
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Source: Total Film (via Cinephilia & Beyond)