Unless you've been living under a rock, you've surely heard what may be the biggest movie geek news of a generation: Star Wars is headed back to theaters for a new trilogy of films - starting with Star Wars Episode VII, which is being directed by J.J. Abrams.
In addition to a new trilogy, we now know that Star Wars standalone spinoff films are also on the way, which is why we are here to pitch "10 Star Wars Spin-off Movies We'd Like to See" - presented in no particular order of awesomeness.
NOTE: We'll be sticking to storylines that are either already established through the expanded universe or have already been rumored for production. Epic EU storylines like The Thrawn Trilogy, New Jedi Order or Legacy of the Force are big enough to have their own movie trilogies, so you won't find them on this list of standalone film ideas.
11 Shadows of the Empire
An "interquel" launched in the 1990s, Shadows of the Empire fills in a lot of the gaps between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. This includes Leia's search for a captured Han Solo, the construction of Luke's second Lightsaber (the green one), and a power struggle between Darth Vader and Prince Xizor, leader of a galactic criminal syndicate, for the favor of Emperor Palpatine.
Released as a multi-media project, the Shadows of the Empire novel followed a lot of the Original Trilogy characters - but the popular video game for the Nintendo 64 introduced fans to Dash Rendar, a smuggler buddy of Han Solo who aids the Rebel Alliance during Han's carbonite siesta.
WHY IT WOULD WORK: Shadows of the Empire offers a nice balance of the familiar and the new - and considering the considerable changes that occur between Episodes V and VI, this bridge piece would be a smart addition. Sure, you may want to skip segments requiring an aged Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher to appear onscreen - but Vader, Dash, Boba Fett and Xizor are all great dramatic personae to explore.
10 Knights of the Old Republic
Based on the popular video game series, Knights of the Old Republic takes Star Wars fans back some 4,000 years before the rise of the Galatic Empire. A former Sith - mentally "reprogrammed" by the Jedi Council - attempts to solve the mystery of his own identity in time to stop his traitorous former apprentice, Darth Malak, from leading a Sith army against the Republic. That quest involves locating a map and uncovering the "Star Forge," the source of Malak's military power.
WHY IT WOULD WORK: KotOR would be akin to exploring Medieval times of the Star Wars universe. We've only seen Jedi and Sith working in measured numbers; all-out battles between armies of them would be geek-EPIC. The games had enough depth of narrative and character to attract millions of fans; a movie would therefore have plenty of ripe material to draw from, including a great story of redemption not seen since Vader tossed the Emperor into the pits of the Death Star.
BONUS: This wouldn't have to just be a great standalone film. Given the expansive nature of KotOR (in sequel games, comic books, etc.), a successful first film could be the gateway to a whole new Star Wars spinoff saga. However, even as a one-time experience, KotOR would be thrilling.
9 Dark Forces (Jedi Knight)
Dark Forces was a two-part Star Wars spinoff game released on Windows PCs in the late '90s. Like Shadows of the Empire, it started as an "interquel" that filled in story gaps from the original trilogy; the sequel game picked up after Return of the Jedi and would therefore fill in gaps between the original trilogy and the upcoming sequel trilogy.
The games follow Kyle Katarn, a former Imperial soldier who becomes a mercenary when he learns the Empire killed his parents. Katarn is hired by the Rebel Alliance for jobs that include stealing the Death Star blueprint schematics and thwarting an attempt to produce a new, more powerful, Imperial Trooper. In the sequel game, Katarn learns of his own latent Force powers and embarks on a quest to stop seven "Dark Jedi" from corrupting the "Valley of the Jedi," a burial ground with powerful ties to the Force.
WHY IT WOULD WORK: Dark Forces is a tale that could offer stylistic opportunities to do something different. Katarn's journey from evil soldier to noble mercenary to Jedi warrior is a rich arc, and would be the perfect vehicle for an up-and-coming action star. Envision: a Batman Begins-style film that uses editing and anachronistic narrative to carry us through the entire ballad of Kyle Katarn over both video games. "What takes a man from the guns of the Empire to the sword of the Jedi?" Let's find out!
8 The Force Unleashed
The Force Unleashed was another popular Star Wars video game, released in the late 2000s. The story is set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and follows "Starkiller," the son of two Jedi who is taken under the wing of Darth Vader when he is discovered as an infant during one of Vader's raids on the few surviving Jedi.
Vader trains Starkiller to overthrow the Emperor, but when Palpatine learns of the new apprentice, he forces Vader to betray Starkiller and leave him for dead. Instead, Vader spares his apprentice and secretly tasks him with stirring up the rebel forces opposing the Empire. Thanks to Jedi Master Rahm Kota, Starkiller learns the lighter side of the force but ultimately falls in battle against the Emperor. In the end, his family crest becomes the sigil of the new Rebel Alliance, and he is transformed into a martyr for the cause.
WHY IT WOULD WORK: Force Unleashed adds some new depth to established characters like Vader, Princess Leia and her adoptive father, Bail Organa - all of whom Starkiller meets on his journey. In terms of "interquels," it is one of the most interesting and epic - though some may fairly argue that the story leans a bit too close to Luke Skywalker's arc in the original trilogy. (The sequel game - involving Starkiller clones - may also be a bit too much for a movie.) However, with the right young actor...
7 Republic Commandos
Derived from a mid-2000s video game and a series of spinoff novels, Republic Commando delves into the Clone Wars from a unique angle: the viewpoint of elite squads of clone soldiers (most often Delta and Omega Squads).
Picking up from Attack of the Clones and running through the time period after Revenge of the Sith, the RC saga examines the more militaristic side of the Star Wars universe. Eventually, the commandos are forced to examine themselves and their role in the war as the Republic they fought for transforms into a Galatic Empire, in which clone soldiers must either become Imperial Soldiers or renegade mercenaries fighting alongside Rebel and Jedi forces.
WHY IT WOULD WORK: Republic Commando is a Star Wars story unlike most others, in that it examines not only a soldier's life in the galatic war - but a clone's existence, as well. Watching the shifting moral outlook of the soldiers would be a nice rumination on the effects of war and politics, while divided allegiances in the wake of the Empire's rise would be gripping wartime drama for these brothers-in-arms.
BONUS: Since they're clones, you could save a bundle on casting, since your lead actor (Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett) could play all of the main roles (when the soldiers are not in helmet, of course).
6 The Adventures of Obi Wan Kenobi
He stands as one of the most iconic figures in the saga (disappearing body trick, FTW!) - and while his story has been further explored in prequel films and spinoff projects like The Clone Wars animated series, there is still enough room for Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi to get his own movie.
Whether delving into Obi-Wan's younger years (as explored in Expanded Universe fiction like Jedi Apprentice and Jedi Quest); filling in the gaps in his life during Episodes 1 - 6 (The Clone Wars, his exile years before A New Hope) - or maybe just a portrait of the man that covers all that aforementioned material - Kenobi (man, general, Jedi master) is a complex, pivotal character who can surely support a standalone film.
WHY IT WOULD WORK: People love Obi-Wan; actor Ewan McGregor is still around to play adult and elderly versions of the character; and there's the added benefit of possibly leaving room for Liam Neeson to return to the franchise (as Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan's mentor) in a much better fashion than Phantom Menace afforded him. Plus, Star Wars could use a good Medieval Knight-style film, and Obi-Wan's adventures could certainly be spun in that way.
5 Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction
Boba Fett is one character already rumored to be getting a spinoff film, and while there are many great stories about the Mandalorian bounty hunter/clone that could be told, Twin Engines of Destruction is one we definitely want to see onscreen.
As part of the Star Wars: Bounty Hunters comic series (which is ripe for adaptation in its entirety, really), Twin Engines chronicles the story of Jodo Kast, a young bounty hunter who gets himself a suit of Mandalorian Armor that looks like Boba Fett's. When Jodo goes around collecting bounties on the premise that he is superior to Fett, Boba decides it's time to defend his reputation. With a bit of subterfuge, Boba lures Jodo to the Hutt homeworld of Nal Hutta for a final showdown.
WHY IT WOULD WORK: Twin Engines has a pretty straightforward story, but it's one that could open the door to an exciting part of the Star Wars universe not yet explored onscreen (the bounty hunter underworld). It would also feature one of most iconic characters in the franchise (Boba Fett), while literally serving as proof of why he's such a beloved (and feared) badass. What's not to like?
4 Rogue Squadron
Clone/Imperial troops aren't the only soldiers on the Star Wars battlefield that need their story told onscreen; the X-Wing squadrons of the Rebel Alliance played a big role in the defeat of the Galatic Empire.
In a story that has spanned novels, comic books and video games, Rogue Squadron chronicles famous X-Wing dogfights from the original Star Wars trilogy and beyond, tracing the continuing adventures of heroic Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles and his new squad of recruits, in the era following the Empire's collapse.
WHY IT WOULD WORK: George Lucas might not have had success with Red Tails - but the WWII dogfight segments were impressive evidence of what CGI can bring to aerial action. While even casual Star Wars fans have an affinity for trusty ol' Wedge Antilles, it's not impossible to re-cast the character with a headlining name. Otherwise, original Wedge actor Denis Lawson is still available for (and welcome to) the part. Surround Wedge with a crop of fresh-faced young stars and we would have something akin to Top Gun - only with Star Wars spaceships. Pretty awesome, right?
3 When Han Met Chewie
You can fold it into the already-rumored Han Solo origin film, or make it the focus of a movie all its own - either way, we need to see a story about the meeting and bonding of smuggler buddies Han Solo and Chewbacca.
"He's a Corellian roughneck with a heart of gold, and he's a noble Wookiee warrior. Together, they're the unstoppable, parsec-hopping duo that will one day help bring peace to the galaxy. But today, they're on the run and just trying to complete their latest job. It's hard out there for a smuggler..."
WHY IT WOULD WORK: This is the 48 Hrs./Rush Hour/21 Jump Street-style buddy action/comedy the Star Wars universe needs. Cast a wise-cracking actor as young Han Solo, throw in a bunch of semi-racist Wookiee jokes, a love interest, a semi-noble quest and a dash of Indiana Jones-style adventure, and you have the sort of hit film the whole family buys tickets for. (And big merchandising opportunities thereafter - Wookiee doll$, baby!)
BONUS: The opportunity to give Chewbacca his own starring role. 'Nuff said.
2 Yoda's Seven Samurai
It was recently rumored that Man of Steel director Zack Snyder was interested in doing a Star Wars film based on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (and its remake, Magnificent Seven). Around the same time, it was also rumored that a Yoda standalone film could be on the horizon. Our thought: Why separate those two ideas when they clearly go together like PB&J?
Do we need to know the origins of baby Yoda (a story that has remained mysterious throughout Star Wars lore)? No. What we NEED to see is how that most unlikely of little green men earned his status as a galatic hero and legend. Zack Snyder's "Jedi Seven Samurai" could do just that, by showing us an instance where Yoda's wisdom and strength bested insurmountable odds, distinguishing him as a true Jedi master and hero.
WHY IT WOULD WORK: It features one of the most beloved (and marketable) Star Wars characters, in a story whose themes and ideas are so relatable to everything that makes Jedi cool (discipline, honor, courage, willpower, sword skill). Jedi have always been intergalactic samurai - so why not give us a samurai epic with a sci-fi twist? It practically sells itself.
BONUS: You could also include characters like Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and other Jedi Council members in their (slightly) younger years, adding some nice familiar faces to the tale.
1 What do YOU want to see?
With so much Star Wars lore having been established via the expanded universe - and all those stories that passionate fans have been either writing down or kicking around their own heads for years - there are plenty of great ideas for Star Wars spin-off films that we haven't touched upon here.
Be sure to share some of YOUR ideas with us in the comments.
Star Wars Episode VII is aiming to be in theaters sometime in 2015.