With the news that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy thinks that the future of Star Wars does not lie in more film trilogies what can we expect from the next Star Wars projects? What do the fans want? And what can be learned from recent successes and failures?
The Original Trilogy
The story goes that when George Lucas first conceived of Star Wars it was nine films but unable to get funding for such a huge project he settled on making the middle three films – the original Star Wars trilogy. So naturally in the late 90s when Lucas wanted to revisit Star Wars he went back to the idea he originally had and made the prequel trilogy. And when Disney acquired Star Wars it made sense to make another trilogy – the sequel trilogy. But according to Lucasfilm’s president, future Star Wars films will not run in this trilogy format. We’ve already had Rogue One and Solo: A Star Wars Story as well as various tv shows. One of the major problems with the sequel trilogy was that there was no story arc for the three films, suggesting that the whole project wasn’t as thought out as it should have been.
Rogue One & Solo
Many Star Wars fans cite Rogue One as the best of the Disney era films or even the best outside the original trilogy. The story of how the Rebel Alliance came by the Death Star plans could simply have been fan service but the film was a triumph of storytelling and character (with another great droid added to the saga with K2), the only major criticisms I’ve seen of the film are that with it being a prequel there is a lack of jeopardy and using CGI to insert dead actors into it.
Solo was a lot less successful with many fans being disappointed. The change in directors from Phil Lord and Chris Miller to Ron Howard was a bad sign and many didn’t like the actors portraying the major characters. I was disappointed when I first saw Solo but on subsequent viewings I’ve enjoyed it a lot more, seeing it as an enjoyable heist film.
Star Wars has had some big successes on television – The Bad Batch and The Mandalorian have received very positive responses from both fans and critics. Obi-Wan Kenobi was popular (I loved it).
One of the major questions with new Star Wars projects is whether they should focus on existing characters and ideas, or make new characters and ideas. And there is no way for Disney to win. Fans complained about portrayals of Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker when existing characters were used, and when a project uses completely new characters fans complained that they missed the old characters.
Looking at what the next film/trilogy/tv series/bi-monthly box of curated snacks Star Wars takes on there is the question of when it is set. In both the canon established in the films and the huge amount of books, comics, and video games that exist there are literally thousands of years of pre-A New Hope history and stories set after the original trilogy. The period of the High Republic is a fertile ground for ideas, being the period of the Jedi at the height of their power. Personally, I like to see smaller-stakes stories moving away from the main characters, the Star Wars galaxy is huge and providing the bad guys aren’t planning to blow up planets there are very few constraints in terms of canon-Star Wars. There are different nations, hundreds of alien species, crime syndicates, cults, sinister secret organisations, and an almost limitless amount of stories.
Should It Be A Film Or Series?
Something I’ve stated many times but everything needs to be about what serves the story. If a story works better as a film, make it a film, if a story works better as a miniseries, make it a miniseries. Outside of Star Wars, the movie World War Z is a classic example of where a mistake was made on whether it should be a film or tv show, the book is a series of interviews with people who survived the zombie apocalypse, essentially each interview a separate little story. It takes in two dozen countries and characters with no connection to each other – it should have been a tv show but we got a film that tried to push this into less than two hours. The Book of Boba Fett may have been better done as a film as while I enjoyed that series it didn’t always feel there was enough there to sustain so many episodes.
Whatever happens next in Star Wars it is guaranteed an audience and in my opinion, if they want to be continuously making new shows and films they need to try new things and moving away from trilogies will allow them to do that.