The future of Star Wars is set, but that may not be a good thing
In news that should surprise absolutely no one, Disney is planning to make a lot of Star Wars movies in the future – a whole lot. In fact, the future of Star Wars is set for the foreseeable decade, possibly the next 15 years. That may sound like a good thing for fans, but it should also scare them as well.
“We’re just starting to talk about what happens to Star Wars after [Episode] 9,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said during a speech given at USC’s Marshall School of Business. “ It’s way too early, and certainly nothing that I can reveal, but we’ve got a creative team actually thinking about what could be another decade and a half of Star Wars stories. It’s kind of mind-blowing to spend an afternoon with a creative team talking about that. Where could you go, where should we go?”
There are a couple of important things to pick out of that quote. To begin with, he didn’t actually say “movies,” he said stories. That could just be a deliberate way of thinking of the upcoming Star Wars movies in different groups. Rogue One was a “Star Wars Story” and the upcoming Han Solo film will be too. That sets them apart from the other Star wars films, which are exemplified by the new trilogy that began with The Force Awakens and continues with The Last Jedi.
But Iger may also be more literal in his wording. Along with the movies, there are new Star Wars video games on the way, TV shows like Star Wars Rebels are doing well, and you can expect more adaptations in mediums beyond the big screen in the years to come.
So what does this all mean to fans? Good news and bad.
Years and Years
If you are a Star Wars superfan, it’s all good news. You’ll get new Star Wars content for years to come. The franchise may outlast most people, and there will almost certainly be at least one major Star Wars release per year in one medium or another, if not more.
At the moment, there are confirmed plans to have a new Star Wars film in theaters for at least the next three years (The Last Jedi in 2017, the Han Solo film in 2018, and Episode IX in 2019). If Disney decides to move ahead with the Boba Fett standalone movie that director Josh Trank was originally going to direct before he nuked his career, make that four years. It’s not clear what will happen after that, but there will be more Star Wars on the way.
The bad news is that the plan seems to be to continue to churn out Star Wars films as long as there is an audience for it. That might not seem like a bad thing, but Disney seems to be viewing Star Wars in the same light it views Marvel, as a golden goose capable of laying billion dollar eggs annually – and so far, it has done exactly that. But Marvel is adapting decades of existing content. There is always something it can throw onto the big screen. Star Wars is different.
An Extended Writers Room
When Disney purchased Star Wars and Lucasfilm, it reset the entire Star Wars extended universe. That gave it a fresh slate, but it also erased years of great stories. Dark Horse’s comics alone could have fueled the Star Wars furnaces for years to come, but they are no longer part of the established continuity, and the legal rights to using those stories is almost certainly a mess – at the very least, Disney would need to cut a deal with Dark Horse, and in the studio’s eyes that would probably be a waste of time and money since it has a writers room dedicated to new Star Wars stories.
The problem is that the future of Star Wars is being created based on a timetable dedicated to maximizing profit. They do have a bit of breathing room, but Disney is essentially turning Star Wars into an assembly line movie franchise. Hopefully someone or some group will come up with a story that is so amazing it demands to be explored for years to come across multiple movies, but the odds are that there will come a point when the writers are just looking for ways to milk the franchise to meet the quota. You can argue that they already hit that point with the introduction of the “Star Wars Story” classification, but Rogue One won over a lot of skeptics, so for now, it earns the benefit of the doubt.
The biggest concern for fans should be that Disney has yet to show even the slightest inclination to take risks with the property. Although it was a departure from the franchise, Rogue One was not a risky film. It had a different tone, but it was still built on a very well established foundation and featured a story people already knew, to a degree. As long as the studio continues to go back to the original material and extend rather than expand it, there will come a saturation point where people have had enough. Maybe there will always be enough Star Wars fans to make the films profitable, but there will certainly be a point of diminishing returns sooner or later.
The Future of Star Wars Must Include Risk
Disney needs to take the chance of opening up the Star Wars universe and moving far beyond the existing characters. And there’s nothing stopping it, other than fear and possibly a lack of imagination. There could easily be a film set thousands of years in the past with the early days of the Jedi, or hundreds of years in the future. There could be stories without a time frame that aren’t directly related to anything we’ve seen so far. There could be a story from the Sith’s point of view where they are the good guys – the possibilities are endless, which makes the current lineup of Star Wars movies seem almost tame.
If Disney follows through and puts out new Star Wars movies, TV shows, and games every year, it is going to have to try something new, and soon. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before it grinds the property down to nothing.