The Future of Star Wars is About to Get Really, Really Dark
Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been tapped to create a new Star Wars series, which gives a glimpse at the future of the Star Wars franchise.
In news that should surprise no one, Lucasfilm recently announced that it is planning even more Star Wars films, beyond the recently announced trilogy being overseen by Rian Johnson and the future standalone anthology movies like the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story. What is a little surprising is that Disney and Lucasfilm are looking to Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to lead the way.
Although Disney only purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, its $4 billion price tag is already looking like one of the greatest bargains in entertainment history. The three movies that have been released so far have earned over $2.08 billion at the domestic box office alone, and when you factor in the international box office, the three films have brought in over $4.45 billion – and that doesn’t count things like licensed games, toys, comics, TV shows, etc., etc. So it should come as no surprise that Disney is planning on a whole, whole lot more.
Star Wars Forever
The hiring of Benioff and Weiss as writers and producers raises several questions, perhaps the biggest being exactly how much Star Wars we can expect. There are currently films planned through 2020 at least, with Solo coming this Memorial Day, Episode IX set for December 2019, and an untitled anthology film set for the year after. That film was originally meant to be a Boba Fett story, but the current rumor-o-tron is leaning slightly to an Obi-Wan Kenobi film. Other rumors include a movie about Yoda, a Mace Windu standalone, an Ahsoka Tano live-action, and even a Jabba the Hutt movie which seems borderline ridiculous, but the idea came from Guillermo del Toro who may end up with an Oscar and therefore a free ticket to do whatever he wants.
With the next three years set, timing-wise it would make sense to then debut the first film in Johnson’s new trilogy in 2021. So we could be looking at annual Star Wars films for the foreseeable future – or at least until Disney has milked the franchise to exhaustion.
The films Benioff and Weiss are working on are said to be unrelated to either Johnson’s films or the Skywalker films, and it is being referred to as a new series. That suggests at least two films, if not more. By announcing the hiring now, unless Disney wants to release multiple Star Wars films per year, the new series from the Game of Thrones duo could debut in 2022. If the current cycle is any indication, we may then see Johnson and the Thrones duo alternate annual releases, meaning we’ll have Star Wars films every year until at least 2025 or 2026.
Disney could always push the dates and take a year or two off, but hiring Johnson, Benioff, and Weiss at this point, years before they will be slotted into the existing schedule, suggests that Disney wants something ready to go when the current crop of films have concluded.
Timing aside, the hiring of Benioff and Weiss – and Johnson before them – also hints at the future of the Star Wars franchise, at least in terms of the tone.
A New Hopeless
Johnson’s The Last Jedi was
arguably almost certainly the darkest Star Wars film yet, even darker in many ways than Rogue One, a film that featured a huge death toll. Johnson’s film is divisive in many ways, with some people loving the bleakness and others disliking it. Given that it crossed a billion dollars globally and earned Johnson his own trilogy though, there’s no reason to think we won’t see more films that fit that darker style. And then there’s the Game of Thrones guys.
Putting aside Game of Thrones itself, Benioff and Weiss’ careers are filled with gritty and violent films, including 25th Hour (Benioff wrote the film’s screenplay, which was based on his book), The Kite Runner, Brothers, and more. The pair is currently working on a follow-up show for HBO called Confederate, which theorizes what would happen if the Confederacy won the Civil War. It’s not exactly the inspirational stuff of the original trilogy.
So while we are years out from knowing exactly what to expect, it’s fair to look at the direction Disney and Lucasfilm are looking. And more than that, the way Disney and Lucasfilm see the Star Wars property as a whole.
Since Disney took control of the Star Wars property, it seemed set on a simple, and logical course of action: milk the originals for all they are worth. As of this May after the release of Solo, since Disney took over we will have seen four films, an animated TV series (Star Wars Rebels), two major game releases, and a handful of comics that all revolve around the original trilogy. Even The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are just extensions of the original films.
Star Wars as a franchise is not growing, it is just getting bigger. Rather than creating something original for a new generation, Lucasfilm is tailoring its Star Wars properties to the original audiences that have gotten older. As a result, the films have taken on a more mature tone as well, and the hiring of Benioff and Weiss suggests that Lucasfilm is going to go even further in that direction. There’s a deep irony in the idea that a company that was built by making content primarily for children bought one of the most popular modern fairy tales in existence, and then decided to make it gritty rather than return it to those earlier roots.
Benioff and Weiss – and to a degree, Johnson – are not the people to create a new story that appeals to kids and adults alike. They are best suited to give us a closer look at the darker corners of an existing universe – exactly as Benioff and Weiss did when they took on George R.R. Martin’s books. And if Disney and Lucasfilm hoped to launch a new story that appeals to the entire family and not just longtime Star Wars fans that have grown up with the series, they hired the wrong people.
So basically, don’t be surprised to see Star Wars get dark. Really, really dark. There’s a decent chance we’ll even see the first R-rated Star Wars film soon. You don’t hire the team that brought the Red Wedding to tell a story about fun-loving Ewoks. Time, however, will tell.