You may recently have heard of a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the long-awaited franchise revival intended to kickstart a whole new wave of Star Wars movies if it went well. It made a bit of cash over opening weekend (a pretty neat $517 million worldwide at the time of counting, on its way to well over a billion dollars), so that extended universe is now certainly a go. But what, exactly, are all these upcoming movies? Allow me to explain what you have to look forward to in a galaxy far, far away over the next few years:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Release date: 16 December 2016
Directed by: Gareth Edwards, he of Godzilla (the 2014 one)
What’s it about? The first of the standalone spin-off ‘Story’ movies, Rogue One is set just before A New Hope. It focuses on the event that sparked the original trilogy – the theft of the Death Star plans by a bunch of rebels that allowed the Rebellion to find that really convenient exhaust port for Luke Skywalker to shoot. There ain’t no Jedi in this one, but Darth Vader may pop up to say hi.
Reasons to look forward to it: Star Wars has usually veered towards brightness and optimism as a franchise, preferring to stick with shiny heroes and dastardly villains. That’s always worked out, but Rogue One does promise a potentially refreshing change of tone – a grittier, earthier tone with ordinary people rather than ultra-powerful Jedi resorting to morally questionable tactics to achieve a goal that might not bring about any change. It’s a chance to showcase the Star Wars franchise at a level we’ve never seen before, away from all the mysticism and prophecies to show the little guys and what they have to do to win, free from the necessities of the saga movies.
Reasons to be apprehensive: On the other hand, darkness and grit might be a poor fit for the franchise – dark ‘n’ gritty has often come across as a pretentious, laughable attempt to be ‘adult’ when applied to certain, brighter franchises (hi, Man of Steel!). This, despite the added freedom of being a spin-off, still carries the Star Wars name, so it can’t go too heavy on the grit or it’ll risk losing the spirit of the franchise. Also, Gareth Edwards is a slightly questionable choice – his Godzilla remake was decent enough, but ultimately pretty forgettable, so he has a fair amount to prove here.
Star Wars: Episode VIII
Release date: 26th May 2017
Directed by: Rian Johnson, he of Looper and a handful of Breaking Bad episodes including the series’ best, Ozymandias
What’s it about? If the ending of The Force Awakens is anything to go by, this movie’s gonna be full of training – the training of fledgling Jedi Rey by Luke Skywalker, who’s finally been tracked down to a small Irish island, and the training of grade A bastard and Han Solo killer Kylo Ren by Supreme Leader Snoke, who may or may not actually be a giant. Every major figure from The Force Awakens, Han Solo excepted (sob) will be back here, with Mark Hamill presumably playing a central role this time around. At a guess, this’ll be loosely similar to The Empire Strikes Back, seeing the Resistance v First Order conflict become more personal while the Resistance are pushed to their limits. It probably won’t be called The First Order Strikes Back, however.
Reasons to be excited: Rian Johnson is a potentially inspired choice. Before JJ Abrams boarded Episode 7, Johnson was actually my main pick for director due to his terrific work on the exciting, creative sci-fi flick Looper. Johnson also has experience with heavy emotional drama, having directed some of Breaking Bad‘s best and most dramatic instalments, so he’s a guy who can nail both parts of a Star Wars movie. In addition, this movie has the chance to really cut loose with a fresh and original story, free of the requirement to gently lower the audience into the new era with a familiar story – now everything’s been re-established, Episode VIII can really deliver a defining, inventive story for this new era of the franchise.
Reasons to be apprehensive: Good old ‘middle chapter’ syndrome. Especially considering that this new trilogy is built as a trilogy from the off, with a cliffhanger in the first movie (with A New Hope, it could almost have been a standalone movie and would have worked fine), there’s a risk here of making a movie that doesn’t really have a beginning nor end, and doesn’t really satisfy as an individual experience. It’s the most likely to get lost in the shuffle of the well-known beginning and end, and to make matters worse, it’s in the shadow of acclaimed middle chapter The Empire Strikes Back. Arguably, this has an even higher mountain to climb than the last movie – it has to continue the saga and leave things open-ended while satisfying on its own, while providing enough originality and freshness to assuage the naysayers. Good luck, Rian Johnson.
Han Solo Story Spin-Off
Release date: 25th May 2018
Directed by: Phil Lord & Chris Miller, they of The LEGO Movie and the two Jump Street movies
Reasons to be excited: Lord & Miller have a couple of damn safe pairs of hands. They’re responsible for a handful of great movies that combine comedy with a streak of serious drama, work well within the confines of the franchise and have a genuine enthusiasm for the Star Wars series. Therefore, they’re almost certainly a good shout for a spin-off that could be a really great way to shed light on a character who never appeared in the prequels – a way of fleshing out everyone’s favourite galactic smuggler as a kind of final goodbye. With Han Solo floating up to that big Millennium Falcon in the sky, this could be a nice, poignant send-off, lending context to little moments throughout the trilogy and finally letting Han Solo go as a more well-rounded, three-dimensional character.
Reasons to be apprehensive: Do we really need this? On paper, this sounds like a relatively generic space adventure starring a traditional young white male adult hero – something that sticks to a safe, pre-established template. There’s so much potential to explore the unusual, different corners of the universe in these spin-offs, and resorting to yet another prequel starring a main character really does feel like playing it safe and missing an opportunity to tell a really unique story with its own flavour. We already know a hell of a lot about Han Solo, and as such this spin-off movie feels like an indulgence that comes at the expense of potentially more interesting movies.
Star Wars: Episode IX
Release date: 2019, though we don’t have a precise date yet
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow, he of Jurassic World
What’s it about? The conclusion of the sequel trilogy that began with The Force Awakens, Episode IX will presumably see the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order come to a close. At a guess, Kylo Ren will still be alive and kicking at this point, with his ‘will-he-won’t-he’ redemption arc concluding but Andy Serkis’ maybe-giant Supreme Leader Snoke will probably take on the central villainous role a la Emperor Palpatine from Return of the Jedi. Aside from that… who knows?
Reasons to be excited: Conclusions are always fun. There’s no need to lay groundwork for future movies, and no need to push events towards a major cliffhanger – the conclusion of a trilogy always gets to benefit from the hard work the other movies have done, building up momentum in style. If Kylo Ren is still alive here, there’s a chance to provide a really different take on the Darth Vader redemption arc here – with the seeds laid for a potential redemption already done in TFA, this could be the culmination of three movies of a carefully built up character study (bearing in mind that Vader was an unambiguous bastard right up until the ‘I am your father’ reveal).
Reasons to be apprehensive: Colin Trevorrow seems like a slightly uninspired, safe choice. Especially after the unusual choice of Rian Johnson for Episode VIII, picking the guy who directed the highest grossing movie of the year (thus far, anyway) seems like the franchise is still playing it safe – Jurassic World was decent, but hardly inspired; a film with haphazard pacing and thin characters. Furthermore, there’s the issue that the original trilogy-esque setup with a potentially redeemable, black-suited villain working for a vastly more powerful overseer could lead to a conclusion that apes Return of the Jedi in a way a revived series three movies in shouldn’t really do. At this point, though, it’s all conjecture. Still, at least we know more about Episode IX than this one…
Maybe a Boba Fett Spin-Off
Release date: Maybe 2020?
Who’s directing? Unknown – Josh Trank was up for this movie, but the Fantastic Four shitshow ruled that out.
What’s it about? It could be about bounty hunter Boba Fett, as he travels the galaxy doing what he does best – hunting bounties. This could be an origin story for Boba, or even a movie set entirely in the seconds before Boba Fett is digested by the Sarlacc, as he contemplates his life choices that have led to him getting accidentally shot and thrown into a cavernous pit with a killer alien inside. It, alternatively, could be about something else.
Reasons to be excited: It could be about Boba Fett, you guys, or even something else!
Reasons to be apprehensive: What if they mess up the character(s) of Boba Fett or even someone else?
Anyway, that’s all the Star Wars movies coming up, including one that might not even exist.