Just how long was the ‘Star Wars’ saga meant to be? As with so many pieces of the series’ history, it depends on which accounts you choose to believe. Over time, even George Lucas himself has given answers that range from six films to twelve. Of course, with Lucas now out of the picture, that particular question is now academic. But a similar one continues to loom over the franchise: “What’s next?”
It’s a question, of course, that has not escaped LucasFilm President Kathleen Kennedy. Much of that future has to do with the way different films within the franchise are now being categorized. The seven films released to date are what are now classified as Saga films. As Kennedy herself explained ahead of the release of ‘The Force Awakens’ last year, “the Saga films are primarily the soap opera centered on the Skywalker family”.
In addition to the Saga films, we now also have Anthology films, the first of which, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ is due for release next month. The distinction between the two types of films is that while the Saga films focus on the Skywalker family, the Anthology entries are essentially spinoffs that can explore particular events or characters in relative isolation. To a certain extent, the future shape of the franchise depends on the success of the Anthology films, and of ‘Rogue One’ in particular. As Kennedy points out:
“There are [possible movies] that we have been talking a lot about. But we are planning to sit down in January, since we will have had ‘The Force Awakens’ released, now ‘Rogue One’, and we’ve finished shooting ‘Episode VIII’. We have enough information where we can step back a little bit and say, What are we doing What do we feel is exciting? And what are some of the things we want to explore?”
So what does the future hold for ‘Star Wars’? Well, the immediate future at least, is pretty clear. Between the current slate of Saga entries and Anthology films, we have a pretty clear sense of what the next few years are going to look like. But after that? Well, it would seem your guess is as good as anyone’s. Based on Kennedy’s comments, the powers that be have some ideas, but nothing solid. But there are a few obvious possibilities. First and foremost, I’d argue that we can take it as a given that there will be more Saga films after this current cycle concludes in 2020. It’s more a question of “when” than of “if”. To be fair, it’s certainly possible that ‘Episode IX’ could be the end of it all, but keep in mind how we were all floored when Disney announced the new trilogy four years ago. Whether the franchise rests for five years or fifteen, it will be back. As much as anything, the question seems to be one of how the Saga and Anthology films will balance each other out going forward. If ‘Rogue One’ flops, that might limit the Anthologies to an occasional release between trilogies. If, on the other hand, it proves to be a success on the level of ‘The Force Awakens’, we could just as easily see new ‘Star Wars’ on the big screen with a regularity comparable to the Marvel movies.
While we wait to see what the future holds, ‘Star Wars’ will next arrive in cinemas with the release of ‘Rogue One’ on December 16, 2016. After that, we can expect ‘Episode VIII’ on December 15, 2017, the as-yet untitled Han Solo Anthology film on May 25, 2018, ‘Episode IX’ on May 24, 2019, and finally a third Anthology film in 2020.