On November 9, Lucasfilm announced there will be a new Star Wars trilogy after the conclusion of Episode IX in 2019. The person behindbehind this brave, new endeavor? Rian Johnson, tor of the upcoming film, Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi. And,, while the notion of a new trilogy elicits all sort of questions specific to the Star Wars universe, there might be more important questions beyond wondering if anyone named Skywalker or Solo will be in these films.
Here are three big and very important questions Star Wars fans and pundits haven’t asked yet about the next Star Wars trilogy.
Fundamentally, hardcore fans know deep in their hearts, that the galaxy of Star Wars is a rich and interesting fictional world, full of all sorts of potential for all kinds of different stories. But, what this first question presupposes is; maybe it’s not? Disney/Lucasfilm talked a big game about the “standalone” films being able to tell different kinds of stories, but movies about Han Solo and the Death Star hardly qualify as “new.” If the next anthology film was about the Cantina Band going on tour throughout the galaxy, that might actually be interesting. To be clear, yes, I have read the 1995 short story We Don’t Do Weddings by Kathy Tyers about this exact same thing. And I love it.
Can the ‘Star Wars’ Universe Actually Do Anything Truly New?
The point is, you can’t actually make a kitchen sink drama or a rock and roll mockumentary set in the Star Wars universe, because that’s not actually what Star Wars is. Instead, Star Wars films, at this point, are each a collection of various required visual elements and recurring motifs. College freshmen level ideas about philosophy and religion are usually baked into some stuff with lightsabers and/or space battles. But is there more than that? Even with a whole new set of characters, it seems like these movies are limited to telling stories about Dark Lords rising to power, and scrappy heroes standing up to them. Sure, it would be cool if these heroes weren’t all named Skywalker. But, just because you change the names, are you really doing anything new? If Rian Johnson’s new trilogy were a series of romantic comedies in which not one single laser blast was fired, that would be new. But as for now, saying something is a new Star Wars trilogy sounds like it’s going to be really similar to other “new” Star Wars movies. There will be dudes in robes, and probably battle stations and starfighters. Horray?
Is the Quantity of New Star Wars Films Eroding What Made Star Wars Special in the First Place?
Because the thematic elements of Star Wars movies aren’t actually that different from one another, it seems like the scarcity of the movies themselves is what made them so great, at least at first. These days, the concept of “less is more” has been jettisoned into space like the trash floating out of that Star Destroyer in The Empire Strikes Back. Now, more Star Wars simply begets more Star Wars. Which, seems to miss the point of the old films altogether. Even the biggest fan of Rogue One will be forced to admit that the story of who actually stole the Death Star plans wasn’t something absolutely needed a big screen story. And, as entertaining as Rogue One might have been, there’s no question that it achieved anything close to the cinematic brilliance of the original trilogy. Back when the prequels were coming out, fans bemoaned the unnecessary details these movies were exploring, too. We don’t need to know how the Force works. We don’t need to know who stole the Death Star Plans. We don’t need to see Han win the Falcon from Lando in a card game. While these things are “cool” having movies about this stuff comes at the high cost of opening the door to a seemingly endless amount of Star Wars films.
The fallacy Disney is operating on is the principle that quantity will ensure quality because the core of the Star Wars brand is unimpeachable. But, the critical failure of the prequels proves that’s not true. The Star Wars galaxy isn’t like the Marvel Universe, so Disney shouldn’t pretend like it’s similar.
Is This Actually Good News?
This is the most important question, and the one everyone seems to have taken as a given. On a gut level, is it actually good news that there is another Star Wars trilogy happening, and is it a good sign that Rian Johnson is creating it? On November 9, when the news of his new trilogy broke, Johnson joked on Twitter: “Obviously I hope you like the Last Jedi. But man now I REALLY hope you like The Last Jedi.” Basically, Johnson read everyone’s minds. The one and only Star Wars film he wrote and direct hasn’t even been released, and the faithful are now asked to get hyped about the creative vision of someone whose creative vision we’re not sure about. At least when J.J. Abrams was announced as the director of Episode VII, we had some notion of his ability to handle a big sci-fi franchise because of his work on the Star Trek reboot movies. At this point, Rian Johnson is most famous for being the director Looper and that one episode of Breaking Bad everyone really likes, “Ozymandias.” Now, there’s no denying Looper is entertaining and that episode of Breaking Bad is solid television, but none of these things are quite enough to get everyone sold on Johnson creating a whole new trilogy. In other words, if The Last Jedi is disappointing, even a little bit, the wisdom of giving Johnson full creative control over a new trilogy will seem a little like handing Palpatine emergency powers during the Clone Wars.
Are Star Wars fans a lot like Jar Jar Binks? Are we too willing to simply go along with something because everyone else thinks it sounds cool? Only those who write about Star Wars a long, long time from now will know for sure.
The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson, opens everywhere on December 15. According to Lucasfilm, “no release date has been set for the new films.”