How Rian Johnson can save Star Wars after 'Rise of Skywalker'

It's time to change things up. Again.


A good portion of people who don’t like The Rise of Skywalker will say the movie is bad because it has too much fan service. They will be right about this, but also wrong. Star Wars fans tend to forget that fan service exists in all the films after The Empire Strikes Back. It’s only a problem when it doesn’t work.

For this reason, Rian Johnson’s planned future Star Wars trilogy can save the entire franchise from itself, by getting rid of the temptation to do bad fan service. Even if you hate The Last Jedi, you must see this is true. If you hated The Rise of Skywalker, you definitely know this is true. It’s time to throw the baggage out of the airlock.

Spoilers for ahead for The Rise of Skywalker.

Whether you liked the movie or not, The Rise of Skywalker does make it pretty hard to imagine a Star Wars movie taking place right after this one. That means whatever comes next needs be centuries beyond (or before) what we’re seeing now. Moving everything to a different galaxy might be a good idea, too. In other words, the combined controversies of both The Last Jedi and now, The Rise of Skywalker have proven one thing: Kylo Ren was right. We have to let the past die.

Rian Johnson has said his planned trilogy, which is still happening at some point, will probably take place after The Rise of Skywalker, and we really should hope that means, like, a million years later. The next Star Wars trilogy should keep lightsabers and the Force, and pretty much nothing else. Here’s why.


Fan service is another way of saying “continuity”

The sequel trilogy has rubbed so many people the wrong way for so many reasons because these films have episode numbers attached to them. They must reference the material in previous installments. The existing Star Wars movies (even the standalones!) are somewhat connected to these dynasties, because it’s all one big story.

In 1954, nobody bitched about J.R.R. Tolkien turning around 17 years after he published The Hobbit and making Frodo Baggins the nephew of Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings. The setting and scope of specific installments in fantasy series are limited by what happens in their progenitors. Which is why even though some might say The Last Jedi is “subversive,” it actually has a lot of what is commonly called “fan service.” (For example: Rey being brought before Snoke almost exactly like Luke in Return of the Jedi.)

To be fair, The Rise of Skywalker certainly relies on “fan service” more than The Last Jedi, but even if you disliked one more than the other (or hate both equally) the real problem here is that these movies had to address this stuff at all. For Johnson haters, it was too different. For Abrams haters, it’s too similar. But both are stuck with the same baseline, which is why all of that stuff has to go.

At first, 'The Next Generation' actively avoided references to the classic Star Trek.


This doesn’t happen in other franchises the same way

Famously, at the beginning of the one and only George Lazenby-starring James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby looks directly at the camera and says “This never happened to the other fellow”; referencing the fact that he was, in fact, a new James Bond.

This fast-and-loose approach to canon would never fly with Star Wars, where even the aesthetic and filming styles are the same — you can’t do much in terms of innovation when everything is so firmly established. Yes, one might argue that’s changing with the impressive cinematography on The Mandalorian, but the only reason people care about the show is that there’s a character that looks like Yoda and another that that looks like Boba Fett.

In 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation famously set a new series over a century after the events of its predecessor. While TNG eventually got around to having some crossovers with the old gang, a rather infamous rule from early seasons forbade references the classic show. In other words, “fan service” was against the rules when TNG began, which is why it was able to establish its own identity. Star Wars has never made a huge leap ahead in time like this, but it needs to.

Director Rian Johnson inspects BB-8's head.


Johnson’s trilogy needs to be Star Wars: The Next, Next, Next, Next, Generation

In recent interviews, Johnson has said this trilogy will take place far after the events of The Rise of Skywalker, and previously, he has made it clear that the movies might not look anything like previous Star Wars movies. Both of these things are great news for the future.

If Johnson approaches Star Wars with just a lightsaber and a notion of the Force, the result could be amazing. Nobody sane who doesn’t like The Last Jedi is mad at Rian Johnson’s ideas as a writer. They were mad at his ideas relative to Star Wars shit they already knew about.

If nearly everything is brand new, there’s no danger of that happening. And for those who already like what Johnson did in The Last Jedi, it’s a win-win — minus the baggage of characters and planets and spaceships we’ve been thinking about for the past 42 years.

Rey buried Luke and Leia’s lightsabers in the sand at the end of Rise of Skywalker. Let’s hope no one digs them up. The last, best hope for Star Wars is to have the Force awaken in a time period where Luke Skywalker isn’t a legend or a myth. Instead, all of this stuff is just forgotten. Only then can a new adventure really begin anew.

The Rise of Skywalker is out in theaters everywhere. Rian Johnson’s trilogy does not yet have a release date.

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