This past weekend saw the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the “final” installment in the Skywalker saga. I put final in quotations because this is the third “final” film in the saga we’ve had so far after Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith. Reactions to the film have varied wildly with critics mixed towards negative and fans being mixed but more positive. So, with the film finally out, it leaves this Star Wars fan wondering “What’s next?”
Call me impatient, but I’ve always been curious about what’s next. Movie previews are some of my favorite things to look forward to when going to the movies because it literally tells me what to look forward to. I love keeping up with movie news because it helps project out a roadmap to the film slate ahead. So again I ask, “What’s next for Star Wars?” A lot has changed in the 7 years since Disney bought Lucasfilm and the fandom has changed with it. There was a buzz of excitement in the air with any news whatsoever when The Force Awakens was in production. Everyone was just excited to be having Star Wars “back.”
I put back in quotations, there’s those quotations again, because in reality, Star Wars never left. Sure Force Awakens was the first theatrically released Star Wars film since 2005, minus a often forgotten Clone Wars animated film, but there was still plenty of Star Wars content to be found other places. Out of that rather lackluster animated film, grew one of the most beloved Star Wars properties of all-time, Star Wars The Clone Wars. Video games were still being made with both Force Unleashed games boasting good sales and new Star Wars books came out regularly. Then Lucasfilm was bought by Disney for $4 billion dollars and the Star Wars landscape was forever changed.
Disney announced that the expanded universe, the EU to long time fans, would no longer be canon and that new canon books would be written starting with Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath. This I believe was the first fracture of the fandom, as longtime fans who had spent years amassing knowledge that went beyond the films felt it was all for nothing. Disney also announced the closure of LucasArts, the video game makers responsible for countless video games, including a then in development game called 1313. This also did not bode well for long time fans as they loved the games LucasArts developed and were hoping to see more going forward. The films would only divide the fandom even further as Force Awakens, while mostly well received, did get some push back as some thought it was a retread of A New Hope. Fast forward to 2017’s The Last Jedi and it almost seemed like people were taking sides in a literal star war. Social media outcry made it seem like you had to pick a side, you either loved it or you hated it and everything about it. The exact same thing happened again just this weekend with the reception to The Rise of Skywalker. Social media made it seem like you either had to love this movie to death or hate it with every fiber of your being. The funny thing is the Star Wars fandom is almost like the films themselves.
Star Wars has always and will always have things that repeat themselves: themes, motifs, parallels, etc. So while the franchise may repeat certain things, so too does the fandom of Star Wars. Cast your mind back to 1999 and the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. At the time, some fans praised the return of the franchise while others lambasted the direction George Lucas chose to take the franchise. This would only continue further with 2002’s Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, some people really enjoying them and others hating them. Over time, some of that hate turned into respect for what George Lucas tried to accomplish. People were willing to give the films a second chance after something newer had come along to complain about. Time heals all wounds type of thing. I don’t doubt for a second that the same thing will happen to these new Star Wars films. A whole generation is now growing up with films starring Kylo Ren, Rey, Poe, Finn and as they get older they too will defend the films of their youth as something to enjoy. Not everyone will change their mind about them, as not everyone changed their minds about the prequels. But that’s ok because Star Wars can and should mean different things to different people. That’s the beauty of Star Wars, it’s universal in meaning but personal in connection.
So, what does the immediate future of the Star Wars franchise look like? Well, again I think we need to look at what happen in the past to predict the future. After Revenge of the Sith, we paused on movies for a while while we got content from other mediums. I fully expect the same thing to happen now with Disney. Don’t expect any new feature films any time soon, I believe they have pumped the brakes on any film projects for now. But, Star Wars continues to thrive elsewhere. Like the Clone Wars before, Star Wars thrives on the small screen with television. The Mandalorian, and baby Yoda, are taking the world by storm. We have a live action Obi-Wan Kenobi series coming with Ewan McGregor coming back, finally. For fans of Rogue One, we are also getting a Cassian Andor series with K2-SO returning. And speaking of Clone Wars, it will be making it’s return for a seventh season in 2020.
Say what you will about Lucasfilm’s current agreement with developer EA, but the latest Star Wars games have generated a lot of revenue and EA does actually seem to be learning from their mistakes. Battlefront 2 from 2017 is a completely different animal from launch for the better and Jedi Fallen Order, the first single player story based game since Force Unleashed 2, is getting rave reviews with a sequel expected. And while many still lament the loss of the EU, Star Wars has been consistently churning out books every few months with new stories and characters while slowly reintroducing EU characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn.
To sum everything up, if you only pay attention to the world of Star Wars through the movies you may have to wait a bit for more. However, time away from films may be exactly what Star Wars needs, just like it needed in 2005. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and such. However, if you are willing to expand your horizons, like a great Jedi master once said, you may find that Star Wars isn’t doing as bad as people make it seem. Star Wars will be just fine, it will continue to thrive and inspire future generations. We just have to be patient and like Luke on Tatooine continue to look to the horizons at the twin suns, awaiting what’s next.