Now that The Rise of Skywalker is out and well on it’s way to a $1+ billion global box office, $815+ million at the time of writing, fans all around the world are wondering what is next for Star Wars films and when we can expect to see them.
Well, the latter can be answered with some confidence. Bob Iger announced that 2022 would mark the return of Star Wars to the silver screen and there would be 2 follow up films in 2024 and 2026. Later, it was announced that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the duo behind Game of Thrones, would be leading those films, but that news was short lived as the pair exited the franchise shortly after signing a massive content creation deal with Netflix. There has been no official announcement on the director/writer for the 2022-2026 films, but there also hasn’t been any cancellation or delay of those films either.
One thing we do know is that Rian Johnson, writer/director of The Last Jedi, will not be leading those films as he is still in the development phase of his trilogy that was announced pre-TLJ release. From all indications, Disney and Lucasfilm are still searching for the right person/people to take up the 2022-2026 film slots.
Since the creator of these films has not been established, we clearly have no story direction for the new set of movies, but it seems like the best option for the health and longevity of the franchise is clear, start from scratch. The current state of the Star Wars canon content is heavily wrapped up in 1 very large interconnected story web commonly known as the Skywalker Saga. This Saga spans 40+ years of realtime story telling and 67 years of in universe time, 32 BBY start date for TPM and 35 ABY start date for TROS, and while all of this lore building has lead to an incredible deep story overall, it has become burdensome to tell stories that stay true to all of the other content that it is connected to.
Starting from Scratch
Stepping outside of the established characters, planets, and galaxy that we are familiar with will allow smart filmmakers and story writers to build a completely new saga that can be built and sustained completely separately from the Skywalker legacy, and it will allow new fans to start their relationship with Star Wars without over 40 years of stories to catch up on. The Skywalker Saga will always be there, but in order for the brand to keep continue to thrive, there needs to be new life blood injected into it.
The need for new, non-legacy material should also put an end to the current level of toxicity that is present in the Star Wars fan base. The self-proclaimed ‘Fandom Menace’ has carved out a niche in the internet space by attacking Disney, Lucasfilm, and Star Wars filmmakers for ‘ruining Star Wars.’ In reality, this group of fans are just angry that the movies that continued the Skywalker Saga did not follow the story lines they had made up in their own minds.
With brand new content that is not linked to any established canon, the burden of fan made storylines and personal story expectations flies out the window. Rian Johnson quickly came to this realization after the insane amount of backlash following the release of The Last Jedi and has stated that his new set of movies will be free of all legacy characters and storylines. The next step for Star Wars doesn’t need the past to succeed.
The next big reason for Star Wars to start fresh moving forward is wrapped up in one word: China. Brand equity is something that people who work in marketing are very familiar with. When someone asks “Do you have any brand equity here?”, they want to know if your brand has an established presence in that place. Star Wars has next to no brand equity in China. The Original Trilogy saw a very limited release in China, and since then, the people of China have all but ignored Star Wars releases in the country. The people there don’t know the characters or established lore enough to care about what is happening in the new movies that are getting proper wide releases in the country. Starting fresh with new storylines, characters, and settings will allow the Chinese people to form a meaningful bond with Star Wars from the beginning and ensure strengthening of the brand overall in that area.
For those of you wondering why China matters at all to Star Wars, the answer is simple: $$$. Now that content restrictions have been loosened, China is the biggest movie market in the world. The best case study on how China can affect a franchises fortunes is Marvel. Avengers: Endgame grossed $2.8 billion worldwide, the most successful movie release of all time. The US constituted ~$870 million of the overall box office. China was a close 2nd with $614 million, more than the next 10 highest countries combined. Now let’s look at The Force Awakens, the highest grossing Star Wars film of all time.
Total combined box office of $2.06 billion.
The US: $937 million (highest grossing US movie release of all time)
China: $124 million
China was even below the UK gross of $165 million. In the new world of global blockbusters and $200+ million movie budgets, China is a major decider of whether or not a film will become a massive box office juggernaut.
Disney has the formula for success in China. Just watch the Ironman movies and you can see the niceties and pandering thrown China’s way and how that lead to the MCU owning the China box office.
Disney has already started priming the Chinese market for more Star Wars content. They have translated 40 novels into Chinese and they have commissioned a book written by popular Chinese novelist “His Majesty the King” which will feature authentic Star Wars story with Chinese thematic elements. If this movement can pick up steam, there is reason to believe a fresh storyline could catch on in China and put Star Wars up with the MCU.
I firmly believe that if Disney and Lucasfilm commit to new stories and can crack the code in China, Star Wars can meet or even surpass the marks set by the MCU across the globe. A good sign for the future is that Kevin Feige, the mastermind behind the MCU, is now working with Lucasfilm on the future of Star Wars.
If a new crop of rumors are true, it looks like Disney is moving in the right direction. The so called Project Luminous and the possibility of films set in the ‘High Republic Era’ could be exactly the formula we need to get things back on track in Star Wars land. I’m not a huge fan of staying in the established galaxy, but if the content makers work to ensure that we are not dwelling too much on the past, then it could all work out for the best.
Here’s the the future of Star Wars. May it be the brightest time for all fans in all reaches of the galaxy. May the Force be with us all!