We’re less than a month away from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Disney is finally drawing the curtain on its extended Skywalker Saga. Like Marvel’s Infinity Saga and HBO’s Game of Thrones, 2019 shall end yet another iconic mega-franchise. Regardless of our thoughts on Rian Johnson’s Last Jedi, we are most excited to see how Abrams will conclude this deja vu dream of a galaxy far, far away. That being said, we know for a fact that Disney fully intends to make more Star Wars films. Though the films won’t be going into production immediately post Rise of Skywalker, there’s certainly been talks with regards to who will be taking over the reins of this future trilogy in the works. The current most likely candidate being 2008’s Iron Man director Jon Favreau, who also played Happy in Spider: Far From Home. Apparently, Disney will announce its new director for the films come January 2020. For the most part, though, I’m confident it’s Favreau.
So much of this current trilogy has been defined by the legacy of its predecessors. Whether in an effort to honour or subvert it. But it is time to let the past die and to see where the franchise shall go after the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga.
Safe Starts and Beaten Paths
If Disney’s new Star Wars trilogy and live-action remakes of animated classics have taught me anything is that the company is severely adverse towards risk. Even Disney’s CEO Bob Iger admitted that this new line-up of Star Wars films failed to innovate in any meaningful way. Though he said it in the most petulant of manners mind you. He said that the company had set out to craft a “world that was visually and tonally connected to the earlier films, to not stray too far from what people loved and expected”.
Translation from corporate-speak to English: it needed to look the same and feel the same so the old fans could recognize it. Credit where credit is due, Disney’s current trilogy still attempted to add something new to the existing canon. Their main contribution is a broader exploration and expansion on the ideas of the Force. In Force Awakens, they added new Force abilities and went deeper into the franchise’s themes of familial sins. In The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson deconstructed the notions of the Light and Dark Side of the Force and sought to establish a new status quo for Force-users in the universe.
Beyond that, nothing really changed. Everything from the First Order looking like the Empire 2.0 to Kylo Ren coming off as a Vader knockoff to the destruction of the New Republic so the Rebels could rise again. All of it felt safe and familiar. Overall, this current trilogy was a reasonably conservative risk.
Right so after exploring the Force, the Skywalker family, the Rebels and the First Order as the new Empire, where can Disney go from here? They certainly can’t go explore that aspect of the franchise again, it would feel redundant…or at least more redundant than it already is. What nostalgic aspect can they capitalize on with room for new interpretation and expansion? We believe the answer to this question lies in its space western roots.
The New Frontier
If the rumours are to be believed that Favreau will be taking lead on a new trilogy, then we’re quite confident that the next trilogy will be more in line with the original Star Wars’ western themes. Next to Luke Skywalker, one of the most beloved characters in all of the franchise is the wisecracking smuggler Han Solo. A man who embodied all the lovable gun-totting anti-hero with a heart-of-gold tropes of revisionist westerns.
With his untimely death in Force Awakens, we’ve yet to see a younger successor to the sly smuggler. Rey is the new stand-in for Luke, Ren as Vader and Snoke as Palpatine. Some might say that Oscar Issac’s Poe Dameron fits the role with him being a cocky ace pilot but beyond that, he doesn’t quite have the grizzled gruff and callous charm of Han. This lack of a stand-in could be intentional.
Disney could be saving this new version of Han Solo for a future trilogy. Moving away from the grand war for the fate of the universe for something a little more grounded. A galaxy full of smugglers, thieves, bounty hunters and crime lords all vying for power in the wake of a fallen empire. Now that sounds exciting and familiar! Even as we speak, we’re witnessing a proof of concept in one of Disney’s Star Wars spin-off series, The Mandalorian.
A live-action Disney+ web-series that follows the story of a bounty hunter bound to an ancient warrior people known as the Mandalorians. The series so far has gotten rave reviews and interestingly enough was created and produced by Jon Favreau. The potential candidate for a new trilogy. Disney is highly intentional in all of its decisions, so perhaps The Mandolorian isn’t just a brand-new fun, little series to kickoff Disney+ services. Perhaps, it also functions to test the waters for whether or not folks would respond well to this more gritty and realistic take on Star Wars universe in the open wilds of space.
I mean if there’s already a highly-lucrative premise with plenty of room to grow, then why go through all the trouble of trying to build a new one? It would make sense for this new trilogy, especially if it’s being directed and produced by Favreau, to follow up on the ongoing success of another relevant property. I’m not saying elements of The Mandalorian would necessarily bleed into this new trilogy but perhaps the tone and themes of the series could be incorporated into it.
Throughout this new trilogy, the one thing sorely lacking was the thrill of the wild west. No, we don’t count the Canto Bight scene seeing that it’s more of a shoehorn political message about war profiteering than a throwback to old-timey gambling saloons. As much we love the Force and the original characters of the old-school trilogy, it’s time for the franchise to move in a different direction. The Empire and Rebels were never meant to last. The Jedi and Sith are no more, though the Force remains. The universe of Star Wars, however, is as vast as the ocean.
Full of planets, moons and trading posts. A treasure trove for opportunistic traders and sneaky smugglers. An untamed frontier waiting for the lawless to make it their den and for righteous gunmen to deal out justice by the blaster. The New Republic is in shambles, the Resistance is barely a government and by the end of Rise of Skywalker, the First Order will probably be gone. All that remains in the aftermath, will be wild, free space.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits cinemas this 19 December.