Where Should the Star Wars Saga Go From Here?

2019 will mark the end of an era, as Star Wars' Skywalker Saga finally comes to an end after nine films have spanned more than four decades. Director J.J. Abrams will be bringing the saga to a close with the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but after that, the future of Star Wars is (thrillingly? Frustratingly?) vague and undefined. Lucasfilm currently has some powerful creative forces waiting in the wings, as well as plans to expand the canonized world of Star Wars over multiple media platforms, but there's been little in the way of concrete plans announced — and more importantly, there's no firm storytelling mandates to follow.

So, where does Star Wars go from here, once The Rise of Skywalker is done? Let's discuss!

This isn't so much a discussion of which Star Wars projects we'd like to see in the future, this is more a discussion about how the nature and goals of the franchise should evolve, once the obligations to the Skywalker Saga are done. The first and most obvious move for Lucasfilm is tapping into how to diversify the Star Wars brand and content, without alienating the core fan base. That's proven to be easier said than done, as the first attempts at Star Wars spinoff films — Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story — have been troublesome to produce and divisive amongst fans.

However, there's an argument to be made that both Rogue One and Solo were intensely scrutinized for their attempts to rekindle the era and world of the original trilogy before the Skywalker Saga reached its conclusion. Fans saw it as oversaturation at a time when the sequel trilogy films were still in play, with the pacing of the franchise going from a big cultural event every few years to rapid-fire theatrical releases annually. When the Skywalker Saga is done and the various eras of its storylines have some time to age, revisiting those eras in standalone films or TV projects could be a valuable novelty.

But let the lesson be learned: pushing Star Wars films, or even series, out every year or multiple times in a year is clearly not something the fan base wants, so let's not go there again.

Star Wars nostalgia will always be a big factor in the franchise and the projects that Lucasfilm pursues, but it can't be the major overriding factor. Not anymore. For better or worse (likely better, though), Star Wars needs to accept and embrace the point director Rian Johnson made in the final moments of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which is that this is a big, big, galaxy far, far away, and the Force works in mysterious ways, through many agents.

Going forward, we need to see Star Wars stories about the rise of heroes and powerful Force users (light and dark) that have nothing to do with the Skywalker Saga. We need something that is uniquely new and different, yet still retains the thematic core of adventure, discovery, empowerment, wonder, adventure, and hope that has kept Star Wars going for four decades. Given how many imaginative expansions of Star Wars there have been over the years (from the old Expanded Universe to fan-fiction and film concepts), it's hard to take Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy at her statement that coming up with those ideas is an arduous task:

“We’ve got various things we’re looking at and various ways in which we can begin or not," Kennedy said. "As you can imagine. You know, do you go back? Do you go forward? All those questions are being asked. Do we stay in this galaxy? Do we go to another? The universe is never-ending [laughs]. The good news and the bad news. They have endless possibilities. It’s liberating, it’s exciting, and it creates a lot of pressure and anxiety as well.”

Rian Johnson put a more positive spin on it, stating that being able to create the new era of Star Wars on a wide-open playing field is the biggest and most exciting thing in front of the franchise. That certainly is true, in a sense, but in exploring what's "new," Lucasfilm shouldn't forget the value of what's come before.

Just because Star Wars fans have been clamoring for years to see Star Wars properties like Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and so many others get adapted for the screen, doesn't mean that those ideas are past their expiration dates. Star Wars has a rich library of established ideas to tap into, and many of them would be easy sells to the fan base. Giving those older ideas some modern spin could truly make them novel and new to a new generation who never read the books or played the games.

Finally, Star Wars has begun invading the TV screen, and it seems that platform could be the best showcase of new ideas for the franchise to explore and play with. Star Wars: The Mandalorian has begun playing with Western genre staples in a Star Wars setting, and shows based on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Cassian Andor can similarly invoke some genre blends (fantasy adventure or espionage action, for example). Long-form TV allows the possibility for deeper exploration and establishment of worlds and concepts, with much less risk and much more reward. Let's not be scared to experiment on the small screen as a way of bolstering the movies.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20th.

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