Beyond The Force Awakens: Outlining the Future of the Star Wars Franchise

What happens after Star Wars: The Force Awakens? There are at least five more Star Wars movies on the schedule...

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With all of the excitement surrounding the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s almost easy to forget that Disney’s plans for Star Wars already extend far beyond Episode VII, with two more films in the core trilogy to go and at least two standalone films to fill in the gaps. While we’ve already caught a glimpse of some of the characters who will feature heavily in the new Star Wars trilogy, the actual nature of the standalone films remains a mystery.

If nothing else, Disney have been carefully choosing the talent to revive the brand. The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams is certainly the flashiest name involved, as he was the one who successfully revitalized (at the box office, at least) the far less popular Star Trek franchise. But Abrams is gone after Episode 7, departing for other galactic quadrants, whatever they may be.

The still untitled Star Wars: Episode VIII will see Rian Johnson take over as director. We know and love him for Looper, a tight little sci-fi time travel thriller. Mr. Johnson is also writing the movie, but he’ll probably have some help on that front at some point. There’s conflicting information out there as to whether or not he’s also directing Episode IX or just handling the scripting chores on that one. Either way, much of the future of Star Wars is in Rian Johnson’s hands.

At the moment, there is no release date for Star Wars: Episode VIII. However, Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, has stated his intention to release the core trilogy movies approximately every two years, with standalone movies in between. If we don’t see Episode VIII in December of 2017, we can’t imagine we’ll see it any later than May of 2018, leaving us with Episode IX in 2019 or 2020.

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There are precious few hard details to be had on those standalones so far, but here they are:

The first non-trilogy Star Wars movie will be released on December 16th, 2016, almost exactly one year after Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This one features Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) as director, with a script by Gary Whitta (After Earth). Production on this will begin at London’s Pinewood Studios in 2015.

The only other standalone movie that we have any official word on will be directed by Josh Trank, he of Chronicle and the upcoming (and very mysterious) Fantastic Four movie. That’s all we’ve got on that one, as no writer has been announced. However, Simon Kinberg and Lawrence Kasdan were the first two names mentioned in connection with writing duties on one of these movies, and as neither appears to be working on the Gareth Edwards flick, perhaps they’ve landed here. As Mr. Kinberg is scheduled to write and produce one of these movies, this might be the one, but everyone has been understandably tight-lipped about the whole thing. We can estimate this one for a 2018 or 2019 release date, some time after Star Wars Episode VIII but before Episode IX.

And that’s where things get murky…

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What, exactly, are these standalone Star Wars movies going to be about? The “core trilogy” of episodes 7-9 will be left to its own devices, meaning that the rest of the Star Wars universe is up for grabs. So far, speculation centered on characters like Boba Fett, Yoda, and a young Han Solo as the most likely possibilities. Others have surfaced here and there, although there are few we would consider particularly credible.

At one point, it was speculated that Yoda would be the first of the standalone movies, although there hasn’t been any movement on that in so long that it now appears to be relegated to the realm of rumors we never need to speak of again. I can’t imagine that anyone really needs to see Yoda: Origins up on the big screen. As beloved as Yoda is, it might be tricky to sell a completely CGI lead in one of these movies, not to mention the fact that the mystery surrounding Yoda has always been a tremendous part of his appeal.

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There was also a “leaked” Star Wars movie schedule. This one dated Boba Fett for 2016, Solo (three guesses who that one is about) for 2018, and Red Five for 2020. Of these three, only one seems particularly plausible, so we’ll take them in reverse order. 

Red Five would seem to refer to Luke Skywalker’s callsign as a pilot in A New Hope. Presumably, then, Red Five would tell of Luke Skywalker’s adventures as an X-Wing pilot in the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The problems here are twofold. First of all, we know where Luke ends up, so a movie that basically follows Luke from the Battle of Yavin to Hoth doesn’t seem like something too likely to keep an audience on the edge of their seats. The other problem would be recasting Luke Skywalker, a problem compounded if Mark Hamill’s Luke is still floating around in the new trilogy. A Rogue Squadron movie would be another matter entirely, though, but that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

Then there’s Solo. Arguably the most bankable of the bunch, there is some demand out there for Han Solo backstory. It did, in fact, fuel no fewer than six Star Wars novels. But once again, Disney would find themselves in the tricky position of not only telling another “prequel” story, but recasting an iconic role by a truly beloved actor. But if anything lends creedence to this one, it’s John Schnepp’s comments that Lawrence Kasdan has already written a treatment for a Han Solo movie. If this is true, I no longer know what to believe.

And finally we have Boba Fett, a character who still holds plenty of mystique, despite limited screentime, a ridiculously anti-climactic on-screen “death” in Return of the Jedi, and some questionable backstory choices courtesy of Attack of the Clones. At one point, Captain America: The First Avenger director Joe Johnston was pitching a Boba Fett movie, but we’ve heard nothing on this recently. When Gareth Edwards first came on board as a standalone Star Wars director, the buzz immediately turned towards Boba Fett. While nobody in the galaxy would be surprised if Boba Fett ended up as a headliner, it’s this next rumor making the rounds that has turned our heads.

It’s currently being said that Gareth Edwards’ Star Wars movie would focus on bounty hunters, something that might finally allow us to see Boba Fett as a proper protagonist. The word is (courtesy of SlashFilm, who have been nailing some legit Star Wars scoops recently) that Edwards’ movie is a bounty hunter heist movie, potentially involving the story of how the plans for the Death Star were stolen in the first place. This hasn’t been confirmed, but of everything that’s out there, it’s the most plausible. It doesn’t really step on any iconic roles or moments from the saga, but it fills in the blanks between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and would introduce enough new characters that we could feel there are some stakes involved as far as who lives or dies. We’re intrigued about this one, and it checks plenty of boxes.

But there’s even more…

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Other bits and pieces have surfaced as well, including a potential Obi-Wan Kenobi solo movie. Ewan McGregor has expressed some mild interest in returning to the role, and there is a twenty year gap in old Ben’s history that could be explored. We’d like to see this one happen, especially as we still have lots of Force Ghost questions that need to be answered.

Finally, there’s AJ Edwards, director of the upcoming The Better Angels, who claimed in a Reddit AMA that he’s up for the job of directing a Mace Windu movie. While Windu was one of the more engaging characters to come out of the Star Wars prequels, I’m willing to lay some serious Galactic Credits down that Disney are going to do everything they can to put as much perceived distance as they can between their current Star Wars franchise and the not so warmly regarded prequel trilogy. This might also throw some cold water on any potential Obi-Wan movie plans, too.

All of this speculation aside, we’re due for another round of announcements in the relatively near future. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has wrapped principal photography, and Gareth Edwards’ first Star Wars spinoff will need to go into production in the next few months to hit that December 2016 release date. We’ll keep this article updated each time we sense a new disturbance in the Force. In the meantime, tell us what characters and concepts you think are ready for their own movies!

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