Disney’s goal when it purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012 was to eventually crank out a Star Wars movie every year for the foreseeable future. The Force Awakens arrived two years ago and was followed by Rogue One last December. This year will see The Last Jedi while Solo will hit theaters in 2018 and so on and so forth. The plan is to alternate saga entries with standalone spinoffs with future films including an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie and Star Wars: Episode IX. While the studio runs the risk of over saturating the market with content, the plan has worked thus far. Both titles released under the Mouse House have succeeded commercially and critically and the hype continues to build for December’s bow.
But how long can Lucasfilm keep this up? In their minds, they see no reason why the next decade shouldn’t be dominated by Star Wars. Studio president Kathleen Kennedy recently revealed that discussions are already under way on how to incorporate the new generation of characters (Rey, Finn, etc.) into films beyond the trilogy-capping Episode IX.
“We’re sitting down now, we’re talking about the next 10 years of Star Wars stories, and we’re looking at, narratively, where that might go,” Kennedy told the weekly Star Wars Show (video below). “Future stories beyond Episode IX with these new characters: Rey, Poe, Finn, BB-8—but we’re also looking at working with people who are interested in coming into the Star Wars world and taking us places we haven’t been yet. That’s exciting, too, because it’s a vast galaxy far, far away.”
It’s not as if characters in this franchise haven’t appeared in multiple trilogies before; one reason The Force Awakens worked so well was the nostalgia factor of seeing Han, Leia and Luke again. But before Lucasfilm starts plotting the course of the future, they need to make sure they land The Last Jedi and Episode IX. If the franchise peters out after this hot start, interest in future adventures will wane. Fortunately, Rian Johnson is one of the best filmmakers working right now (and the only creative to make it through a Star Wars production unscathed) and J.J. Abrams is more than familiar with this universe.
What kind of stories is Lucasfilm drawing up for Rey and Finn (notice Kennedy didn’t mention Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren…)? Will they be a part of a new trilogy (Episodes X, XI and XII) or serve as standalones? We’ll have to wait to find out.
As for Disney, the continuation of Star Wars gives them yet another extremely valuable IP title in Hollywood’s ongoing franchise wars. While we can’t expect every Star Wars film of the next decade to cross the $1 billion mark, it’s fair to project consistent money-makers given the popularity of the brand. Though quality has ebbed and flowed, 20th Century Fox has certainly benefited in the 17 years that the X-Men franchise has been around and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (also under Disney) is quickly drawing up on its 10th anniversary.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15.