In 2018, shortly before the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, I wrote about the hostile toxicity that had seemingly infected a small but vocal minority of Star Wars fans. This covered the targeted harassment of media members covering Star Wars and the creatives involved. In my research, stories of harassment were relayed both on and off record that proved sickening. How we can treat one another so horribly, over a kid-friendly movie franchise no less, remains a mystery.
Although the widespread verbal abuse has somewhat died down with the completion of Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy, there still exists an undercurrent of thinly veiled rage towards the films. It can be found in a quick perusal of popular comedy app iFunny, with memes and comments rooted in sexism and racism flooding the platform. And it can be found in the consistent “reports” (sarcastic quotes intended) from the darkest corners of the internet that Disney is now planning to erase and/or ignore the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Tweets, rumors and so-called exclusive scoops have been created out of the sole agenda of letting everyone know how much these people did not enjoy a few movies about magic space people.
Perhaps Lucasfilm operated too reactively when it came to the latest Star Wars movies and there’s an argument to be made that their divisiveness was partly due to differing opinions about their quality. But to claim that Disney—the single-most successful film studio in Hollywood history—is going to erase the sequel trilogy is pure lunacy. It defies financial logic and ignores the company’s track record with Star Wars.
The Force Awakens is the highest-grossing film in domestic history with nearly $937 million, almost $80 million more than second-place Avengers: Endgame. Globally, it’s the fourth highest-grossing film ever. All told, the sequel trilogy earned nearly $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office. That’s more than the trilogies for The Dark Knight ($2.4 billion), The Hobbit ($2.9 billion), Iron Man ($2.4 billion) and Captain America ($2.2 billion).
Yes, ticket sales declined with each successive follow-up, and, yes, The Rise of Skywalker left a bad taste in the mouths of critics and audiences alike. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger conceded that the studio “put a little bit too much in the marketplace too fast,” and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has been scrutinized for the franchise’s behind-the-scenes troubles. But that is a historically successful run no matter which way you cut it.
In 2017, Kennedy even admitted that Lucasfilm was discussing how to keep sequel trilogy characters such as Rey, Finn and Poe in the fold beyond Episode IX. Of course, plans change and strategies adapt to new realities. We may never see them again on the big screen. But Alex Segura’s Poe Dameron: Free Fall, a young adult novel about Poe’s escapades with the Kijimi Spice Runners, is still set to release on August 4, a clear indication that the recent films aren’t somehow de-canonized. Given Disney’s expansion of the Star Wars universe on the small screen, we wouldn’t be surprised if these characters were to reappear in animation and events from the films were addressed in future projects. There’s also too much money to be made for Lucasfilm to not at least discuss some sort of reunion blockbuster in 2027, which would mark the 50th anniversary of 1977’s A New Hope.
More granularly, Lucasfilm is intent on mining the past to forge a path to the future from a story perspective. Reviving The Clone Wars and making The Mandalorain, set five years after Return of the Jedi, the first-ever live-action Star Wars series? Introducing a live-action version of Ahoska Tano on The Mandalorian and creating a new series around The Bad Batch clone troopers? Developing Disney+ series for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Rogue One‘s Cassian Andor? To think that Lucasfilm won’t squeeze every last drop out of its Star Wars brand is to ignore the company’s modus operandi. They’re expert recyclers.
None of this is to say that the next Star Wars film is going to be a direct follow-up to the sequel trilogy. Taika Waititi and Kevin Feige have been confirmed to be developing their own movies set within the universe, and it’s highly likely they’ll be given space to create something new. As both a Star Wars fan and as someone who covers the business of entertainment, I feel Lucasfilm’s best move is to move far outside the Episode I-Episode IX timeline and introduce an entirely fresh set of characters and fantastical settings unfettered from the Skywalker Saga.
But we need to stop giving oxygen to these outlandish reports of a major studio erasing one of the most lucrative properties in cinematic history. It’s flat-out ridiculous and insulting to the armies of individuals who worked on them. Disney isn’t ignoring Star Wars.