It’s been 42 years, but the Skywalker saga is now finished. While The Force Awakens introduced the franchise far, far away to a new generation by mirroring what had made the franchise special 42 years ago but with new characters. And The Last Jedi dared look at a time where the franchise could move forward without legacy characters. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker tried to tie it all together in a movie that is proving polarizing.
With no more confirmed movies on the horizon. The future of Star Wars is wide open to possibilities. This mean the time is ripe for speculation and wishful thinking as to what will come next. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the paths that Star Wars can explore now that it’s moving beyond the Skywalker family.
Focus on the Common People Instead of Galactic Conflicts
Admittedly, the franchise has been doing this for a few years now. But exclusively on TV. The Mandalorian has been shining a light on the post-Galactic Civil War period (after Return of the Jedi) by focusing not on the leaders of the Rebellion or the powerful wizards on the frontlines. But on how the war has affected the livelihood of bounty hunters, of former soldiers and of the small communities trapped in the middle of the conflict. Episode 4 of the Disney+ show focused on a small community being tormented by pirates and a repurposed AT-ST. Showing how the spoils of war affected the common people.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars took advantage of its episodic format to tell various stories from around the Star Wars universe. Showing us several aspects of life under the Clone Wars from placing a bigger focus on politics than any of the prequel movies ever did, to show us the stories of Separatist citizens and leaders, to even humanizing the faceless clone army that gave the war its name. The show used these smaller-scale stories to give more context and emotional gravitas to the spectacular and bigger-scale stories of the movies.
Since the sequel trilogy took us back to a galaxy-spanning conflict of an Empire and a group of rebels on the run. The franchise could scale down to tell more personal and intimate stories within the same universe. Say what you will about Solo: A Star Wars Story. But that movie actually tried to tell a story that smaller consequences. Yet one that could easily span other stories. The Expanded Universe gave us a plethora of stories that continued the adventures of the Skywalker family and their descendants.
But it also gave us plenty of smaller-scale stories about people that were underserved in the movies, like Michael A. Stackpole’s X-Wing book series focusing on Wedge Antilles and his group of pilots. Star Wars doesn’t need to be just about the Jedi, the Sith, and the Republic. And just like Marvel gave us Infinity War right before giving us the smaller-scale story of Ant-Man and the Wasp. So can Star Wars go as big or as small as the filmmaker’s imagination allows them to.
Replace the Empire and the Rebellion and Introduce a New Villain
If Disney and Lucasfilm absolutely must continue to make additional Star Wars “episodes” telling epic stories. Then at the very least they should change up the formula and have an enemy different than the Empire or the Sith.
In an article for Syfy Wire, Glenn Greenberg talked to several writers of Star Wars comics and novels about what they themselves want to see in future Star Wars stories, and one of the topics mentioned is the introduction of an unknown and massive enemy that threatens both the Rebellion/Resistance and the Empire/First Order. So far, we’ve kept the same dynamic of a giant, fascist government being the villain and a small group of rebels being the good guys. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? Once again, let’s look at the Expanded Universe because in the span of 40 years. Of course someone already wrote a story like this.
The New Jedi Order was a series of novels by Del Rey that took place 21 years after the destruction of the Death Star. It was here that the Yuuzhan Vong were introduced. A warlike species from another galaxy that was set on conquering everything in their path. The series isn’t perfect – after all. Chewbacca dies when a literal moon crashes on top of him. It did introduce a villain like no other. One that could be introduced without ruining anything that came before or invalidating the redemption of any Skywalkers.
Similarly, new movies could explore the merits and demerits of the Empire in a way that challenges what came before. John Ostrander’s long-running comicbook series Star Wars: Legacy took place 125 years after the end of the original trilogy, at a time where all the characters known to the fans were long dead. Yet their descendants still resembled the archetypes (kind of like The Force Awakens).
This series introduced an Empire that, while still controlled by a dynasty, was way more benevolent than Palpatine’s Galactic Empire. Just like both the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy focused so much on legacy and how we have the power to choose our own path instead of listening to some pre-determined path. So could future movies could challenge the notion of an empire that’s inherently evil or a republic that is inherently good. Kind of like the Heroes of the Galactic Empire anime, which has long been compared to Star Wars.
Place a Bigger Focus on Mythology
One of the biggest missed opportunities of the Star Wars movies is how much they reference past events and conflicts. Yet how little they care about the mythology or history of the Jedi and Sith. The word Sith first appeared in the 1974 rough draft of the original Star Wars and was used in the 1976 novelization, explaining that Darth Vader was a “Dark Lord of the Sith.” It wouldn’t be until The Phantom Menace that the franchise would draw the connection between Vader’s red lightsaber and an ancient religion/organization that served as the evil counterpart of the Jedi. Still, though we heard bits and pieces of the Sith and the ancient Jedi throughout the prequels. It wasn’t until the Extended Universe and later the animated shows that we finally started diving into the mysteries of the Force and the ancient Sith and Jedi.
One of the best aspects of the Expanded Universe is when it explores the origin of the Jedi. Like in the Tales of the Jedi comicbooks by Dark Horse, which explored the first encounter between the Jedi and the Sith. And their subsequent wars. The comic explored the culture and structure of the Sith and Jedi organizations and how they expanded. Meanwhile, the Dawn of the Jedi mini-series explores a time before the foundation of the Republic and focuses on the origin of the Jedi order and how the Force came to be polarized into the light and dark side that we know. Even without going that far. The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels have hinted at and explore some of the myths of the force. And ancient civilizations of force users that disappeared to time.
The latest Star Wars game, Jedi: Fallen Order has the player retrace the steps of an ancient civilization of force users. And you learn of how their advanced civilization was destroyed because of their greed and hubris. While the sequel trilogy has hinted at a larger mythology about the Force, with the ancient Jedi texts at the first Jedi temple in The Last Jedi. And the return of the Sith in Rise of Skywalker. We haven’t really explored the culture, history or mythology of either the Jedi or the Sith in any way that explains or informs the stories we know.
The prequels were all about how the Jedi went from peacekeepers to warmongers. But by the time we meet them in The Phantom Menace. They were already space cops, so we don’t really know of a time when they were anything different than that. And we haven’t really seen the religion part of the Jedi, just the political organization part of it. Meanwhile, we still don’t know anything about the Sith. Other than they were all but wiped out and that they deal in dark arts.
Future Star Wars movies could shine a bigger light on the mythology and the history of the Force and the two organizations/religions that use it.
Explore a Different Time Period
If there’s one thing most fans were asking for when Lucasfilm announced that they were doing non-Skywalker movies. It was that they should be about the Old Republic era. Of course, The Rise Of Skywalker could be seen as an argument against fan service. But it would be foolish not to see at least some reward in listening to this particular fan request. Mainly because of the freedom it provides.
The Old Republic era of Star Wars was first explored in the Tales of the Jedi comicbook series from the mid-‘90s. This comic dealt with the first conflict between the Sith and the Jedi. At a time of exploration when newly discovered Hyperspace routes allowed travelers to go to unexplored regions of the galaxy. Leading to the creation of the Republic. What makes this time period so ripe for new stories is that it’s so separated from everything we know from the movies that you can easily make a completely new story that can make as many trilogies as you want, without ever running into prequel issues of having to connect to past stories. Sure, you can echo certain elements and make the story, setting and characters familiar to Star Wars fans. But you can easily avoid having to introduce a Skywalker or a Kenobi.
Of course, the biggest appeal of a movie set in this time period is the abundancy of Sith lords and warriors. We’ve spent 9 movies hearing about the Sith and how big of a threat they’ve been to the Jedi. Why not finally show this by way of more than one single lightsaber between two or three warriors? After two entire trilogies about big, bad Empires fighting a small group of rebels. It would be refreshing to see a fully-fledged war between two superpowers. Especially if they both have armies equipped with lightsabers. This would allow the franchise to finally explore how the Jedi are viewed outside of Coruscant. And how Sith societies would work. All while allowing for a different enough aesthetic to really set this apart from the same look of the other films.
Focus on the TV Shows
Lucasfilm and Disney have one secret weapon that they didn’t have when The Force Awakens came out in 2015 – Disney Plus. A decade ago the idea of high-budget, live-action Star Wars shows seemed like a pipedream. But The Mandalorian is proving not only good, but popular. With the Obi-Wan Kenobi movie being turned into a TV show instead. It isn’t too far fetched to think that Lucasfilm could turn other story ideas into one-season mini-series.
We all know how Solo turned out. But outside of the unnecessary explanations. The movie did introduce some cool characters, and Donald Glover proved to be a great choice as Lando. Since the movie proved to be a failure, eliminating most chances at a sequel. Why not a mini-series exploring Lando’s exploits, or the underworld that Qi’ra got herself into? Disney could easily turn some of their more popular characters. That maybe don’t have big enough stories to warrant a $200 million feature film into a 8-episode mini-series. We may not get another film with Finn or Poe. But there shouldn’t be a reason for them not to appear on some TV show down the line. Even for some of the points explained earlier. Like the Old Republic era, could easily spawn a TV show instead of a trilogy.