The Last Jedi has been met with divided fan reactions, but with a domestic box office total of over $500 million, it has no doubt reaffirmed the longevity of the Star Wars franchise as a money-making tool in the minds of Lucasfilm.
This is hardly surprising, as even before the release of the movie last month, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy announced that director Rian Johnson would be writing and helming a whole new trilogy of Star Wars films, hammering down just how confident she was with Johnson’s film-making abilities.
The most surprising revelation about this announcement came a few weeks after, when Johnson revealed that he didn’t actually know what direction he would take these new films, saying “I’m in the very, very beginning phases of trying to think about it so I don’t know yet. I’m still figuring out what it’s gonna be”, thereby ruling out the assumption that he had pitched some spectacular idea to Kennedy and her peers. He has, however, stated that he won’t be adapting the highly-successful video-game franchise Knights of the Old Republic, reiterating his desire to take the Saga somewhere new.
Now, almost a month on from the film’s release, we’re going to look at the potential avenues Johnson could take his new trilogy down. If you haven’t seen the film yet, be aware that this article will feature SPOILERS.
1. Episodes X-XII
To many, The Last Jedi felt like the end of a trilogy rather than just the second act, what with the domination of the First Order and the death of Luke Skywalker (leaving none of the original trio of heroes able to return to the franchise in the flesh). With both Luke and Leia-actress Carrie Fisher now gone by the time Episode IX rolls around, that leaves only one Skywalker remaining: Ben Solo, better known as Kylo Ren. Episode IX will no doubt deal with that little issue of the last Skywalker ruling half the galaxy, either with a redemption arc, or, more likely, by killing him off, thereby ending the Skywalker lineage after three exciting generations.
With the Skywalker saga truly over, there’s no reason why Johnson’s trilogy couldn’t simply be the next step in the story, just lacking Skywalkers. Plus, seeing as Johnson hasn’t actually landed on any definitive ideas, there’s no reason to say that the new characters at the centre of his new trilogy won’t run into returning characters like Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose and the ghost of Luke, so long as they themselves aren’t the focus of the films.
In doing this, Johnson could deal with the fall-out of the battle between the Resistance and the First Order, introducing us to new characters, while utilizing a period in Star Wars history that still feels familiar to us.
However, if Johnson wants to continue the story seen in the Sequel Trilogy while really shaking things up, he could jump way into the future. Between 2006 and 2010, Dark Horse Comics published an ongoing series that followed the adventures of Cade Skywalker, a descendant of Luke, whose adventures took place 125 years after the events of the Original Trilogy (in the above picture, Cade is the blonde fellow to the right of Ghost Luke). The story saw Cade and his mercenary friends interacting with the diminishing Jedi and other inhabitants of the Galaxy, as they are caught in the midst of yet another battle for control, this time between the forces of an ousted Emperor and his Imperial Knights, and the new Sith Empire.
Although it’s unlikely that this story would be adapted beat-for-beat, the look and feel of the galaxy 100 years after the sequel trilogy would be an interesting premise. Whereas the Sequels remained quite similar to the Originals from a design stand-point, Legacy updated vehicles and tropes of the Star Wars saga to give them a new, yet natural, feel.
Furthermore, if Lucasfilm wanted to take this route, there’s no reason ‘Cade Skywalker’, the troubled ex-Jedi-turned-mercenary, must remain a Skywalker. He could be a descendant of Rey or any new Force-Users that may appear in Episode IX. As long as his ancestors are important enough to retain a Galaxy-wide legacy, anybody could work. Cade Kenobi, anyone?
Of course, seeing as Disney is the money behind these films now, they’d probably have to take out Cade’s killer instincts and drug-abusing habits…
3. The Old Republic
Yes, I know Rian Johnson has said he won’t be doing an adaptation of Knights of the Old Republic, but generally speaking, ‘The Old Republic’ doesn’t have to be limited to the events of the video-games. Technically, by the Sequel Trilogy era, the ‘Old Republic’ is anything prior to the end of the Clone Wars.
So while Lucasfilm may not decide to jump back 4000 years into the past, to the stories of Darth Revan or the Jedi Exile, that doesn’t mean they can’t jump, say, 2000 years back before The Phantom Menace.
We can tell from The Last Jedi that Rian Johnson clearly has an interest in expanding and exploring the abilities one can use through the force; Luke’s monologue, Yoda’s new ghost powers (summoning lightning and physically touching Luke) and Leia’s space-flight showed us that much. So why not put the trilogy at a point in time when not just the Jedi, but the Sith, are both flourishing? He’d definitely have a lot to work with, and with thousands of years between his trilogy and Lucas’ films, he would have free reign to do pretty much whatever he wanted.
Furthering this idea, and keeping with a trend that is fairly prevalent in Hollywood, Johnson could potentially go even further back, to the origins of the Jedi (and potentially, the Sith). A major set of items that showed up in The Last Jedi which give credence to this idea were the ‘Ancient Jedi texts’; books in the possession of Luke Skywalker, which he sought to destroy before he died, thereby ending the Jedi religion. We already know that Disney is willing to try origin movies, with Solo: A Star Wars story debuting in May, and the long gestating Boba Fett film that’s been in talks since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm.
Furthermore, exploring the origin of the Jedi would also fit in with how Disney seems hesitant to break the mould of Jedi and Sith being limited in number, what with all of Luke’s students being killed off offscreen, and Kylo Ren’s fellow Knights of Ren remaining absent from the new trilogy bar a brief clip from Rey’s force vision in The Force Awakens (probably because having a limited number of Jedi and Sith could stop things from getting too ‘prequel-y’).
Adding prevalence to this idea is the fact that Obi-Wan Kenobi’s line from the original Star Wars “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.”, is again referenced in The Last Jedi and in one of the scenes where Luke ‘trains’ Rey, a mosiac of ‘the Prime Jedi’ can be seen on the floor. So clearly, Johnson has started laying the groundwork for exploring such a concept, and it would allow him to play with Force powers we’ve never seen before, as the early force-users test the boundaries of their new power.
Disney seem pretty open to exploring the origins and the mythology behind the Force, as it’s something that’s been expanded upon not only in the films, but also in the cartoons The Clone Wars and Rebels, and, like the Old Republic, working with this period would allow Johnson to craft a story with whatever consequences he wanted, as the thousands of generations between the Jedi’s origins and the death of Luke Skywalker would pass before we even reach the events of the prequels.
5. The Unknown Regions
But enough about new time periods, what about new locations? After all, Johnson did say we’d go to ‘a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored’. Well, when thinking of unexplored portions of the Galaxy, the obvious place would be the big part of the map labeled ‘The Unknown Regions’.
One major problem fans had with The Last Jedi was the fact that after two years of building up the character of Snoke with theories and speculation, he was promptly bifurcated by his apprentice, Kylo Ren, before we got a chance to see him do anything truly spectacular outside of bully his subordinates, Kylo and Hux.
Were Johnson to explore the Unknown Regions of Star Wars, he would have the chance to delve a little more into the former Supreme Leader’s backstory, not necessarily by setting the new films before The Force Awakens, but by centering the action around the planets where both Snoke and the First Order originated; outside of the known galaxy. Having new characters deal with the fallout of whatever chaos the First Order left in their wake on their rise to power could be a truly fascinating story, that explores new locations while having a direct link to the central Saga and fixing one of fans main issues with Johnson’s first Star Wars film.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in cinemas now.