When Disney announced a new trilogy of Star Wars films were finally coming to the silver screen, regardless of the elation and excitement from the hoards of fans across the globe, it was not much of a surprise.
Ever since the first three episodes were released in the 1970s and 80s, audiences were assured they were the first batch of a nine film ‘saga’.
What did raise a few eyebrows of wonder was the studio’s intention to delve into the franchise’s ‘extended universe’ – something of which Marvel has recently mastered the formula and is now in vogue – with spin-offs to be spliced in between the major episode releases.
Suddenly that excitement and elation was turning into intrigue with a side of scepticism.
Being a space opera of epic proportions, Star Wars does seem to be the perfect setting for a cosmic journey into its extended universe, but as previously alluded to, this has been something reserved for comic book realms, which have a wealth of characters who are adored by fans and a plethora of storylines from which to mine endless films.
A barrage of new Star Wars films could become stale as despite the many non-canonical books and video games, there is essentially one story arc that mainstream fans are familiar with and to which the seven released episodes have stuck.
Being dubious, the extended universe motif is a ploy for what are essentially stop-gap films between the main events to keep the financial wheels turning of the movie factory with the resulting content lapped up by the adorning popcorn-munching audiences. It is also an easy way for studios to ensure a bulging rota of new films without having the unwanted strain of coming up with something original.
But it also responding to what people want. The movie industry now co-exists in an ‘on-demand’ world, with Netflix and the ilk, and top-class produced television shows appearing on the likes of HBO. Audiences want more and grow so increasingly attached to these new worlds and characters that writers are even losing the balls to kill the most loved ones off (we’re looking at you John Snow).
DC has been a victim because it is hastily trying to catch up with Marvel,which has taken its time to hone in on the craft of the extended universe films, AKA the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and allowed them to successfully experiment with characters and tones to create major successes such as Guardians of the Galaxy.
The impact of this urgency to throw films into the viewing schedule, mimic the plaudits and appease the audience is having disastrous effects, to which Marvel itself is not immune. Suicide Squad, Batman V Superman, and Fantastic Four are the most recent examples of this, with rumours of studio interference and those at the top being more concerned with making a buck than producing a credible storyline.
The dreaded reshoots and rewrites have also surrounded the first in the Star Wars extended universe output: Rogue One.
But should we be so worried? The vistas, effects and visuals from the new trailer look incredible, and the man behind the camera, Gareth Edwards, is an impressive director who whilst still in his infancy showed he can handle the big blockbuster demands with his take on film’s most cherished monster, Godzilla.
Rogue One will focus on a team of rebels who attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star. It will be interesting to see how the film stretches this premise into engaging fare when we already know what the ending will be.
With Ben Mendelsohn, Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker on board, the film appears to be in safe hands and there are plenty of reasons to remain excited for its December 2016 release.
Casting is already under way for the next spin-off, a young Han Solo film, which has Alden Ehrenreich in the lead role and rumours of the return of everyone’s favourite smuggler, Lando Calrissian. The young [insert name here] brand is something which is becoming more common and is a bit of a cop-out, but given the right treatment, care and time, it could prove to be a lot of fun.
Where else could the Star Wars extended universe take us? As far as we know, Disney only has plans up until Episode IX. Could it again attempt to mirror Marvel’s success with a transition into television and streaming services? ‘At home with the Skywalkers’ perhaps or will there ever be a place for a mocumentary road movie of the Cantina Band’s rise and fall in the intergalactic music industry? Only time will tell, but let’s pray they do not split the last film into two parts.