**Spoilers ahead** Yesterday, we ran down some of the thoughts, secrets, speculation and rumors about the future of the franchise now that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has finally been released. But presently, the main saga only forms roughly fifty percent of the “Star Wars” universe (and that’s excluding TV shows, comic books, novels, etc, which are all likely to ramp up in the coming years).
Almost as soon as it was announced that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and were planning new “Star Wars” movies, it became clear that franchise installments wouldn’t just concerned with traditional Skywalker-focused content, but would also be comprised of spin-off movies, telling stories from across the universe’s timeline, featuring some beloved characters and settings, as well as some brand new ones.
These satellite films are now known to be grouped under the subtitle “A Star Wars Story,” and the first film as such, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” will arrive on December 16, 2016. A Josh Trank-directed movie rumored to be about Boba Fett was scheduled, but the director, plagued with rumors about his conduct on the disastrous “Fantastic Four,” parted company with the studio, and now 2018 will bring a Young Han Solo film, currently casting up, from “The Lego Movie” duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller. So what did ‘The Force Awakens’ tell us about these new movies? More importantly, is it a misstep to be making these films at all right now?
‘Rogue One’ is first up, and it’s a heist movie, based on an idea by Lucasfilm CCO John Knoll and written at first by “After Earth” scribe Gary Whitta, with “About A Boy” and “The Golden Compass” director Chris Weitz penning a subsequent draft (there’s a rumor that Christopher McQuarrie did some work too), while “Monsters” and “Godzilla” helmer Gareth Edwards will direct.
The logline is simple, telling the story of resistance fighters who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star. In other words, it’s a direct prequel to the first “Star Wars” movie, and will be the first in the franchise that won’t feature Jedi knights (presumably) or Skywalkers.
Felicity Jones has the lead role, with Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen (playing a seemingly a blind samurai-type character) and Jiang Wen as some of her motley crew, with Ben Mendelsohn rumored as the villain and Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen and Alan Tudyk (who’s apparently playing a motion-capture character) also involved. Given that it’s set thirty years before ‘The Force Awakens,’ there wouldn’t appear to be much set up about this installment in J.J. Abrams‘ new film, but we have a theory that we’ll see at least one character pop up.
Fans have been baffled by how little Max Von Sydow gets to do in ‘The Force Awakens’ —the veteran actor appears in the opening scene as a character named Lor San Tekka before he’s struck down by Kylo Ren. He’s also described in the film’s opening crawl as “an old ally,” and the Visual Dictionary and official Star Wars site describe him “as a seasoned traveler and explorer of the more remote fringes of the galaxy,” as well as someone who “helped Luke Skywalker recover secret Jedi lore that the Empire had tried to erase” after the end of ‘Return Of The Jedi.’
Given Von Sydow’s age, the character would undoubtedly have been alive for pretty much the entire history of the saga, so it’s entirely possible we’ll see him again. And frankly, we think he’ll be seeing him very soon, given another acclaimed Scandinavian actor’s mystery role in ‘Rogue One,’ Mads Mikkelsen. The “Hannibal” star was quoted earlier in the year as saying he had “an important role,” and “is actually not a bad guy.” Could Mikkelsen, who is roughly thirty years younger than Von Sydow, be playing Lor San Tekka in ‘Rogue One’?
There are also rumors that both Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin will have onscreen appearances in ‘Rogue One,’ but we also wonder whether we might get a “newer” villain, via a glimpse of Supreme Leader Snoke, or the man he once was (if he ever was a man). We know very little about Snoke, but he appears to be old enough that he could have been involved in the events of the original trilogy’s timeline.
As for the “Han Solo” movie, which is just beginning to cast up, even less is known, beyond the fact that Lord and Miller are directing, and that Lawrence Kasdan has returned to write with his son Jon. Incidentally, I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to see Maz Kanata pop up, given that she appears to have a long history with Han and that she’s at least a thousand years old.
All of that said, perhaps we won’t be seeing any of these characters or anyone from the new movies in the spin-offs, at least in the near future. In January 2014, Kathleen Kennedy told Singapore’s The Strait Times, that “the spin-off movies —or we may come up with some other way to call those films— exist within that vast universe that [George Lucas] created. There is no attempt being made to carry characters [from the standalone films] in and out of the saga episodes.” This seems to suggest that the ‘Star Wars Story’ films will exist entirely in a bubble from the new trilogy. On one hand that might be welcome, freeing the films from the need to feed the macro plot (in a way that’s often hampered the Marvel films).
But at a time when audiences are actively responding to serialization in movies, it’s potentially an error. A new generation of kids have clearly been enthralled by “Star Wars,” and the fact that the new lead characters of Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo are so compelling is clearly the movie’s greatest triumph.
Which makes it odd that the next “Star Wars” movie we’ll see will feature none of those characters, and will instead seemingly be a gritty thriller, possibly the most “adult” “Star Wars” to date. Older fans are used to rolling with the punches as such, having spent years darting between installments for their “Star Wars” fix. But will everyone, young or old, who just fell in love with the new leads, finding them easily the best part of the movie (and that seems to be a majority of fans), be thrilled to see the universe return to the older days? Or will they be frustrated?
Moving the saga forward, but flashing back to the old days between chapters, serves as a handy metaphor for the problems with ‘The Force Awakens’ —for all its craft, invention and thrills, the film struggles to escape the shadow of the original movies. And it seems like the franchise as a whole will potentially have the same issue: every time it takes a step forward, it looks over its shoulder and takes another step back.
We’re extremely excited for ‘Rogue One,’ and to see what Lord and Miller can do with this toybox with their Han Solo movie, but we hope we’ll get a little of the new to go with the old.