In recent years, vast, interconnected, and constantly evolving cinematic universes have become some of the box office’s most reliable winners, capable of spawning sequel after sequel, remake after remake, all in hopes of snagging a dedicated audience who can’t stand to miss a single film. Look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is now pushing up on 20 films told over a decade (total domestic take: over $6.5B), or the DC universe, which includes just five films so far, but already has over $1B in domestic dollars. Not even “Star Wars,” still one of the most popular cinematic series of all time, can escape the allure of the sprawling series.
And yet, even as the franchise continues to announce new offerings, from a new animated series from Dave Filoni to a steadily-growing selection of so-called standalone films, one thing sets it apart: an on-screen chronology that hasn’t wavered. While some aspects of the “Star Wars” canon, like “expanded universe” novels and early comic books, have changed over the years (when the film series kicked off again with “The Force Awakens,” Lucasfilm was sure to announce what was and was not part of the new canon going forward), the first six films have always remained part of the official storyline.
That’s a rarity in the cinematic landscape, and while “Star Wars” is recasting roles in new standalone films like “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” the series is still maintaining the same continuity. This isn’t Marvel’s awkward handling of Spider-Man — three different stars, three different franchises, over the course of 15 years — and it’s the kind of thing even its biggest competitors aren’t always capable of doing.
That’s not going to change anytime soon, at least according to long-time franchise screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. IndieWire recently asked Kasdan if he thought “Star Wars” would ever fall into the recasting and reworking cycle other franchises sometimes fall prey to, and he was philosophical, but firm. In short, is “Star Wars” ever going to start over from scratch?
“Well, you know, anything can happen,” Lawrence Kasdan said. “But I think it’s really a nice quality of ‘Star Wars,’ that if you lay out all the movies, you can put them firmly in one chronology.”
His co-writer (and son), Jonathan Kasdan, was equally sure it wouldn’t happen, even in a franchise-mad culture. “I think it’s part of [why] people who have enormous affection for this thing, or are passionate about it,” Jonathan Kasdan said. “I think that would be to go further than anyone would allow, to start rewriting history on that scale.”
But does that mean that the series doesn’t have room for a canon film that’s tonally different than its predecessors? When Phil Lord and Chris Miller originally came on board to direct “Solo,” the expectation was that the comedic filmmakers would add a distinctly humorous flavor to the Alden Ehrenreich-starring prequel. A recent report from Wall Street Journal held that the pair were going for a “Guardians of the Galaxy” type vibe, one that was nixed when the pair were replaced by Ron Howard. The film still has moments of humor, but they’re similar to those that pepper the rest of the franchise.
Personally speaking, Lawrence Kasdan isn’t sold on the prospect of putting that kind of humor into the franchise. Asked if “Star Wars” might ever embrace a film like “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Thor 3,” and he was clear: that’s not “Star Wars.”
“It may be that the times and the zeitgeist dictate that at some point. But we’re not at that point, in my mind,” Lawrence Kasdan. “And look, I’m about through with ‘Star Wars,’ so maybe other people [involved in the franchise] will feel differently. But, I love ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ and I like that kind of movie. To me, it isn’t what ‘Star Wars’ is.”
The elder Kasdan, who has written four “Star Wars” movies so far, isn’t totally ruling it out, however, because he dose realize that the franchise is now in the hands of other filmmakers who might have different ideas. He’s still expecting them to hold true to the franchise that they grew up loving, though.
“A lot of these guys are my friends, Rian [Johnson] and [David] Benioff and [D.B.] Weiss, these are people that I know and respect and they share an emotional connection to the saga,” Lawrence Kasdan said. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to make the movies just like the original movies, but it means that the spirit of the original movies impacted their lives. And I would expect that their movies would reflect that.”
Jonathan Kasdan is already seeing some evolutions throughout the series, and while “Star Wars” may never veer as wildly as some of its other franchise brethren, that doesn’t mean that anything is off the table.
“I admire the desire that Kathy [Kennedy] has, and that [franchise] filmmakers have, to push those boundaries, little by little, as they go,” Jonathan Kasdan said. “And I think Rian made bold decisions [in ‘The Last Jedi’], and Kathy will continue to encourage spreading of wings and stretching out in different directions. Where that will lead is very exciting, you know? As long as it’s good.”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” will be released in theaters on May 25.