What happens to Star Wars now?

I have a bad feeling about this.

by Benjamín Harguindey

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has only been out for a few days and as expected is performing strongly at the box office, but the dust is already clearing and from a critical standpoint it seems to have attracted less favorable reviews than preceding entry Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), even if by all accounts it hews closer to the spirit of the original movies. Where does Disney take it from here?

The Force may work in mysterious ways, but the path of the franchise has been rigorously delineated up until 2020. We’re getting Episode VIII in 2018, an early-day Han Solo movie in 2018 starring Alden Ehrenreich, Episode IX in 2019 and for 2020 another untitled spin-off, possibly about Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Tatooine tenure. If nothing else, Ewan McGregor has reportedly shown interest in reprising his prequel role.

The way this line-up is styled, Disney mimics its own “Marvel Cinematographic Universe” holding pattern: a string of yearly releases alternating between big important movies and minor ones designed to maintain public interest and hype the next movie.

Because that’s what Rogue One is, basically – a tentpole in the grand scheme of Star Wars, a way of biding for time while revving up the more important movie. The 19-year gap between Episodes III and IV is wide and nebulous enough that Disney can make up anything and call it canon. Consider the two other “spin-off” titles in the line-up: a Han Solo movie and a Ben Kenobi movie would also take place in the Episode III-IV gap.

This fill-in-the-blanks strategy of storytelling is alarming in its triviality, simply because by its rationale there is no end of stories to be told in the Star Wars universe. Flanked either way by a complex structure of two powerful trilogies of movies, Disney could make up anything in between and it would hold by the sheer support on either side. Just as the war between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire New Order will never end, no matter how many Death Stars are blown up, there is an infinite number of stories to be told so long as they’re subtitled “A Star Wars Story” and take place in what we might as well call the Middle Ages of the saga.

Once the “trilogy of trilogies” plays out, as does the anthology trilogy of lesser, spin-off stories, where does Disney go from there? Logic points to a fourth numbered trilogy. The new batch of Star Wars movies wouldn’t enjoy half the credibility people give them if they weren’t styled as Episodes VII, VIII and IX – the subsequent conclusion to the story people have been told at this point. In all likelihood the new trilogy would establish a wide range of characters that might take over Episodes X, XI and XII – with the blessing, so to speak, of the former cast.

If Star Wars has in fact become an algorythm, is there truly no end? In all likelihood the franchise will end like any other TV show, simply because its episodic structure – even the name gives it away – recalls that of a TV show. Consider this new batch of movies Star Wars‘ third season: Episode VII is the pilot, VIII is the mid-season finale and IX is the finale; the anthology movies working as bottle episodes and such. We’ll get as many as six or seven seasons, going by modern-day serialized drama standards. And all of it will only go away once the ratings have dropped from lukewarm to negative.

BenjaBenjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).

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