Yesterday, Disney announced a fully armed and operational movie slate, bolstered by its recently formalised acquisition of Fox. But the news brought with it a bit of a bombshell for Star Wars fans: new films are coming, but they won’t start coming until 2022, three years after The Rise of Skywalker. And that’s actually pretty exciting.
“How can less Star Wars be a good thing,” you might ask? Well, here’s the thing: we’re not really getting less Star Wars. We’re just not getting it on the big screen for the next few years after the Skywalker Saga comes to an end in December this year. If anything, for the past few years and for the foreseeable future, we’ve had more Star Wars than we arguably needed. Too much of a good thing: It exists!
But that’s not the point I’m making here – the point is that the lack of a galaxy far, far away at the cinema does not make that galaxy any further away from us. Star Wars is, and has been for a very long while (even before Disney purchased the franchise), a series that lives beyond the auspices of the box office. If anything, that idea has become ever more important in the Disney Star Wars era, with the death and rebirth of a roster of tie-in media that is now more formally and closely enmeshed within the canon of Star Wars than the prior Expanded Universe was.
The Mandalorian, Resistance, Fallen Order – and there’s more where they came from.
Star Wars stories – and Star Wars stories that matter, both in terms of canon to the wider universe, and on a personal level to the legions of fans across generations around the world – exist across books, across comics, across TV shows, across animated shorts and video games and VR apps, across every medium and merchandising vector you could possibly imagine. We already know that so much is on the way – The Mandalorian, Clone Wars, and the Cassian Andor show will be on Disney+. Resistance will continue on the Disney Channel. Marvel’s not going to stop publishing Star Wars comics any time soon, and Del Rey and Lucasfilm publishing aren’t just going to stop having book after book after book after, err, audio drama-book-thing. All these plans and projects will continue, not just in the run-up to The Rise of Skywalker but for the future beyond, into the unknown regions of these three, Star Wars movie-less years.
So there’s going to be a shit-ton of Star Wars anyway. Why is that exciting? Because without the preface of having to be tied more widely into teasing what’s to come in the mainline movies, this material has the chance to do so much more with the galaxy far, far away. Every Star Wars movie released under the Disney banner has brought with it a veritable swathe of ancillary media to tie into it. This is media that exists to flesh out the Star Wars galaxy, sure, but more specifically exists to contextualise the film project it’s attached to – whether it’s the more formal “The Journey To...” branding for the main film, or the looser tie-in campaigns done for Rogue One and Solo. Heck, even the theme park’s getting one! But imagine what Star Wars publishing can do when it doesn’t necessarily have to be beholden to tying in closely to either the movies that are on the way, or the movies we already have.
That’s not to say that material doesn’t exist already.
Queen’s Shadow was a stunningly refreshing novel released earlier this year, highlighting an unexplored period of Padmé’s life.
We’re seeing a resurgence at the moment of stories being told in and around the prequel era for example – stories that go beyond the excitement of the Clone Wars themselves, but the still relatively underutilised yet dramatically fertile periods before and around the events of Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace. It was, until recently, a period that remained obscured as the current canon focuses on the new trilogy or reliving the period of the original films. But beyond just getting to shine a spotlight on neglected periods of the film saga already, without the onus of there being a new Star Wars movie to support every year, there’s suddenly a lot more opportunity to experiment with the stories all the books, comics, and games can deliver. A lot more space to tell new kinds of stories, filled with new planets and new characters (and perhaps even new time periods!) that don’t necessarily have anything to do with simply contextualising the ongoing saga at the box office.
It’s a chance to invigorate the franchise for fans while also giving the casual audiences who only typically interact with Star Wars through the film releases a bit of a break – a bit of a chance to revitalise Star Wars as a special movie event more so than a just a regular occurrence every December. And if they do need more Star Wars fixes? Like I said up top, it’s not like there’s not going to be any new Star Wars in those three years, anyway.
We are what they grow beyond. That is the burden of all masters...or maybe all movie franchises?
The potential brought forth by a lack of Star Wars in cinemas for such an extended period of time – three years might not sound like a lot, but it’s a lot in comparison to the current franchise deluge, be it with Star Wars or, err, every other Disney property right now! – is fascinating to consider. The chance for Star Wars media to start boldly exploring what the franchise can be, and what kind of stories it can tell, in a period where there aren’t new movies to lean on as “hooks” could lead to the sort of variety Star Wars needs at large in order to keep persisting as the ever-present juggernaut it has become.
It’s time to let old things rest, to loosely paraphrase a certain angry young Solo. And while it does, something new and exciting might get the chance to flourish in its place.