Star Wars: The Future of the Franchise Starts with Rogue One
Episode VII was refreshing. It was similar to the original trilogy. It was an invigorating contrast to the prequels with its energy, familiarity, and quality. It was, however, the same old Star Wars. Episode VII was meant to re-establish the Universe for fans. If you were looking for something new, the callbacks may have been too much, too familiar. If that is the case...
Rogue One is the Star Wars film you've been looking for. Rogue One is meant to expand the Universe. The images we have seen in the trailers so far are evident of that expansion. Stormtroopers on picturesque beaches, Imperial officers walking through fields, statues of ancient Jedi buried in the sand. The Star Wars cinematic universe is growing fast with Rogue One. We're excited. We're more excited for expanding the universe and stories in the Star Wars universe. Rogue One will be the boldest departure from the core story to date. It is going to play in the Star Wars sandbox, center around some key characters and elements. Yet, Rogue One will be closer to the Outer Rim than the center of the galaxy when it comes to Star Wars films.
Mild Spoilers Follow for everything Star Wars before Rogue One including the expanded universe.
Rogue One, You’re Our Only Hope
More precisely, Rogue One is more than “a new hope” for the future of Star Wars films. It is the future of Star Wars films. When Disney purchased Lucasfilms and the rights to all future Star Wars films, we were most excited to see how far from the Skywalker saga they would go. We love the original trilogy and enjoyed Episode VII, but we're most excited for new territory - a new saga.
Rogue One is the first step in that new hope for the Star Wars Universe. Rogue One can start to do what none of the other Star Wars films have been able to do. They can tell new, fresh stories in addition to the saga of the Skywalker family. The expanded universe imagined these tales for decades before Disney dubbed them Legends. Now we get to start to explore those Legends as they are re-developed in a new continuity.
Coruscant City Limits
The Star Wars Expanded Universe started in the same way as Rogue One will begin this new foray. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye followed Luke and Leia on a journey to find crystals that would imbue incredible force power on others. It was a side adventure around the events of the films. The Expanded Universe or Anthology film series will grow from the saga films and then blossom with its own stories. We will adventure close to very familiar themes, characters, and stories for our first non-saga adventure. Yet, we will see the world from a whole new perspective.
Saving Private Erso
Episode III promised us war in the crawl and it gave us some very epic battles. The space battle above Coruscant was incredible. The force battle between Sidious and Yoda and the lightsaber duel between Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi felt like the payoff of the entire prequel trilogy. Yet, we have not touched the grit and grim of war in the Star Wars universe. Rogue One will take us into the perspective of the rebellion like never before. We will get into the grit in hopefully a very human and tragically dramatic way. If this is the Saving Private Ryan of Star Wars, we’re all in.
Check Your Lightsaber at the Door
No Jedi. No lightsabers. No force lightning. No Skywalkers. No Sith. No talk of midichlorians - thank you. Kyber Crystals are a new mythology to the cinematic universe. There will be some hints at each of these. We’ve seen Darth Vader in the trailers. Any inclusion of these elements will be peripheral to the main story and characters. It’s exciting territory. I’ll admit that I didn’t like the Battlefront games as much because I prefer my Star Wars with a heavy dose of Jedi. However for the sake of storytelling and where the future of Star Wars lies, Rogue One needs to be something different. Disney, Lucasfilms, and all of the creative executives working on the project have billed this as a standalone. It is meant to literally stand on its own. For it to do so, it must blaze a trail away from common elements and give voice to more human elements, drama, tragedy, our desire to stand for something and rebel. Yet, ironically we hope this isn’t a stand alone but rather the beginning of a bright future of Star Wars beyond the saga films.
Disney clearly has plans to expand the Star Wars Universe into the foreseeable future. Marvel, another Disney property, has movies planned out for 20+ years according to Kevin Feige. The Star Wars Universe is looking long term as well. Kathleen Kennedy recently discussed the future of Star Wars as possibly more like Rogue One than Episode VII.
Here are some of the areas we hope Star Wars will expand their universe. Some of these may be front and center in Rogue One. For now, we know Star Wars is going to start with a format of alternating between a “Saga” film like Episode VII in 2016 and an “Anthology” film like Rogue One in 2017. Let's explore.
Luminous beings are we...not this crude matter.
-Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars is at its core a very character driven franchise. Beyond the saga of the Skywalker family, we have so many iconic characters to explore already in the universe from Han Solo and Boba Fett to Poe Dameron and Captain Phasma. Of the five announced Disney Star Wars films, one will be a young Han and Boba Fett centric adventure. Han has already been cast. A Han Solo adventure looks likely to be our 2018 Anthology film. These are great characters and stories. But, we’re most excited about those that haven’t yet made it to film and possibly those who have yet to be created.
Episode VII balanced about half its time reinvigorating old characters, tropes, and iconography with new characters and new themes. We love the old but don’t need to re-hash it time again. We’d rather have the old films “restored” to their theatrical release and cleaned up for HD release than to just simply recycle old characters.
The most exciting part of the Star Wars Universe for us is now the unknown corners and stories. We won’t ever separate from the heroic archetype shared by characters like Luke Skywalker and Rey or the anti-hero Han Solo or his counterpart Finn. Let's explore the various shades in that heroic spectrum. The expanded universe has its own gallery of rogues, scoundrels, and Jedi to explore or at least use as the inspiration for future characters.
Conflict on All Scales
I feel the conflict within you! Let go of your hate!
-Luke Skywalker, Return of the Jedi
The Star Wars universe is comprised of epic conflicts for light or dark supremacy in the galaxy. According to Legends, this has been going on for over 37,000 years with the Old Republic spanning 25,000 years.
There are amazing conflicts between light and dark to explore. These can span personal, intimate conflicts such as Vader, Luke, or Kyle Ren struggling between light and dark. These conflicts exist outside of the Force users. Han decides to join a rebellion. Finn becomes his own man apart from the Empire. The future can also be focused around larger, massive conflicts spanning star systems like the Jedi Civil War of the EU. The galaxy is also peppered with alien invasions like the Yuuzhan Vong, super-weapons like Centerpoint Station, and monsters like the Sarlacc. Emotional conflict, intimate struggle, epic scale battles, close physical fights. The range of scale and diversity of "human" stories is what makes the storytelling in Star Wars so compelling.
Rogue One looks to be a war movie exploring the Rebel Alliance’s struggle against the Galactic Empire. It is supposed to have no lightsaber duels, little focus on Jedi or Sith. The conflict seems intended to be less mystical and more "human," like great war movies.
Disney has done a great job developing each property within a specific genre. For instance, Marvel tells stories set in their universe of super-powered heroes. Yet, they don’t just tell superhero stories. They tell human stories. Each film and franchise they create within the Marvel umbrella has it’s own focus on a different archetype story genre. Ant-Man was a heist film. Captain America: Winter Soldier was a government and espionage thriller. Guardians of the Galaxy is a science fiction film.
Rogue One looks to be the first Star Wars film to be not only a Star Wars movie but to have its own specific narrative focus within a genre. This can open up numerous doors in the future for storytelling, but will do so with focus and clarity giving them a chance to be much more successful. A New Hope indeed.
For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.
-Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope
The Old Republic could be a great place for Disney. The Old Republic era spans 25,000 years and is an era in which great wars are fought between armies of Jedi and the ancient Sith. The scale alone begs for modern movie or epic TV series treatment. Disney can mine this era to create epic storylines and even a new saga or tv series of its own. Think more like Game of Thrones than Agents of SHIELD. Rogue One appears to hint at the future a little bit with images of Jedi statues covered in sand. There is a rich history to explore where both the Jedi and the Sith have battled for control of the galaxy for ages.
The canvas for Star Wars is a deep well for science fiction creativity. Disney has shown the foresight to build amazing properties in larger universes around established properties. Take Marvel for example, the Avengers form the core of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Avenger films are the largest in budget and box office success. Yet, they have created a number of smaller properties that have grown to have a corner of the universe all their own. Guardians of the Galaxy is a perfect example. After their first film, the Guardians have become an especially popular and beloved property of their own.
Exploration within different era’s within the Star Wars universe could provide substantial appeal narratively. They can explore the beginnings of the Force such as the mystical origins of the Jedi and Sith. There is also the post-Saga world of Star Wars where the Galaxy faces new threats after the stories of Kylo Ren, Rey, Finn, and others have been concluded. Those left to carry on the struggle can go on adventures similar to those of Luke and Ben in The Fate of the Jedi series. The future of the Star Wars franchise will extend far into the future or perhaps the galaxy’s distant past. Either way, the Expanded Universe has demonstrated there are plenty of stories to tell.
“Strong this planet is with the Force.”
“It is one of the purest places in the galaxy.”
-Yoda and the Force Ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn in Voices Episode 11 on Season Six of Star Wars: The Clone Wars
One of the most iconic tropes found throughout Star Wars is the use of different single environment worlds. Each world is usually a single environment such as the forest planet Kashyyyk or the desert planet Tatooine. Yet, they are narratively rich ports of exploration. We hope that in future stories, the Star Wars world uses some of the more history rich locations, from the Legends material. The Sith home world of Korriban is at the top of our list as well as Corellia, the home of Han Solo. The home of the battle hardened Mandalorians, Mandalore would be an epic world and culture to explore. There are even interesting space stations and spaceports like the seedy Nar Sheeda, “The Smuggler’s Moon.”
Rogue One is a start as it will go to Scarif, the tropical paradise planet. We will see our first planet sacred to the Jedi in Jedha. We can’t wait to see where future adventures will take us.
“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”
-Yoda Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Since we first saw Luke reach out with the Force and grab his lightsaber, the Force has expanded exponentially. The Force Awakens expanded how the Force can be learned. Rey came to knowledge of the Force and its application far more organically. Her mentor was after all Han Solo. Rogue One will show us a type of Force conscious monk who uses the Force to see but is no Jedi. The awakening of the Force in Episode VII was the beginning for growing and expanding upon what our characters can do with the Force on the big screen. Within the Jedi arts, there are many different styles of fighting and types of mastery. There are some very exciting possibilities in our future.
Future movies may continue to take queues from the EU. In the Expanded Universe, the Force grew to be something that was controlled with much further reaching effect. Force users varied greatly with their abilities, even from Dark to Light side users. Some Force users could perceive memories through objects. Some could influence animals to do their bidding or interact with machines such as droids shorting them out. Others performed more basic Force abilities but in varied application like slowing the descent of a great fall or manipulating their own body to heal more effectively. All of these Force abilities may become heightened visually in future films. We hope so.
Beyond even varied abilities, there are some wildly powerful Force users. The scale of the Force was evolved for different stories. There are characters such as Darth Vader’s apprentice Galen Malak, Starkiller who was featured in the Force Unleashed video games. Starkiller displayed exponentially powerful Force abilities. He pulled a Star Destroyer out of space and crashed it on the planet where he stood. The Force Unleashed explored the supercharging of basic Force abilities in extreme visual effects. He also used his lightsabers in a reverse grip to devastating effect. These imaginative powers and abilities grow the mythos of Star War’s mystical Force users. They give future films the foundation of how they can evolve and continue to grow the Force for future films.
“Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”
-Obi Wan Kenobi Star Wars: A New Hope
When Darth Maul lit up his double bladed lightsaber, jaws across Star Wars fandom hit the floor. There are many more great weapons hiding in the lore of Legends and lurking in the minds of future creators. Starting with the lightsaber and the blaster, Star Wars weaponry has expanded to thermal detonators and now cross guard lightsabers. But, those don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to incredible weapons from a galaxy far far away. Here are a few we hope to see or that will provide the basis for future creations.
Where the Star Wars universe of future decades will go is anyone's guess. It is clear though that Rogue One is our first foray into the wider universe. We're going far beyond that galaxy far away that now seems so familiar. Rogue One will begin our journey into new and exciting territory.