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What could Rian Johnson’s new Star Wars trilogy be about?

Deep Jedi history, a leap to the future or another outer-space conflict? We weigh up the possibilities
By Huw Fullerton

Late last night we finally learned why Disney and Lucasfilm hadn’t kept Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson onboard to take over Episode IX (as had been widely suggested) following the departure of Colin Trevorrow – because it seems they’ve got him working on an even bigger project instead.

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As it turns out, Johnson is working on a new trilogy of Star Wars films completely separate from the “Skywalker saga” we’ve been following so far (aka the numbered episodic originals, prequels and sequels continuing with Episode VIII: The Last Jedi this December), introducing “new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.”

So that’s no Luke, Leia, Finn or even Max Rebo – it is, as Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy described it, a “blank canvas” on which Johnson can draw, allowing him to create a new smash-hit space opera with creative freedom that still comes handily under the seat-selling, blockbusting Star Wars umbrella.

Oh, and that “Star Wars lore” qualifier handily stops fans from wondering which of the millions of comic-books, novels or trading cards released as Star Wars spin-offs in the last 40 years could be adapted – this will be brand-new material.

Now, just one question remains – what could Johnson’s trilogy actually be about?


Deep Star Wars history

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney, LucasFilm HF)

Now, about the only thing we do know about this trilogy is that it isn’t tied into the main Skywalker saga or its planets, so some sort of prequel might seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t this what the spin-off “anthology movies” like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and next year’s Solo: A Star Wars story are for?

Still, there’s plenty of ways that Johnson’s “blank canvas” trilogy could still visit new characters and new corners of the galaxy from within the existing Star Wars timeline. Take the ever-popular Knights of the Old Republic video game, which was released in 2003 and set about 4,000 years before the original trilogy when a Sith Armada was unleashed against the Galactic Republic.

That story features all-different characters, locations and storylines while still existing in the familiar struggle between the Jedi and the Dark Side – so who’s to say Johnson’s trilogy couldn’t exist in a similar distant past, allowing for crowd-pleasing hints towards the original trilogy (for example, a look at an ancient character like Yoda, nearly 900 by the time of his death in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, in his younger years) while still being separate enough to give Johnson some creative freedom.

Hell, if he went far back enough he could even cover mysterious events like the founding of the original Jedi Order, which would appeal to fans of the series while still offering storytelling opportunities due to the little-known origins of the very first Jedi.

Then again, that sort of thing might be better covered by a one-off anthology – who knows?


Star Wars' future

Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson at Disney's D23 EXPO 2017 (Getty, JG)

In a similar argument, Johnson could also take the opportunity to leap far forward in Star Wars chronology, making the saga take place less of a long, long time ago (though still, we’re sure, in a galaxy far, far away).

This could allow us to see the consequences of whatever status quo is left standing after the current trilogy concludes in Star Wars Episode IX, examining a new society with its own conflicts, technology and problems that still has a historical link to the days of Luke, Leia et al.

Think how The Lord of the Rings called back to the events of the Hobbit – there in the background and relevant, but far enough back that they’re no longer the centre of the action. Something like that.


A completely separate space conflict

Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron (Disney, HF)

Of course, we might not be thinking big enough here, because if we take the statements from LucasFilm and Kennedy literally then we’re getting something COMPLETELY new – no crossover characters and a whole new corner of the galaxy, which would mean leaving the Galactic Republic behind for good.

It's unlikely that Johnson will jettison every single familiar beat of the saga so far – for example, it seems certain the Force and the Jedi will still feature in some way, otherwise there’s not much point setting it in the same universe at all – but if he does move in a new direction, there’s only one thing we have to go on. And that’s the title Star Wars itself.

By that I mean, if we are introduced to a new “corner of the galaxy” as LucasFilm suggests then we’re probably going to be also introduced to some new outer-space conflict, concerning new powers with opposing agendas that could be a far cry from the Republic, the Empire or the First Order.

Hell, it could even be a less nakedly good-vs-evil battle this time, with the opposing sides having objectives that are reasonable from their specific perspectives making for a morally grey, Game of Thrones-like struggle for power.

But look even if that specific idea isn’t explored, if there’s one thing we can SURELY count on it’s that we’ll have some Wars among the Stars. Otherwise, what’s the point in associating it with the franchise at all?


Something completely unpredictable and off-the-wall that would seem like a terrible idea until we actually saw it onscreen

(Lucasfilm, JG)

I mean, this is the man that brought Porgs into the world – weird little magic Puffin/Penguin creatures with links to the Jedi and some sort of mysterious force connection – and we’re already all obsessed with them.

Whatever Rian Johnson comes up with, it seems fair to say that based on what we’ve seen of The Last Jedi it’ll be worth our interest. Even if it is just a deep-dive on the surprising influence of the Porgs on early Jedi lightsaber development.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released in UK cinemas on the 14th December

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