STAR WARS is the “Forever Franchise”
When Star Wars debuted in 1977, it furthered the genre of the blockbuster, captivating and inspiring an entire generation of audiences and filmmakers. After a trilogy of prequels that received mixed reviews – to say the least – Star Wars has again returned, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens set to occupy every movie theater and every movie screen next month. Set thirty years after 1983’s Return of the Jedi – the then-finale to the original Star Wars trilogy – The Force Awakens comes at a time when the cinematic landscape has changed. Thanks in part to Marvel Studios – the Disney-owned movie studio that practically pioneered the shared universe, crossovers, and huge storylines – another Disney company, Lucasfilm, is ready to adapt.
Writing on the future of Star Wars, a Wired feature states: “The company intends to put out a new Star Wars movie every year for as long as people will buy tickets. Let me put it another way: If everything works out for Disney, and if you are (like me) old enough to have been conscious for the first Star Wars film, you will probably not live to see the last one. It’s the forever franchise.” When it comes to movies and a series that goes on indefinitely, some might take that to mean that, much like Anakin’s fall to the Dark side, something that once was good and pure would go on to become tainted, corrupted, ruined. Perhaps it comes as a result of too many movie series that should have ended a long time ago, bowing out gracefully and coming to a willful end before the franchise could be tainted by installments that, at best, aren’t up to par, and at worst, sequels that taint the series as a whole.
With Star Wars, however – Hollywood royalty – those in charge have at least a basic understanding for their vision moving forward. For The Force Awakens, producer (and Lucasfilm president) Kathleen Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams, and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan approached the story from an emotional perspective: “‘The first question J.J. asked us when we all sat down was, what do we want to feel?’ Kennedy says. The answers Kennedy’s brain trust gave: A sense of a beginning. A sense of urgency but also humor. Working with Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, Abrams developed another list: ‘The feeling we wanted was from the first trilogy,’ Kasdan says. ‘It’s fun, it’s delightful, it moves like a son of a bitch, and you don’t question too much.'”
Unlike Marvel – famous for having a road map of planned, interconnecting films for the next decade – Kennedy reveals there are more plans than guarantees. “I love how you’ve already jumped to the conclusion that it’s all working,” she laughs. “Oh my God, there is so much to get right. It’s by no means laid out beat for beat. I’ll borrow a line from Raiders of the Lost Ark: We’re making this up as we go.” For now, Lucasfilm could be waiting to see who and what from Episode VII catches on with fans, and keeping that in mind as the sequel trilogy moves forward. When Disney first purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion dollars, confirmation of a seventh Star Wars installment was accompanied by rumors that Disney were forging ahead with a series of spinoffs and solo films all operating in the same, shared universe: there were rumors of everything from a Han Solo film (which is actively being developed), a Yoda film, and a Boba Fett film. We’ve heard little-to-nothing – and nothing official – about any Yoda project, but rumors have continued to persist about a bounty hunter-themed Boba Fett installment.
For now, the primary focus is the episodic sequel trilogy and anthology films such as next year’s Rogue One and 2018’s Han Solo film. As Wired writes about Kasdan’s involvement: “Kasdan is talking to Lucas again, and Kennedy too, and they want him to write another—another!—Star Wars. It turns out Lucas has been sitting on a whole crop of ideas. ‘Pick,’ they tell him. Kasdan chooses something about Han Solo when he was a kid. ‘Because Han is my favorite character,’ Kasdan says.” On Abrams being brought in and the guiding ethos used for The Force Awakens: “They cut the deal, but ask Kasdan for a little more. Could he stick around and, you know, consult a little bit on Episode VII? Could he help persuade Abrams to take the directing chair? Kasdan says the only must-have item was to bring back Han, Chewie, Luke, and Leia. ‘On the first day, I said, look: Delight, that’s the word. In every scene, that should be the criterion we’re using. Does it delight?'”
As audiences have become accustomed to the future – mid-credits and post-credits scenes serve as a tease for sequels and spinoffs, embedded within the film you just spent years anticipating, so that you may then ponder “what’s next?” – sequels and follow ups tend to be expected. But what will those entail? “Star Wars is its own genre,” says Kasdan. “Like all genres, it can hold a million different kinds of artists and stories. They say ‘Buddha is what you do to it.’ And that’s Star Wars. It can be anything you want it to be.” As wide and as endless as the Star Wars universe is, should fans expect original properties or to be following adventures of characters audiences already know and love? “I’ve talked about it with everybody at Disney. Alan [Horn, chair of Walt Disney Studios] is very supportive of it. But at the same time, he’s right when he says we’ve got a lot on our plate,” Kennedy declares. “And then I’ll be working with them on Indiana Jones.”
Star Wars was already going to live forever – it’s the rare cinematic benchmark that millions could point to as an identifying and essential mark of their moviegoing generation. Nearly forty years after Star Wars‘ original release, the series is not only as popular as ever: it’s more popular than ever. Whether they were born fifty years ago or ten years ago, Star Wars fans of all ages and from all over the world embrace and hold this galaxy far, far away dear to their hearts. A Star Wars film library that’s as long and as extensive as the universe those films take place in isn’t a bad thing – as long as the movies are good.
If any cinematic series should be a “forever franchise,” it’s fitting that it’s Star Wars.
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