The next couple of weeks are shaping up to be pivotal for the Star Wars franchise, with J.J. Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker set to bring the nine-movie story that began in 1977 to a definitive close, and the first season of The Mandalorian also drawing to an end on Disney Plus. For the first time in a long time, the future of the series is up in the air, with nobody able to give any definitive answers on what comes next for the sci-fi saga, although many signs point to a brief hiatus on the big screen at the very least.
The cinematic history of Star Wars has largely been reliant on the rule of three, with the original, prequel and most recent trilogies all designed to tell a single overarching narrative. While the franchise attempted to move away from this in the past, the Anthology experiment brought decidedly mixed results, with Rogue One’s billion-dollar success offset by the sort of behind-the-scenes turmoil that has become typical of the brand in recent years, while Solo ended up a huge disappointment critically and commercially.
Lucasfilm seemed keen to remain in the trilogy business then, with Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson both hired to develop three movies apiece, but since then Benioff and Weiss have become the latest filmmakers to jump ship, with rumors constantly debating whether or not Johnson’s trilogy will even happen.
The constant creative setbacks suffered by Star Wars over the last few years could be a sign that it might be time to change the approach entirely, and in a recent interview, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy admitted that future movies are no longer guaranteed to be developed specifically as three-act projects.
“It’s a really important transition for Star Wars. What we’ve been focused on these last five or six years is finishing that family saga around the Skywalkers. Now is the time to start thinking about how to segue into something new and different. I think it gives us a more open-ended view of storytelling and doesn’t lock us into this three-act structure. We’re not going to have some finite number and fit it into a box. We’re going to let the story dictate that.”
Not every big name franchise has to be planned several movies in advance, and Star Wars needs to realize this in order to maintain relevancy. There’s no point telling fans that you’re getting multiple installments unless the first one gets them interested to see more, or else you end up with something like Fantastic Beasts that rapidly loses steam. As one of the biggest franchises in the industry, Lucasfilm needs to ensure that the focus is on creating the best standalone movie possible and then building from there, instead of starting with an end-point and working backwards.