On “D-Day” of October 30th, 2012 it was announced that George Lucas sold Lucasfilm Ltd. to Disney and that Star Wars fans worldwide would finally be getting our Sequel Trilogy! So is the Rian Johnson penned script for Episode IX going to be the last episode of the current series? We’ll examine this possibility after the jump . . .
George Lucas has waffled over the years as to whether the current saga would run nine or twelve episodes. The Secret History of Star Wars has done a marvelous job chronicling the evolution of the phenomenon. Through the years George has gone back and forth on this issue. Then in 2012, as we all know, George announced to his loyal detractors after all the undue hate he received over the Prequel Trilogy, that he would NOT make any more Star Wars films:
“Why would I make any more, when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”
George had a right to vent his frustration since he created the most beloved film franchise the world has ever seen only to receive nothing but hate for something he told us to expect. From Denise Worrell’s book “Icons: Intimate Portraits” we read the following:
In 1980 Lucas revealed to Time magazine that the sequel trilogy would revolve around “the rebuilding of the Republic,” and in 1983 stated to that magazine that thematically it would be about “the necessity for moral choices and the wisdom needed to distinguish right from wrong,” implying perhaps a more introspective tone, which is consistent with Lucas’ implications that the three sets of films would all be stylistically different. The first trilogy is to be more Machiavellian and melodramatic, like a costume drama, as Lucas revealed in 1981, while the second is more action-packed and light-hearted, perhaps leaving the third to be more philosophical, addressing issues of ethical responsibility and moral ambiguity.
George envisioned each trilogy as having a different tone and style, which he followed through with. And, though he blames the Trolls for his decision to stop making Star Wars, we know that is not entirely true. In fact, it complies with a certain plan he settled on back in the ’70’s. In the August 25th, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone we find the following exchange:
GL: One of the sequels we are thinking of is the young days of Ben Kenobi. It would probably be all different actors…I think the sequels will be much, much better. What I want to do is direct the last sequel. I could do the first one and the last one and let everyone else do the ones in between.
RS: It wouldn’t bother you to have someone else do the ones in between?
GL: No, it would be interesting. I would want to try and get some good directors, and see what their interpretation of the theme is. I think it will be interesting, it is like taking a theme in film school, say, okay, everybody do their interpretation of this theme. It’s an interesting idea to see how people interpret the genre. It is a fun genre to play with. All the prototype stuff is done now. Nobody has to worry about what a Wookiee is and what it does and how it reacts. Wookiees are there, the people are there, the environment is there, the empire is there… I’ve put up the concrete slab of the walls and now everybody can have fun drawing the pictures and putting on the little gargoyles and doing all the really fun stuff. And it’s a competition. I’m hoping if I get friends of mine they will want to do a much better film, like, ‘I’ll show George that I can do a film twice that good,’ and I think they can, but then I want to do the last one, so I can do one twice as good as everybody else. [Laughs]
Once George settled on the nine episode format he intended to direct the first of the Prequels and the last of the Sequels with different directors working on all the films in between. George, of course, directed all of the Prequels and is now allowing the new generation of filmmakers to direct Star Wars going into the future. Of course, everyone knows JJ Abrams was selected as the first of the next-gen directors, with Loopers’ Rian Johnson both writing and directing Episode VIII as well as writing a treatment for Episode IX. Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank have each been tapped for one of the three spinoffs. Disney/LFL has acquired some of the best, young talent to carry the torch.
Well then, what about the other three films — Episodes X – XII? At various points George denied having them as anything but an idea with no real story. A “media creation” he called it in many interviews during the Prequel days. However, we know that is not entirely true. From The Secret History of Star Wars:
In the July-August 1980 issue of Prevue magazine, Prevue writes, “Even [Lucas] did not know the full extent of the Star Wars epic, but estimated it to be a total of twelve stories, grouped into four collective trilogies. Since Star Wars, Lucas had refined and polished the complex narrative, finally settling on three trilogies and three additional, related tales which are separate from the primary action.” This information came from George Lucas himself. By that point, he had instead envisioned the series as a nine-part soap opera of the Skywalker family, but attentive media recalled the 12-part announcement. So, they began asking him what the three missing films were. Lucas was attempting to maintain a facade that the story had in place all along and not being made up as he went, so could only admit to three of these one-off style films, as that was number difference between the 12 and 9 film announcements. When Bantha Tracks asked him why the series was cut from 12 to 9, Lucas could only say, “I cut that number down to nine because the other three were tangential to the saga.” The September-October issue of Prevue magazine was able to get more detail, however, on what these one-off films were, of which Lucas undoubtedly had planned more than three:
Prevue: Do you plan to make any separate films about the characters? Like a film just about Han Solo or perhaps Chewbacca, the Clone Wars or the Jedi?
Lucas: I can answer that best by describing the history of the way Star Wars developed… As I was writing, I came up with some ideas for a film about robots, with no humans in it. When I got to working on the Wookiee, I thought of a film just about Wookiees, nothing else. So, for a time, I had a couple of odd movies with just those characters. Then, I had the other films, which were essentially split into three parts each, two trilogies. When the smoke cleared, I said, ‘This is really great. I’ll do another trilogy that takes place after this.’ I had three trilogies of nine films, and then another couple of odd films. Essentially, there were twelve films.
Prevue: Do you still plan on producing all twelve?
Lucas: No, I’ve eliminated the odd movies, because they really don’t have anything to do with the Star Wars saga. It gets confusing trying to explain the whole thing, but if I ever do the odd movies about the robots or the Wookiees, it’ll be just about them, not necessarily about Chewbacca or Threepio–just about Wookiees and robots. It’s the genre that I’m intrigued with, not necessarily the characters.”
“I always said I wasn’t going to do any more, and that’s true, I’m not going to do any more,” said Lucas, who will not write or direct the upcoming films, but whose iconic imprint will be all over them. “But that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to turn it over to Kathy [Kennedy] to do more. I have story treatments of 7, 8 and 9 and a bunch of other movies, and obviously, we have hundreds of books and comics and everything you could possibly imagine. So I sort of moved that treasure trove of stories and various things to Kathy, and I have complete confidence that she’s gonna take them and make great movies.”
“We have a large group of ideas and characters and books and all kinds of things,” Lucas said. “We could go on making ‘Star Wars’ for the next 100 years.”
I then ask: How is it possible to make Star Wars movies for the next 100 years, course we’re not talking a literal 100 years, solely on spinoffs???
And then there’s Disney itself. I already boldly declared the conglomerate will make back its investment, in box office and merchandise revenue, from Episode VII alone. However, they took another BIG tentpole franchise and created a formula that has worked in spades — the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The formula of filming individual movies for individual characters and then tying them together into a central thread or storyline has been brilliant from a storytelling and practical standpoint. First, the individual film gives them plenty of time to flesh-out the individual character and his mythology. Secondly, it also gives Disney more money! Much more as Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America: Winter Soldier, just to name three of the top nine, have killed it at the box office to the combined tune of $2,617,387,297 in global revenue!!!
Another reason why Disney would be foolish to abandon the current series is the simple fact that the fans want more. Some fickle fans complain on one hand that they are losing their precious EU with its mediocre execution and convoluted plotlines, yet, those same fans are the ones who don’t want the series to continue beyond Episode IX. IF the EU could sustain fan interest, albeit on a very small scale, a continuation of the cinematic saga would do so a thousand times over. I can say this boldly because of history. Just look at some of the other film franchises that continue on to this day through reboots, actor changes, and disasters — Superman, Batman, Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek, X-Men, Terminator, Pirates of the Carribean, Fast & Furious, Spider-Man, and endless lines of vampires, werewolves and zombies — ALL of which continue to make ample loads of cash while producing, in most cases, poor stories.
Then there’s Bond, James Bond. There have been six different actors playing 007, spanning 52 years and 24 movies! Yes, Bond has never really been a global Blockbuster and most of the films have been pretty bad, but that doesn’t stop the fans who keep showing up hoping for a hit, which they got with the most recent Skyfall. IF fans can support roughly 60 hours of Bond then they certainly can support 60 hours of Star Wars, which currently stands at roughly 15 hours. Just look back over the list I provided and calculate the hours yourself. Star Wars has the depth of mythology, the potential storylines, the avid, new writers and directors to support as many films as any of those not-as-beloved franchises.
“They always wanted to set up their own little James Bond series — taking the environment George has set up but keeping it limitless in terms of what the characters can do. For the sequel, he’s going to add new characters. It won’t be a direct sequel to the first story; it’ll be a series of adventures, you know, in that galaxy… If the Star Wars series runs as long as I think they’re going to run, I will be Ben Kenobi’s age when I do the last one!”