Everything We Know About the Future of Star Wars

John Gilpatrick
Photo credit: Disney

From Popular Mechanics

Since 2012, when Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4 billion, the studio has been full-steam ahead, planning stories that would make the Star Wars world the perfect cinematic supplement to its other juggernaut, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Beginning in 2015 with the release of The Force Awakens, this meant a new movie every year, but in 2018, the public officially felt stuffed, collectively shoved its plate away, and got up from the table.

To call the reaction to Solo: A Star Wars Story a shrug would be insulting to shrugs, and its relatively paltry box office numbers (approximately $218 million domestic, or as much as Avengers: Endgame made in a day and a half) led to some schedule-shuffling, as well as some soul-searching for the executives in charge of shepherding George Lucas’ baby into the next decade.

“I think the mistake that I made-I take the blame-was a little too much, too fast,” said Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger to The Hollywood Reporter last fall. “You can expect some slowdown, but that doesn't mean we’re not going to make films.”

Those films will not include Boba Fett or Obi-Wan Kenobi origin stories/spinoffs. Both were heavily rumored to be heading toward production when the disappointing Solo returns sunk them.

But throughout this spring, including in a mass schedule release unveiled earlier this week, we’ve gotten a lot of information about what the next films are and what the 2020s will look like for Star Wars.

There are still a ton of dots to connect and even more blanks to fill in, but here’s what we know so far.

The Next Star Wars Movies

The end of one trilogy and (maybe) the beginning of another.

On December 20, 2019, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Episode IX) will finally arrive and bring the latest trilogy to a (hopefully thrilling and satisfying) conclusion. Among the questions we hope get answered:

1. Who Are Rey’s Parents, Really?

In 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson made a fascinating, but controversial creative decision: Kylo Ren revealed that Rey’s parents are nobodies-“filthy junk traders who sold [her] off for drinking money,” to be exact.

Photo credit: Disney

But the bomb was dropped in a slick enough way that Skywalker director J.J. Abrams, returning from The Force Awakens, could retcon that choice if he wanted to and reveal that Rey is secretly Luke Skywalker’s daughter (or some other relative of the galaxy’s most famous family).

Since then, Johnson has said that he welcomes Abrams to take this important story thread in whatever direction he’d like, and the film’s subtitle suggests the Skywalker name will play an important role in the state of the galaxy going forward from here.

.@rianjohnson is just as excited for J.J. Abram’s #StarWars Episode IX as we are, and he tells us at #CinemaCon he hopes that the directors keep taking the universe to new heights: “I want him to do stuff that I wasn’t expecting him to do” pic.twitter.com/D7Jh5SqgeT

- MTV NEWS (@MTVNEWS) April 5, 2019

While we don’t know anything for sure, this remains one of the most tantalizing elements of the upcoming film.

2. Who Are the Knights of Ren?

When a rumored (but ultimately debunked) Episode IX poster leaked earlier this year, most hardcore Star Wars fans rejoiced on the assumption that the Knights of Ren were finally coming to this trilogy. (Meanwhile, casual Star Wars fans immediately and frantically searched the Internet for any info about who these mysterious figures were.)

Photo credit: Disney

The fact is we don’t know a ton about the Knights of Ren. They were very briefly seen on screen in a Force Awakens flashback (when Rey first touched Luke’s lightsaber). They’re devotees to the Dark Side of the Force and Supreme Leader Snoke (RIP), but they’ll presumably follow and fight for Kylo Ren in Episode IX, assuming they do indeed make appearances. There hasn’t been any official confirmation, but there’s nonetheless a ton of smoke around this rumor.

3. What Will Happen with Leia?

Carrie Fisher’s tragic death in 2016 changed Disney’s plans for the conclusion of this trilogy in major ways. Fisher had completed her work on Episode VIII months before her passing, and in advance of the film’s release, Kennedy revealed this to Vanity Fair:

“She was having a blast … The minute she finished, she grabbed me and said, ‘I’d better be at the forefront of IX!’ Because Harrison was front and center on VII, and Mark is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been.”

Photo credit: Disney

We know Fisher didn’t shoot any original footage for The Rise of Skywalker because the film didn’t begin production until more than a year after her death. Since then, there have been varying reports as to whether she would appear in the film at all, but we know now that the new film will include unused footage that was shot for The Force Awakens, a glimpse of which we saw in the film’s first trailer.

Following The Rise of Skywalker, Star Wars will take a hiatus from the big screen. Until very recently, there wasn’t a hard date on any new film project, but that has now changed, and thankfully, the hiatus will be fairly short.

The next Star Wars film will be released on December 16, 2022. That will be followed up with new titles on December 20, 2024, and December 18, 2026.

This release pattern follows that of the Episode VII through IX trilogy, which has led many to assume it will be a new trilogy, and if that’s the case, there are two contenders:

The Benioff and Weiss Project

The showrunners behind Game of Thrones, the biggest TV show of the decade, will be working on the next Star Wars film. On May 14, while speaking at the MoffetNathanson Media & Communcations summit, Iger revealed that the 2022 Star Wars project will come from Thrones chiefs David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

When their project was announced in early 2018, Iger said Benioff and Weiss were not interested in a streaming series, but rather a series of films (not explicitly a trilogy) that would focus on “a particular point in time in the Star Wars franchise.”

That specific wording suggests this project might be more related to the Star Wars universe we currently know-perhaps the “Knights of the Old Republic” movie Kennedy hinted at last month?-but it’s still far too early to say.

Benioff and Weiss will begin their work on the films shortly after Game of Thrones wraps this month.

The Rian Johnson Trilogy

Shortly before the release of The Last Jedi, which Johnson wrote and directed, Kennedy announced he would be heading up a new film trilogy that “will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.”

Besides the apparent lack of Skywalkers, not much else is known at this time about the direction of these films, but Johnson will write and direct at least the first of the three. And as the creative mind behind the entire trilogy, he’ll certainly be integral to finding writers and directors to tackle the second and third films, assuming he chooses not to do them himself.

Production has wrapped on Johnson’s next film project, an Agatha-Christie-style crime movie called Knives Out, and he has said he’ll be returning immediately back to Star Wars once the film is out.

The New Star Wars TV Shows

Will we see Skywalkers on the small screen?

While all the hype right now surrounds The Rise of Skywalker, it’s not actually the next Star Wars property we’ll get to see. That distinction belongs to The Mandalorian, a new original series that will arrive with the launch of Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+, this November.

Photo credit: Disney

1. What (or Who) Is The Mandalorian?

The last time a live-action Star Wars property debuted on the small screen was the ill-fated and infamous Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978. Disney is hoping for better results from this series, which is headed up by Jon Favreau (director of Iron Man, The Jungle Book, and the upcoming The Lion King remake).

The show will take place in the time between The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, when the First Order takes shape and gains control over the Galaxy, and it will follow the titular bounty hunter, who comes from the same race as the aforementioned Boba Fett.

Pedro Pascal (Prince Oberyn from Game of Thrones) will play the titular character. He’s joined in the cast by Gian Carano (Haywire), Nick Nolte (48 Hrs.), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Carl Weathers (Arrested Development), and famed documentarian Werner Herzog, who just revealed he accepted the role and completed filming without ever having seen a Star Wars film before.

Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Disney

Some short footage dropped at the Star Wars Celebration back in April, but that has yet to officially make its way online. (You can read a description of the footage here.)

2. What Else Is Coming to Disney+ and When?

There have been lots of definitive Marvel series titles announced, but not so much on the Star Wars front. When the service debuts, one other new television season will be available with another project not far behind.

The first is a final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This animated series began back in 2008 and ran for five seasons and 108 episodes on Cartoon Network. The project was revived by Netflix for a shorter sixth season in 2014, and in 2018, creator David Filoni announced a seventh and final season would be coming in 2019.

This season is expected to fill in some knowledge gaps that will connect to The Mandalorian (which takes place several years in the future after The Clone Wars). Filoni has also said that Ray Park will return to the franchise to perform motion-capture work as Darth Maul, the sith apprentice who seemed to die in 1999’s The Phantom Menace but unexpectedly appeared briefly via hologram in Solo. Maul has been a major force in the Star Wars extended universe, including Clone Wars, and it’s expected that in this final season, he’ll duel with the show’s primary original character, Ahsoka.

The other new streaming project, which won’t be available on November 12, is a Rogue One prequel series starring Diego Luna, who portrayed Cassian Andor in the 2016 film, which took place immediately before the events of the first A New Hope (Episode IV) and chronicled a ragtag group of rebels who track down the schematics for the Death Star.

We know this new project is a prequel to Rogue One based on what happens in the film, but because that movie brought together almost all of its characters for the first time, it’s not expected that many others will be back (including Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso).

The exception is the droid K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk, who helped break the news on Twitter back in April:

Cassian said I had to https://t.co/H4xeSFLMs8

- alan tudyk (@AlanTudyk) April 11, 2019

The show will be run by Stephen Schiff, executive producer of FX’s The Americans. It will likely begin production later this year with an eye on a 2021 premiere.

In addition to The Mandalorian and the entire run of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Episodes I through VII, plus Rogue One, will be available when Disney+ drops, and Episodes VIII, IX, and Solo will be added over the course of the service’s first year.

Not Enough Yet? Go Visit the Star Wars Galaxy

Guests at Disneyland in California can enjoy a unique Star Wars “themed destination” called Galaxy’s Edge beginning May 31. A similar park will open in Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort on August 29, according to Iger.

The park will feature themed shops, restaurants, and other attractions (like the famous Cantina) that fans and guests can explore, as well as two rides: “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run” and “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.” (Iger called the latter "the most technologically advanced and immersive attraction" Disney has ever seen.)

In Florida, there will also be an immersive hotel where guests will get storylines that they can follow over the course of their stay. Hotel workers-rather, cast members-will be in costume, playing various roles from the Star Wars universe, and every window in the hotel will offer a view of outer space. It’s expected to open in the fall, and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek said, "It's unlike anything that exists today."

We’ll continue to update this post as we learn new more information about the future of Star Wars.

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