On 9th November 2017, Lucasfilm has announced that a new Star Wars trilogy is being planned. The Last Jedi’s writer and director, Rian Johnson, has been tasked with its creation, and should write and direct its first part.
Such an announcement provokes immediate emotional response in just about everyone. The most common reactions would be either “yay, more Star Wars!” or “oh no, enough is enough!” Both of these reactions are highly emotional, however, and I would like to move past these.
“Kylo Ren? Next!”
If we step back and look at the situation rationally, we need to recognise both the benefits and the negatives of the plan to make three new movies after the current trilogy. There is one big, immensely important reason why making more Star Wars movies is a good thing: that a new generation of fans can walk into a cinema, sit down and feel like they are in the middle of it happening. Fans who weren’t around to see the original film in 1977 got their chance to experience the same when The Phantom Menace was released. Now, The Force Awakens opened that possibility to the newest generation of fans. They, too, got the chance to feel like a part of the amazing saga is unfolding right in front of them.
But exactly that is also what makes the announcement of the subsequent trilogy problematic. The fans of the original trilogy had to wait for a decade for the prequels, and there was an equally long gap between the prequels and The Force Awakens. Yet the newest trilogy isn’t even finished, and we already hear about another one! It is especially the fans of the newest trilogy who may feel slighted. The original three movies are classic, and regardless of the fans’ many complaints, so are the prequels. But a fan of Rey, Finn, or Kylo Ren may start to feel that there was never really a time when everything was only about them. Without wanting to sound like a grouch, it is like “make a movie, sell, make the next.” It is a sign of the “one-use” approach to things in our time, including big stories.
Great Myths of Our Time, Or Not
Star Wars is a legend. It is a story competing together with the likes of The Lord of the Rings for a spot in the gallery of classics. Let me put it this way, bluntly: majority of movies, works of literature and art will be completely forgotten decades from now. Yet stories like the Odyssey or Romeo and Juliet remain in the cultural conscious of the public ages after they have been written. Even people who have never read them or watched them know the tropes from the story, quote from it, allusions are being made to them in popular culture. Star Wars is right there now, and there is a good chance it might be there still several hundred years from now.
But the reason why it still could be remembered even decades from now is not achieved by vomiting out a trilogy after a trilogy after a trilogy. On the contrary, that might turn out to be the recipe for it becoming forgotten.
Star Wars is, and always has been, something more than just another colourful action movie with funny creatures and one or two shallow “philosophical” elements. It is a story with strong themes and deeper subtext, narrated in a compelling manner in a compelling environment. That’s why none of the thousands of Star Wars books ever reached the level of the films, because usually they lacked the substance, or it was a pale shadow of the themes from the movies. They were the kind of thing you could read if you were really obsessed with Star Wars, if you wanted to learn how did the Jedi make their lightsabers or what did Chewbacca’s homeworld look like. The current “mass production” of Star Wars films keeps raising the probability that the movies will become just that. It erases the boundary between the “core” and the “extra”, and consequently, makes it possible that one day, all the films, including the original ones, will be just dumped into one messy bag labeled “Star Wars”, where nobody will be able to find the “core essence” of Star Wars anymore.
The Last Jedi Isn’t Even Out!
And there is one last thing. The starwars.com article said: “As writer-director of The Last Jedi, Johnson conceived and realized a powerful film of which Lucasfilm and Disney are immensely proud.” Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm president, stated: “Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy.”
It is very good that the representatives of Lucasfilm hold Rian Johnson in such a great esteem. I trust that they have good reasons for it. Myself, as a fan, I have no reason to doubt Mr. Johnson’s skill, but so far I have no reason to have high expectations of him, either. We, the audience, have yet to see The Last Jedi, not to speak of the final episode of the current trilogy.
I assume there is a pragmatic reason for announcing the plan if Lucasfilms has already made it for the following decade (?). If the decision to make a new trilogy sometime in the future has already been made, it is quite reasonable to announce it and not let the public learn about it through gossip and unverified rumours.
Nonetheless, until I have watched The Last Jedi and Rian Johnson’s work on Star Wars for myself, I shall reserve my judgment and my expectations. Until the story of Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn and everyone else has been finished, I am not going to give a single thought to some potential future story. When the time comes, I am going to hope it will deliver the same feeling to the generation of then-new fans as the old movies did to the first Star Wars fans ever. It is always possible that the new movies will bring something great and with so much inherent value that it will stand the test of time. But the warning sign already flashes for Lucasfilm – you are risking transforming the big name you are putting so much of your hopes on entirely into just another product for mass production and consumption, which no one will be interested in anymore when it becomes empty of any lasting value.