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A Quick Guide to Disney’s Three, Maybe Even Four Different Star Wars Trilogies

Well, those thousands of Facebook users who claim to have sabotaged Last Jedi’s RottenTomatoes score, planned to do the same for Black Panther before Facebook deactivated their group page, and will probably pop back up again in their quest to protest any and all Disney-run franchises aren’t gonna like this: Disney is making another Star Wars trilogy.

No, not the Rey-Kylo Ren one we’re currently in the home stretch of after Last Jedi.

No, not that Rian Johnson one we know nothing about.

No, not the planned trilogy of gap-filling standalone prequels that started with Rogue One and Solo and might yet include an Obi-Wan or Boba Fett movie (or might simply end with Solo).

No, now we’re talking about an entirely different trilogy to be written by Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

That’s right, people. All Star Wars, all the time! Disney has a Star Wars theme park attraction to open, release slots and theater seats to fill, quarterly profits to boost, toy manufacturers to please, and an entire generation of capable filmmakers who only got into the business because of the way George Lucas inspired them back in the 70s. So, if J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, and the Game of Thrones dudes want in on adding their own piece to the larger Star Wars story why would Disney ever so no to that?

However, for all of those less nerdy people who have lost track of which trilogy is which and who’s making what here’s a quick guide to Disney’s now-multiple Star Wars franchises:

Force AwakensLast Jedi-Episode 9 These are the ones that continue the Skywalker saga of George Lucas’s movies. Force Awakens and Last Jedi, combined, have grossed nearly $4 billion. So, chances are you’re already familiar with these movies. J.J. Abrams is directing the final installment, due next year. Let’s move on.

Rian Johnson’s trilogy Here’s the truth, at least the truth as Johnson has told it in multiple interviews now: he doesn’t fully know what his trilogy is going to be about.

Let’s back up.

Before Last Jedi even came out, LucasFilm announced it was continuing its partnership with Johnson on a new, non-Skywalker-connected trilogy of Star Wars movies (translation: it will be set in the Star Wars universe but have nothing to do with the earlier movies). Cheekily, Johnson joked on Twitter that now he really hoped people liked Last Jedi. He needn’t have worried, though. His film is as bold a piece of blockbuster filmmaking as you’ll ever see (well, at least outside of Blade Runner: 2049). Surely, the world will forgive the film’s minor flaws and…

Huh. Well, guess it’s a good thing he got that deal with LucasFilms in writing before all of, um, that.

[Check out FilmMusicCentral’s more balanced breakdown of the good, bad, and ugly of Last Jedi.]

In Johnson’s telling, he had such a good time working with LucasFilms on Last Jedi that some time near the end of production they mutually agreed to keep working together for many years to come on a new trilogy. Thus, the genesis here wasn’t a killer pitch for a new story but instead a “let’s just keep this going and figure out the story stuff as we go.” That’s not to say he didn’t actually have some idea for a new movie trilogy. LucasFilm wouldn’t have committed to him without some sense of where he wanted to take things. But, at this point, while they do plan to map out the trilogy before they ever start filming they’re so not even close to having that map completed yet.

In practical terms, the plan, as originally announced, is for Johnson to write and direct the first one and then possibly transition into a producing role while handing off directing duties on the next two. That may or may not still be the case, but one thing we do know for sure: this trilogy will NOT be an adaptation of Knights of the Old Republic. Sorry, XBox fans. That was a killer game in its day. Johnson knows. He played the hell out of it, but he wants to do something different with these movies.

The Standalone Spin-Offs

Disney spent a lot to buy LucasFilm. A LOT. As in, if they had turned super charitable and simply set that LucasFilm money aside for disaster relief they could be using it to help rebuild a not-insignificant chunk of Puerto Rico right now. But not everyone saw the fiscal wisdom in Disney CEO Bob Iger taking such a massive swing on George Lucas’s devalued old toys. So, in a bid to recoup costs and prove naysayers wrong Iger and LucasFilm head Kathleen Kennedy laid out a strategy of releasing one new Star Wars movie a year, with standalone prequels filling the gaps between new trilogy installments. That meant there needed to be standalones in 2016 and 2018, with an option for perhaps a third sometime after that. Rogue One and Solo obviously ended up being the standlones they went with, but at one point there was a bit of a bakeoff between Boba Fett, Yoda, and Obi-Won for the third slot.

Then Josh Trank turned his last name into a verb and tranked so hard on Fantastic Four that he was fired from what was believed to be the Boba Fett movie. The project seemed to die on the vine after that. At this point, there are no concrete plans for any further standalone entries beyond Solo, which itself underwent considerable production difficulties. Ditto for Rogue One. Really, LucasFilm has been having an uncommonly hard time with these things.

The Trilogy from the Game of Thrones Guys

Put some lightsabers in their hands and, boom, you’ve got yourself a GoT-style Star Wars scene

We…know next to nothing about these. So, here are the quotes from the press release:

“David and Dan are some of the best storytellers working today,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in a statement. “Their command of complex characters, depth of story and richness of mythology will break new ground and boldly push Star Wars in ways I find incredibly exciting.”

“In the summer of 1977 we traveled to a galaxy far, far away, and we’ve been dreaming of it ever since,” Benioff and Weiss said in a joint statement. “We are honored by the opportunity, a little terrified by the responsibility, and so excited to get started as soon as the final season of Game of Thrones is complete.”

That final GoT season is due next year. Too bad Emilia Clarke is already in Solo. If not, she could have traveled with Benioff and Weiss over to LucasFilms and become the new Rey for their trilogy, riding Star Wars-style dragons into battle.

The question at this point becomes whether or not we are building to a point where, as with Marvel Studios, Disney might start releasing more than one Star Wars movie per year. If so, how would that really work? Marvel’s movies are all set in the same universe and continuity whereas the Skywalker saga, Johnson trilogy, and GoT trilogy will exist in the same universe but not even necessarily in the same time period. Granted, Episode 9 will be out before either Johnson or Benioff and Weiss have their first film ready (or even in production). So, the real overlap is between Rian Johnson’s trilogy and Benioff and Weiss’s. Won’t it be extra confusing to go back and forth between two different trilogies, year to year? And if they switch over to releasing more than one of these a year will Star Wars movies lose their event status?

All practical considerations I’m sure they’ve yet to work out.

The upside (or downside, considering your level of GoT fandom): the Game of Thrones guys are making Star Wars movies!


    1. You’re welcome for the shoutout. There’s actually even more Star Wars coming out than I knew when I wrote the article. Since then, I’ve learned Bob Iger mentioned on an earnings call yesterday that they are planning on producing several live-action Star Wars TV shows for Disney’s streaming service and are close to being ready to announce each one of those. The Game of Thrones guys are making the movies because they explicitly wanted to move away from TV and try making movies this time around, but the people they have lined up for the new shows are said to be some big, recognizable names with notable credits. Maybe not as notable as GoT, but still shows nerds would know.

  1. I don’t think that it would be a smart move to release more than one Star Wars movie per year. Star Wars fans don’t like to hear it but despite the impressive box office of The Force Awakens, I do think that the MCU has a stronger and broader fandom than Star Wars. Star Wars could partly trust in their fans watching every movie, because they all were event movies, something special which only happened occasionally and sometimes with a decade or so gap inbetwen. It is smart, though, to establish a franchise within the franchise, because if the main franchise fails, the alternative might still gather interest, and they might even draw in new viewer this way.

    Let’s first see how the Solo movie will work out.

    1. I agree, I’m down with once a year, because that makes it an annual event; you know, like christmas or halloween. More than once a year and it loses that special quality. Much as I love marvel, it is nowhere near as special anymore because they have three movies per year. It just feels like the next episode of a really drawn out tv show.

      1. Marvel is different….see the article I just posted about this topic. Being part of a larger narrative is part of its charm, but there are also a lot of fans which only watch part of the franchise.

  2. It’s going to be a tricky balance, especially where they’re producing movies for a fandom that’s proven to be divided in its tolerance for flexibility in deciding what makes a Star Wars movie a Star Wars movie. It will be interesting to see whether ‘Solo’ can win back some of the goodwill ‘The Last Jedi’ seemed to lose them. We won’t really know the true effect of the fan-storm we just witnessed until ‘Episode IX’ lands. It will be interesting to see how the final installment of the Sequels will influence how ‘The Last Jedi’ is ultimately viewed.

    1. Well put, all around. Disney is pushing all in on Star Wars at a time when not only did the most recent movie fall well short of financial expectations so did the related toy sales. As such, even though Last Jedi is still a billion-dollar-grossing movie and is also a movie I personally regard as being quite astounding we are still in this weird moment where 3.7 thousand people signed up for a Facebook Group whose sole mission was to fuck with the online ratings for any Disney franchise movie because they hate what Disney has done to Star Wars (among other things). So, we are stuck in this weird tug-of-war between the fans and the license holders where, as you perfectly put it, “fandom is divided in its tolerance for flexibility in deciding what makes a Star Wars movie a Star Wars movie.”

      Solo will obviously be the first test of this new state of play, but that film has had such a messy history that it might get a slight pass, in that if it’s not great, well, we’re kind of already expecting that. Episode 9, though, is where it gets interesting. What happens if fans turn on that one, too? And at what point does that actually matter? Because, geez, Last Jedi still made something like $1.2 billion. Despite everything, it’s one of the biggest movies of all time, and the conversation around it doesn’t seem to be quite as overwhelmingly negative as was the case for the similarly financially successful prequels.

      All of that is playing out at the same time Disney is plowing forward with not just two different new trilogies but also multiple live-action TV shows for their new streaming service. Even in the best of times, they are flirting with overkill here. As someone who actually likes Force Awakens/Rogue One/Last Jedi, I’m kind of cool with it, but I imagine this doubling down on Disney’s part has their critics foaming at the mouth.

      1. For sure! It’s easy to compare what we might be heading into with Disney’s trajectory for Star Wars with what’s happened with Marvel. That’s already been covered in the comments above, so I’m not going to dig into it. Saturation is a major issue to contend with, though. Like you, I love this new generation of SW films and am dying to see how the Sequels wrap up next year, but this new announcement of yet another trilogy added to the docket makes me a little leery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid ‘GoT’ fan and am excited to see what the showrunners behind it could do with SW. Is it too much, though?

        I think you make a good point in that it will all depend on the schedule they decide to work with. If they weave the Johnson & W/B trilogies around one another on a release schedule, alternating between them each year, it could be too much. And we can’t lose track of Kathleen Kennedy’s statement that we’ll be seeing Rey, Finn, and other members of the Sequel cast again later on down the road. We can only assume that will be ANOTHER trilogy all its own. If that can be expected in ten years, how might it impact the (presumably) six-year schedule of the Johnson and W/B trilogies?

        As messy as it all looks and as much as it has me concerned for the overall health of a franchise I grew up loving, I do have enough faith in what’s been accomplished thus far to hold onto hope for how things will proceed. As much flack as Johnson caught for ‘The Last Jedi,’ he came to it out of love for the story and gave it a spin that allows for a future beyond the Skywalkers (of which there are now none left, let’s remember).

        I just hope ‘Episode IX’ will do for ‘The Last Jedi’ what ‘Return of the Jedi’ ultimately did for ‘Empire Strikes Back.’ Will we look back 10, 20, 30 years from now and still be listening to all this hate for the movie that “changed everything,” do you think?

      2. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid ‘GoT’ fan and am excited to see what the showrunners behind it could do with SW. Is it too much, though?”

        What Last Jedi showed us is there is no master plan here. We’d been led to believe (or simply assumed) that Abrams and Kasdan mapped out the major events of the trilogy and left it open for collaborators to fill in the blanks. Instead, they’re really just figuring this out on the fly, which is partially what makes Last Jedi so invigorating for those attuned to its risk-taking and contentious for those who aren’t. It just throws away everything we thought we knew and expected based on FA and general franchise history and goes in far more interesting directions with it. Abrams looked at everything and remade New Hope; Johnson looked at it and then practically unmade (that’s a word, right?) Force Awakens. Now, no one has a damn idea what could possibly be coming in the next movie, and it’s an amazing feeling.

        But, wow, now we’re talking about an additional two trilogies, both of which will be unconnected to each other or to the Skywalker saga. At the very least, maybe they need to plan these movies out a little more thoroughly this time because we’re venturing into this odd new phase where….how to put it…it’d be like if every Marvel movie that has come out in recent years, both the ones in the MCU and outside of it (which mostly means the X-men movies), had been made and released by Marvel Studios. Hey, here are these movies over here that connect to each other, and then these over here that connect, but never shall they meet in the middle. Not because we can’t do that, legally, but just because, fuck it, we don’t want to. It’d be super confusing, and how well they were spaced out and differentiated from one another through the marketing would determine how well it worked out. That’s where Disney is heading with Star Wars right now.

        Even then, your “is it too much?” question lingers. They are turning Star Wars into a film brand in a way it never has been before. You couldn’t just slap that Star Wars label on a movie and instantly sell it. No, it had to connect to the story that blew us away in ’77 (I say even though I wasn’t even born then) and continues the Saga we grew up on. Now, they’re stretching it out and hiring some really good people to take them there. But it’s a brand new look for the franchise and certainly risks diluting the brand. I have no idea if it will work out, but I’m excited to see them try, although in truth I sort of have this gnawing thought in the back of my head that only one of these trilogies will end up actually happening. Really, right now all they’ve committed to is letting these guys write a couple of scripts. If both happen, though, they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt from me. I love what Disney’s done with the movies to this point.

        “I just hope ‘Episode IX’ will do for ‘The Last Jedi’ what ‘Return of the Jedi’ ultimately did for ‘Empire Strikes Back.’ Will we look back 10, 20, 30 years from now and still be listening to all this hate for the movie that “changed everything,” do you think?”

        It was refreshing to look back at the history and realize/learn that Last Jedi and Empire were similarly debated in their time. As such, since Empire is considered the best of all SW movies surely Last Jedi will stand the test of time. I have to also believe that because I love Last Jedi so much. But, man, the internet has changed fandom so drastically, to the point that we’ve started to become more accustomed to more remembering the reactions to movies than remembering the actual movies themselves (see: Ghostbusters, Batman v Superman). However, I think quality still wins out and the passions of the day will inevitably give way to the “does it stand the test of time?” question, angry internet critics or not. As you said, what Abrams does with Episode 9 will determine a lot of that. After all, if he does the unthinkable and undoes some of Rian Johnson’s more controversial choices than Last Jedi will be made somewhat obsolete, a victim of retconning run amok. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though.

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