Disney released a…press release.
Hold on. That’s just terrible. Let me start over.
According to a new Disney press release, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill will both appear in Star Wars IX. Hardly surprising for the latter since Hamill’s return as a Force Ghost has seemed all but guaranteed since the second Last Jedi ended. Fisher, on the other hand, is surprising simply because Disney and LucasFilm already made a big deal out of vowing not to resurrect her via digital recreation ala the Peter Cushing act in Rogue One. They haven’t completely gone back on that promise. Instead, J.J. Abrams is going to repurpose previously unseen footage shot during Force Awakens. How exactly that all works out remains to be seen.
Good news: There’s at least one last genuine scene of Fisher as Leia on the way.
Bad news: Um, nothing. This is an inherently good thing. There’s less bad here than there is simple uncertainty over whether they’ll be able to actually pull this off in a seamless manner or if the new footage will feel entirely extraneous or superfluous (or other big words).
But there’s another part of the press release which is interesting. Here’s how Disney chose to describe the forthcoming conclusion to the Force Awakens trilogy: “Star Wars IX will be the final installment of the Skywalker saga.”
Not the final installment of the Rey and Kylo Ren show.
Not the final installment of the Rey-Finn romance.
Not the final installment of Disney’s plundering of George Lucas’ universe (a freebie for you Last Jedi haters).
No, the final installment of “the Skywalker saga.”
After this, there will be more Star Wars movies because, um, money (duh). But for Episode IX Disney is hereby planting its flag in the “It all ends with this” marketing angle, not dissimilar to what they just did with Infinity War. Except Infinity War serves as the finale of 10 years of world-building whereas Episode IX promises to pay off 42 years of Star Wars storytelling built around the Skywalkers, from Luke to Anakin to Ben (and possibly Rey, for those still clinging to the hope that Last Jedi’s “she’s just a peasant girl” reveal will be retconned away).
Plans are in place for there to be new trilogies focused on different characters and time periods/areas of the Star Wars galaxy. So, the story in this far away galaxy will continue, but Disney is preparing to abandon that which used to anchor all of us to these stories, namely the need to see what happens next with the Skywalkers. Given the currently turbulent state of some pockets of fandom over Last Jedi and just generally what Disney has done with the franchise, any new movies in the future might be more easily skipped because there won’t be the need to see how the overall story finishes.
Before all of that, though, there’s the little matter of attending Episode IX in 2019. Disney is banking on pulling in fans with the frustratingly tantalizing old trick- the “Don’t you want to see how this all ends?” hook. LucasFilm played up that same angle 13 years ago with Revenge of the Sith, pretty effectively, too, considering the rebound the film enjoyed at the box office compared to Attack of the Clones:
The difference back then is A. Everyone already technically knew the ending – Anakin becomes Darth Vader; B. As far as we knew at the time, Revenge of the Sith was going to be the last Star Wars movie ever.
So, it’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s an interestingly familiar playbook for Episode IX to follow. With Han and Luke dead on-screen and Carrie Fisher tragically dead off-screen, the Skywalker saga has arguably already reached its end. Last Jedi quite aggressively passes the torch to not only the new generation introduced in Force Awakens (only of one of whom, Kylo, is a confirmed Skywalker) but also the next generation of nameless broomstick kids who might grow into greatness. However, given the Last Jedi blowback Episode IX will likely take a far less aggressive stance and aim for a finale to the story that pleases new and old fans alike. Good luck with that, J.J., but you’ve already got me. I love the new movies and absolutely have to see how it all ends. How will the “don’t you want to know the ending?” angle work for those who feel less kind toward Force Awakens and Last Jedi?