New ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy in the Works
What will director Rian Johnson do with Lucasfilm's billion dollar "blank canvas"?
Yesterday, Lucasfilm dropped a Star Wars bombshell. While fans worldwide still have a month to go until Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, hits cinemas, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has already expressed the utmost confidence in its reception and director Rian Johnson’s abilities. Johnson, perhaps best known so far for his Inception-like time-bending thriller Looper, will both write and direct a brand new trilogy of Star Wars films, with longtime collaborator Ram Bergman along as producer.
“We all loved working with Rian on The Last Jedi,” said Kennedy in a statement on the official Star Wars website. “He’s a creative force, and watching him craft The Last Jedi from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career. Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy.”
The term “blank canvas” leaves a lot of room for speculation, and Lucasfilm is absolutely adamant in emphasizing just how blank the canvas is that they’re handing to Johnson. This new trilogy, which is described as “separate from the episodic Skywalker saga,” will feature new characters set in “a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.”
Though no other details have been provided, that actually does rule out a few options. The years between the existing trilogies are being covered extensively already by the Star Wars Rebels animated TV series, the Marvel comics, and anthology films like Rogue One and the upcoming Solo. Going further into the future beyond the current stories means they’d have to bend over backwards not to reference preceding events and characters, so that pretty much just leaves going backwards in time. Roughly 4.000 years back, perhaps?
“STAR WAR LEGENDS” AS INSPIRATION?
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (often abbreviated as KOTOR) was a game set four millennia before the original trilogy, and first released for Xbox in 2003. Along with its 2004 sequel Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, it has remained popular ever since. Both games are still available for sale on Steam, and have been ported for iOS and Android devices in recent years. They introduced fan-favorite characters like Revan, Traya, Darth Malak and Darth Nihilus and are still widely seen as the best Star Wars games available.
The vast storylines of the KOTOR games and the books it spawned are no longer considered canon ever since Disney purchased Lucasfilm. Disney gave itself a clean slate by relegating all stories outside of the films and Cartoon Network Clone Wars series released before their takeover to the status of “Star Wars Legends.” But popular characters from those “Legends” have already been salvaged before, reappearing in stories which are now canon.
Grand Admiral Thrawn, for instance, was created as the main antagonist of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy, a series of books set five years after Return of the Jedi. Those stories might’ve been discarded when The Force Awakens came out, but Thrawn was reintroduced not long thereafter, as the main villain in the third and fourth seasons of Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels.
A hint that Lucasfilm might already be planning a similar move for at least Knights of the Old Republic characters HK-47 and Darth Nihilus has been around for over half a year already. Earlier this year, they were both introduced as unlockable characters in an update for the iOS and Android mobile game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
According to earlier, out-of-canon lore, Darth Nihilus was one of the most powerful Sith Lords in the history of the galaxy. His need to sustain himself by draining the Force of others earned him the title “Lord of Hunger.” The mobile game, in which you can steal health from enemies to heal yourself and kill with a single touch, reflects these immense, dark powers. His inclusion in a freemium smartphone game might seem like small potatoes at first, but it could be a much bigger deal than it initially seemed.
Galaxy of Heroes features no other characters from “Legends” storylines and was released under the full purview of Disney (it even opens with their logo). The smartest thing Disney did after buying Star Wars was instituting the Lucasfilm Story Group, a team of writers keeping track of the overall Star Wars storyline. That group keeps the Star Wars universe from devolving into a myriad of messy and contradictory stories across media, which unfortunately happened with the earlier Star Wars Expanded Universe, after decades without much oversight. Simply put, since Disney took over, nothing gets included in any Star Wars story without the Lucasfilm Story Group’s ultimate seal of approval. In that light, the random appearance of Darth Nihilus in this game may perhaps not be so random after all.
“We had the time of our lives collaborating with Lucasfilm and Disney on The Last Jedi,” Johnson and Bergman said in a statement. “Star Wars is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it. We can’t wait to continue with this new series of films.”
Setting up shop in a setting like that of the KOTOR games, should give them all the freedom they need, while still tying in a couple of well-liked characters and fleshing out that mythology. Of course, it’s possible Johnson will tap into an entirely different era, but then why would Disney bother keeping these specific characters around?
We’ll just have to wait and see though, how long ago exactly it’ll be, when Johnson again takes us to “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”