A Long Storied History Continues…
On May 25th, 1977, 20th Century Fox released a low-budget, science fiction fantasy film from an up-and-coming director named George Lucas. That movie was called “Star Wars,” and to everyone’s surprise at the time, it became a worldwide sensation that would change the face of cinema and culture forever. In the forty-two years since “Star Wars” came out, the lowly first film has inspired four sequels, three prequels, several TV shows, millions of action figures, hundreds of comics, dozens of books, numerous parodies, and countless spin-offs—not to mention video games, soundtracks, accessories, clothes and other kinds of merchandize that have been embraced across the globe.
In 2012, George Lucas sold his creation to the Walt Disney Company, and since then, new Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has revamped the franchise with additional content, starting with “Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens” in 2015 and continuing with “Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi” in 2017, along with some spinoff anthology movies and cartoon TV series in between.
Now, “Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker” is just days away. This is the movie that will mark the end of the original Star Wars story that began in 1977 with episodes IV, V, and VI, continued at the turn of the millennium with episodes I, II, and III, and now wraps up with the recent Disney movies. Altogether, episodes I-IX make up the “Skywalker Saga,” as they focus on the members of the Skywalker family that the original movies revolve around.
The Launch is Upon Us
Much has already been said about “The Rise of Skywalker,” and there is certainly a lot of pressure on director J.J. Abrams (who also directed “The Force Awakens”) to successfully follow up on Rian Johnson’s divisive “The Last Jedi” and also bring the saga to a satisfying, impactful close.
With the return of “Force Awakens” and “Last Jedi” stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Issac, “Rise of Skywalker” will be many fans’ last chance to see these actors’ beloved characters on screen. Also, veteran characters from Episodes IV, V, and VI portrayed by original actors Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Ian McDairmid, and the late Carrie Fischer will also appear in the movie, creating acute senses of nostalgia and authentic emotion.
However, as heavy as “Rise of Skywalker” might be, fans can take solace in the fact that although the Skywalker Saga is ending, Star Wars as a whole is not really going anywhere. Perhaps we may not be getting any further content focusing on characters like Luke, Leia, Rey, or Anakin, and we may not be seeing another movie in the theaters for a while. Nevertheless, under the supervision of Disney, the forty-two year old franchise is bound to continue for many more. In fact, we have already seen the next steps taking shape.
With the launch of Disney+, Lucasfilm has recently made a boom with its first ever live-action series, “The Mandalorian.” Spearheaded by executive producer Jon Favreau, the show has received wonderful reviews from critics and fans alike and it has already been renewed for a second season.
Disney+ has announced two additional live-action Star Wars series as well, each of which will focus on a pre-existing character. One will center on Cassian Andor, the rebel hero played by Diego Luna in 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The other will be about Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi master first portrayed by Alec Guinness in the original “Star Wars” and then portrayed by Ewam McGreggor in the prequel trilogy. McGreggor will be reprising the role for the series. Evidently, at least a couple familiar faces from the Skywalker Saga will be sticking around the Star Wars universe. We can probably even expect a few surprise cameos from other fan-favorite characters and actors as well.
The Universe Expands…
Aside from television, Respawn Entertainment recently released “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” a videogame with a storyline fit for the Star Wars cannon. The same goes for “Vader Immortal” a VR experience that Disney is releasing on a one-episode-at-a-time basis. Disney also opened “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” in its theme parks earlier this year, offering its patrons an immersive narrative experience within the Star Wars universe. Clearly, Disney is taking Star Wars into experimental and expansive new territories.
Then, of course, there are still the movies—the medium from which all this fanaticism and transmedia entertainment began. While it might seem like there is nothing left for Star Wars to say after “Rise of Skywalker” closes the book on the original story, in actuality, there are many more books yet to be opened in the Star Wars universe. Rian Johnson has already been approved for his own spinoff movie trilogy, and with anthology films like “Rogue One” and “Solo” already finding success in between the Skywalker Saga movies, we can expect to see Star Wars back on the big screen soon enough.
In total, “The Rise of Skywalker” may be a little bitter sweet. We are excited to see the last chapter of this larger-than-life story, but we are also sad to say goodbye to it. Happily, though, Star Wars is one of Disney’s most lucrative pieces of intellectual property right now. Episode IX will likely be Disney’s biggest hit this year after “Avengers: Endgame,” and 2019 has been a very successful year for the company.
As long as Disney is chasing profits—which they do oh so prolifically—we can expect to see more Star Wars growing and expanding into different forms of media while also keeping a foot in their filmic origins. For even though the story famously takes place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Star Wars will never really stray too far from its Earthly home and its die-hard fans that have stuck with it through and through.
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