So that’s it. It’s done. The Rise of Skywalker has arrived and, with it, the 42-year Skywalker Saga has come to an end. The story George Lucas started with A New Hope has been concluded, somewhat divisively, by JJ Abrams.
Now, for the first time since Disney got the keys to the galaxy far, far away, the path ahead is unclear. There’s no explicit forward plan for the Star Wars franchise and, really, the only certainty is that there will be more.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has confirmed that there will be a “hiatus” in the movies, having previously told the New York Times he believes Disney and Lucasfilm “put a little bit too much in the marketplace too fast” when they first acquired the franchise rights.
But what then? Will audiences get to see what happens to the protagonists of the new series? Will the franchise look back into the past? Or will everything be totally different?
The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is still at work on his planned trilogy of films and Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige has also signed on to develop “a new wave of Star Wars content”.
So let’s take a look at the possibilities for the future.
There will be spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker ahead...
Although all of the marketing for The Rise of Skywalker sold it as a franchise-ending crescendo, there’s nothing stopping Disney from going back to the well. The film ended with Rey on Tatooine, declaring herself to be a Skywalker and wielding a rather fetching new lightsaber/staff with a gold beam. The First Order has been taken down, as have the resurgent Sith led by Sheev Palpatine. It seems like there’s nowhere for these characters to go but up.
However, as anyone with even a passing knowledge of Jedi lore knows, balance is key. So with the light side of the force dominant, it’s inevitable that the dark side will rise to meet them. It might be that the characters of Rey, Finn and Poe are picked up again, or it might be that there’s a flash-forward of a generation or two like the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
A direct sequel set quite some way in the future could be a good way to continue the franchise without dealing too heavily in ground that has already been trodden. However, given how much old material worked its way into the most recent trilogy, it’s not a guarantee of originality.
One of the most persistent rumours around the future of Star Wars is that Disney and Lucasfilm will produce a movie adaptation of the popular video game Knights of the Old Republic. There was a report earlier this year that Lucasfilm was considering the project and it’s certainly high on the wish list for fans. Frequently lauded as one of the best video games ever made, it’s an engaging story with a memorable twist ending that seems tailor-made for a movie outing.
The prequel route, however, might be a little less attractive for Lucasfilm given the disappointment of Solo: A Star Wars Story, which flopped at the box office and ended up being one of the most expensive movies ever made. Knights of the Old Republic, however, is set 4,000 years before the formation of the Empire and, therefore, exists far enough away that it could well avoid the pitfalls that befell Solo, with its reinvention of an iconic big screen character.
One of the more successful elements of the Disney era of Star Wars was the surprisingly excellent Rogue One, which delivered a story set right in the thick of the universe audiences know and love. The film made it to $1.06bn (£814m) at the worldwide box office and received acclaim across the board. Meanwhile, The Mandalorian is currently wowing Disney+ audiences — though sadly not in the UK yet — with its narrative set just a few years after Return of the Jedi.
With that in mind, it seems that different stories set in disparate corners of the already familiar Star Wars universe are a viable option for expanding the franchise. There’s a whole lot of lore going on in the galaxy surrounding the events of the main series, and numerous sidequels could find room to explore that. The possibilities are pretty much endless.
There are already a selection of Star Wars spin-offs either happening or in the works mostly for Disney+. These include a spin-off for Diego Luna’s Rogue One character Cassian Andor and, of course, Kenobi in which Ewan McGregor reprises the role of the Jedi master. But it’s safe to assume these won’t be the only characters to get their own outings.
Read more: Possible plots for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series
Kathleen Kennedy has spoken about spin-off potential for characters from the current trilogy, so announcements will almost certainly be forthcoming in the next few months as the franchise resets. One of the most obvious options on the spin-off front is the newfound alliance between Lando Calrissian and Resistance ally Jannah, played all too briefly by Naomi Ackie. They strongly hint at potentially adventuring together at the end of The Rise of Skywalker and, given previous rumours that the two could be related, there’s plenty to explore there.
This latest film alone has yielded a handful of characters whose lives would be well worth exploring, most notably Keri Russell’s Zorri, whose only purpose in The Rise of Skywalker seems to be to flirt with Poe Dameron enough to thwart the Finn shippers. It would also be great to see more of Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, whose sidelining in Skywalker leaves a sour taste given her struggles with internet trolls after The Last Jedi.
Whatever direction the Star Wars franchise takes in the wake of The Rise of Skywalker, there’s no doubting the breadth of potential in George Lucas’ creation.
As long as these films keep making money, Disney will keep making them — and there’s no sign of this interstellar gravy train coming off the rails yet.