'Star Wars' is about to take its biggest risk since 'A New Hope'

Sam Ashurst
This image released by Lucasfilm shows Benicio del Toro as DJ in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” in theaters on Dec. 15. (Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm via AP)

Rian Johnson’s new Star Wars trilogy, as yet untitled (or even scripted) is the biggest risk Disney has taken since buying the property from George Lucas in 2012.

In fact, it’s the biggest gamble Star Wars has taken since George Lucas first decided to put money into his surreal script about space-princesses, pirates and a giant dog piloting a starship.

That’s because, however you feel about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Solo, there’s no denying they’re very much tied to what’s come before.

Solo might be a prequel, but you can bet it’ll be packed with references to, and cameos from, the original trilogy. Rogue One was so connected to A New Hope, you could edit the two films together and barely see the joins. As for The Force Awakens, it’s difficult to argue with the critics that claim it’s essentially a beat-by-beat remake of Lucas’ first instalment of the saga.

Rian Johnson’s new trilogy will be something completely different. It’ll be the first Star Wars film without a definitive connection to the Skywalkers. That’s something that’s never been tried before… and it was Rian Johnson’s idea.

“I was the one who said [to Disney], ‘The thing that’s interesting to me would be a new trilogy, one story told over three movies, on that big canvas of the Star Wars world. But—go someplace new, meet some new folks, tell a new story,’ and they really responded to that,” Johnson told io9.

Disney responded so strongly that the company made an official announcement in early November – a savvy bit of marketing that demonstrated confidence in Johnson ahead of The Last Jedi’s December release. It was news that had every geek outlet bellowing ‘So, we guess The Last Jedi must be good if they’re giving Johnson a whole new trilogy!’

Except, here’s the thing – even Johnson doesn’t know what the new trilogy’s going to be about.

“I haven’t figured it out yet,” he said. “It’s a really good question… For me the exciting thing about the new trilogy is the notion of how wide open it is and the idea of what can we create.”

This statement confirms what a bold move this was by Disney – announcing not just one film, but three – based on, well, nothing.

Nothing, that is, except a (Star Wars) universe of ideas the director can be inspired by. And exploring that universe will help us guess what these films will be about (but mainly what they won’t be).

What will Rian Johnson’s new Star Wars trilogy involve?

So far, details are vaguer than a Jedi prophecy, but we do have some information.

From the official statement, we know it’ll involve: “characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.”

It’ll also involve key Star Wars elements, such as the force. “It’s like gravity,” Johnson told io9. “It’s always there.”

Outside of that, it’s all guesswork. But we do know what it won’t involve.

It won’t be an adaptation

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ‘sort-of remake’ reportedly in the works at BioWare

Pretty much as soon as the new trilogy was announced, fans started speculating that it would take place during the era of the Knights Of The Old Republic video game series.

“I played that game when it first came out and it was like, god, I loved it,” Johnson said when Mashable asked him about it. “Yeah, that’s a fantastic game. And I understand it, the instinct to automatically go to something that you know and love, that you’ve already seen.”

“What’s really fun is the notion of what new stuff are we gonna see, what new stories can we tell? The possibility in a new story told over three movies, go anywhere, do anything, sky’s the limit, in Star Wars? That’s so exciting.”

That’s a pretty conclusive statement – the new trilogy won’t be based on the Knights Of The Old Republic, because it won’t be based on anything.

This is a massive creative jump, and arguably the riskiest element of them all – Johnson will be starting his films from scratch, as much as George Lucas did in 1977.

It won’t be ‘A Star Wars Story’

Despite the fact Episodes I – III completely tarnished the ‘Star Wars prequel’ branding, Disney has been stealthily making prequels since it bought Star Wars from Lucas, creating them in unison with its main saga. All the films released under the ‘A Star Wars Story’ banner are just prequels by a different name.

Therefore, expect the Rian Johnson trilogy to have a completely different branding when it’s eventually released, to separate it from this ‘Star Wars Story’ legacy content.

It won’t be numbered

This seems obvious, as it’s not a Skywalker saga instalment (and even they ditched the ‘episode’ titling for The Force Awakens) but we’d bet our last Bantha that Johnson’s trilogy won’t contain a single number.

Numbering movies is a much of a relic of the past as a lightsaber – which is lucky, really – because if we still used them then Avengers: Infinity War would be Avengers 19, and comic-book movie fatigue would have set in long ago.

So, no, the new trilogy won’t be numbered – and it might be structured in an another, very different, way.

It won’t be an epic

Not in the way we’ve come to expect from Star Wars, at least. Star Wars films are essentially a story of good vs evil told on a MASSIVE scale. Rian Johnson, meanwhile, is the master of intimate dramas with a twist – small scale stories that create large emotional responses. So, we’d expect his trilogy to be smaller than what we’ve seen before.

It’ll still be relatively big (it is Star Wars, after all), but more focused. We actually wouldn’t be surprised if this new trilogy revolved around a quest narrative. Something similar to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, following a small group of people who have to achieve a big goal, a goal that’ll take them through a new galaxy of weird creatures and strange locations.

It won’t be dull

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an assassin with a difference in ‘Looper’. (TriStar Pictures)

Whatever this Star Wars trilogy involves, it’ll be interesting. Rian Johnson doesn’t do traditional, whether it’s his high school movie Brick (where everyone talks like they’re in a film noir), or his time travel movie Looper (where people are assassinating themselves) or his quirky rom com The Brothers Bloom (about con men).

None of these films set the box office alight, which adds to the overall risk Disney’s taking, but they were all creatively successful, with a warm critical response to each.

And that’s possibly the most impressive element of all. Disney’s handed Rian Johnson with the keys to the next Millennium Falcon, without a massive box office haul behind him (well, until The Last Jedi comes out, obviously) on the strength of his ideas and passion.

And that’s the kind of risk-taking we hope the force will be with, always.

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