With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens just a week away, it can be easy to forget that Episode VII is just the first of many Star Wars films to come. In fact, Disney is planning to have a new Star Wars film in theaters at least once a year for the foreseeable future, and many of those films will fall outside of the official saga.
Over the weekend, Disney held a press event for The Force Awakens in order to stir excitement and answer a (very) few questions about the film. The press conference itself wasn’t especially enlightening, but Slashfilm’s Peter Sciretta had the chance to sit down with Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy to discuss the future of the franchise.
Rather than try to pry any information about The Force Awakens out of Kennedy, Sciretta focused on the standalone films, which are set to fill in the story of the Star Wars universe outside of the nine episodes.
Although she couldn’t go into detail about any of the films in production, Kennedy was willing to share that the films with the subtitle “A Star Wars Story” are going to run the gamut when it comes to genre storytelling. Episodes VII-IX will fit well with the previous episodes, but Rogue One and its counterparts will have a distinctly different feel.
“They are really being designed as standalone movies which is fantastic for the filmmakers we bring in, and the actors we hire, because it’s a different sensibility,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy also struck down any illusions about Disney attempting to manufacture new franchises from the standalone films. Each of the Star Wars Stories will “very definitely have a beginning, middle, and end.” The Stories also won’t be restricted to existing characters, despite the fact that Han Solo and Boba Fett are both rumored to be the focus of individual films:
“It just so happens to be Rogue One is the precursor to New Hope and yes, this Han Solo idea but I would not argue that we are setting up any kind of prequel notion with these standalone movies. I think that’s so far just coincidence. And to be perfectly honest, we have changed the order of those at the last minute, so that’s not the intention at all.”
Sciretta believes that the final sentence might be a hint that the standalone film previously helmed by Josh Trank might be the one that Kennedy is referring to, which could mean that the Boba Fett movie will actually be a sequel. It’s a bit of a stretch, but no one really believes the bounty hunter is dead after all.
But the most welcome news from the interview comes at the end, when Kennedy confirms that the Lucasfilm Story Group will be there every step of the way, ensuring that the Star Wars universe doesn’t split into multiple timelines as it did when the Expanded Universe took shape in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
“George allowed that expanded universe to really go its own way. And some of it was extraordinary and really well done. And some of it, less so. But it didn’t follow any narrative structure and we felt with all of the development that was going to go on in all these different areas, [that] would make things too chaotic. And we didn’t abandon it because we thought something was wrong with it, we abandoned it because it had gone in too many different directions without any oversight by George, and that’s something we’re trying to rectify. So the concept of the expanded universe is similar to what we’re continuing to do, but within a bit more structure.”
I’m as excited as anyone about the release of The Force Awakens next weekend, but the prospect of a cohesive Star Wars universe might be even more exciting in the long run.