Disney recently confirmed that a third Star Wars anthology film will be happening in 2020. The first of these films, which will feature stories that take place outside of the Skywalker family arc, start with Rogue One this December. A second will come in 2018, this one featuring a young Han Solo played by Hail Caesar! star Alden Ehrenreich.
The story of the third, though? That’s not yet been revealed. The most common possibilities are a standalone Boba Fett film and, preferably, an Obi-Wan Kenobi film that brings Ewan McGregor back to the franchise. While I would love to see Obi-Wan’s adventures in exile on Tatooine after Anakin’s fall, I hope that Disney and Lucasfilm go in a different direction.
So far in the Disney-era official canon, we’ve stayed in the safe zone of Empire versus Rebels. We’ve had very, very little Clone Wars-era stories, and most of the ones we have had edge more toward the Rebellion than they do the Clone Wars. The new episodic trilogy goes 30 years beyond the Empire, but with an extremely similar set of heroes and villains. And so far, the anthology films are staying in the Empire time period. The Clone Wars and Rebels television series fall into those timelines as well. We’ve only really seen sixty-ish years of Star Wars history on screen so far.
There are literally thousands of years of history in the Star Wars universe. Take a look at this timeline to see how much time we’re dealing with, and how many gaps exist without the Legends media. Multiply that with the countless numbers of characters that exist at any given point in that history. Let’s get some help from Artoo and Beebee-Ate. That map of the galaxy from The Force Awakens is probably the best we have at the moment; it shows a dizzying number of planets. The number of inhabited planets that have existed through this history presents a nearly unlimited set of stories to explore.
So let’s not limit ourselves to a small window here. Let’s tell more stories, meet new heroes, and learn about other pivotal moments in the galaxy’s history. For these reasons, if Disney/Lucasfilm were to ask me what type of film to move forward with (and I’m available – just hit up the contact links below), I would choose the days of the Old Republic – long before the Clone Wars.
Depending on how far back in history the movie falls, you may lose most of the characters the general public is familiar with. (It’s possible, though, to avoid that. More in a moment.) But you are gaining something perhaps more valuable: high visibility for a huge number of fans into an era of Star Wars that’s brand-new to the silver screen. While the hardcore fans out there may already be familiar with this time period and its possibilities, there are so many that aren’t. This is an unequaled opportunity to prime that pump.
At this point in time, Disney may not even know what the future holds for Star Wars films beyond 2020. I assume a large part of that will be based on how the remaining five movies perform at the box office. If more films will be coming beyond this third anthology film, then all of a sudden you’ve edged into new territory for upcoming films. And if more movies aren’t going to be happening, a good Old Republic movie would open the door for a new stories in comics, books, and television shows.
It’s always a risky investment to branch out into parts of a mythology that the general public isn’t as familiar with. Movies aren’t cheap to make, and if you market a movie from a major franchise with characters that a large number of people haven’t heard of, you run the risk of it not catching people’s interest. If people want to see a Star Wars movie, they probably want to see the characters they know. For example, while Rogue One is focusing heavily on new characters, Darth Vader is still being used to draw on that character recognition factor.
An Old Republic film doesn’t need to be filled with all brand-new characters, though. Disney has already shown a willingness to bring old Expanded Universe characters into the new canon with the recent re-introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn. It’s entirely possible to do the same here.
One option would be to go way back in history and make characters like Revan and Darth Malak from the Knights of the Old Republic video game series official canon. Those events take place roughly 4,000 years before A New Hope, and fans would surely be glad to see that happen. But if Disney isn’t willing to go that far back in history and use characters less recognizable to the general public (understandably so), there’s another intriguing option.
Let’s say you only go 700-800 years back. Yoda, possibly Darth Vader’s counterpart in recognition factor, lived to be nearly 900 years old. A 100-200 year old Yoda allows you to jump back in time and still use one of the franchise’s most recognizable characters. Yoda’s history is never really explored – we don’t even know his species. This would be one way to accomplish that. A new comic book series is coming up that will do exactly that, so perhaps an Old Republic movie further exploring this timeline would allow characters from those comics to make an appearance as well. On another note, who else was alive during that time? Maz Kanata. What better way to tie in your third anthology film with the current major trilogy, and still give you the option to branch out farther in a new time period? And maybe, if Yoda and Maz ever crossed paths, how exciting would it be to see that story on the big screen?
The other major advantage to an Old Republic film: Jedi. The prequels had their problems, but they had their strengths, too. One of those undeniable strengths was seeing lightsabers light up when legions of Jedi went into action. The Battle of Geonosis was memorable for that reason alone. It should be easy to sell a new film with the Jedi at their peak.
So, that’s exactly my hope: an Old Republic anthology film, with new Jedi heroes, new villains, but bringing back Yoda or Maz Kanata (possibly both since I’m dreaming here, anyway) as supporting characters. I think that has everything Disney needs to make a splash in this anthology series. It affords the opportunity to make a new time period visible to a wide audience, but retains the possibility to use familiar faces to draw people in.
I can understand why it works to stay within a certain time period for the films. That is what people are comfortable with. And when you show people what they want to see, they will come to see your movie. Sometimes, though, you can do that while opening up your franchise to new stories. And the best way for Star Wars to move into a new area is with something old. An Old Republic.