The second chapter of the latest Star Wars trilogy still hasn't hit theaters, but Disney and Lucasfilm have already laid out what's coming after Episode IX outside of the standalone Anthology entries. Yesterday it was announced that The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson will "shepherd" a new Star Wars trilogy, which includes writing and directing the first installment. The only details revealed about these new movies were that they will be separate from the Skywalker saga and they will "introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored." That latter portion sounds especially intriguing, and if Lucasfilm is wise, it will use this opportunity to venture outside of the known Star Wars galaxy and into the Unknown Regions.
In 2014, two years after Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the Star Wars Expanded Universe, a.k.a. the expansion of the mythology through book, comic books, video games and more, was dissolved and rebranded as "Star Wars Legends." Only the movies, the Clone Wars TV series (not to be confused with the Genndy Tartakovsky mircoseries) and the Son of Dathomir Clone Wars tie-in comic book series were left canon, thus wiping the slate clean for any non-cinematic Star Wars material published/released under the Disney banner to be considered officially canon.
However, certain EU elements have since been added back into the Star Wars mythos, like Grand Admiral Thrawn being a major antagonist in Star Wars Rebels. The Unknown Regions is another one of those elements that's been reincorporated. Located beyond the Outer Rim, this area of the Star Wars galaxy has largely gone unexplored, which is saying a lot for a galaxy populated with a lot of strange planets and aliens. The Ilum system and the Chiss Ascendancy are among the few known aspects of these regions, and this is also where the remnants of the Empire fled to build The First Order and construct Starkiller Base. There's even a theory that this is where Supreme Leader Snoke comes from. Some of the new canon Star Wars books have laid out that the Empire explored certain areas of the Unknown Regions, but as of The Force Awakens era, most of the territory beyond the borders is still shrouded in secrecy.
It goes without saying that it will be a long time until Lucasfilm discloses concrete details about the new Star Wars trilogy, leaving it up to fans to keep speculating on where and when these movies will be set, like The Old Republic era or delving deeper into the criminal underworld of this galaxy. Stepping away from the Skywalker saga is certainly a good step for the Star Wars franchise. After nine movies, it's about time that we tell stories that don't revolve around this Force-sensitive family so that this universe doesn't seem as "small." But going a step further, venturing into the Unknown Regions is another great way for this trilogy to separate itself from what's come before. No doubt there are still plenty of Star Wars planets in the known parts of this galaxy far, far away that have yet to be introduced in any medium, but if Lucasfilm is serious about going into an unexplored corner of the galaxy, the Unknown Territories is prime real estate. By setting the action there, they can really delve into worlds, species and other material that are weird even by Star Wars standards, regardless of what the time period ends up being (I suspect it will be post-Episode IX).
It's also worth mentioning that when it comes to strange territory in the Star Wars universe, it doesn't end with the Unknown Regions, because that's at least been mapped, though again, largely unexplored. The areas outside of the Star Wars map is known as Wild Space, and while The Clone Wars and Rebels have touched upon what's known to be located there (like the Mortis realm), that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The point being that if Lucasfilm wants to truly usher in a new era for the Star Wars franchise and follow through on the promise of this upcoming trilogy, it's best to distance itself from the known Star Wars galaxy and travel into the unknown cosmos. It's fine to keep the standalone movies set in the known galaxy, but the main trilogy could be something truly special by shedding light on a corner of this galaxy that's been a mystery for too long.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more updates on all things Star Wars as they come in. The next chapter of this saga, The Last Jedi, will unfold in theaters on December 15.