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There's approximately a month to go until Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in theaters, and two things have become abundantly clear: Porgs will one day run this world and Lucasfilm loves the movie. At least, we have to assume that they must. The studio has had something of a director problem, but Rian Johnson is one of the only directors that Lucasfilm hasn't had to replace or fire. In fact, Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy are throwing all their eggs into the Rian Johnson basket by putting him in charge of creating an entirely new trilogy of Star Wars movies. That's a huge deal, not only for Johnson but for us viewers as well because this new trilogy is the key to Star Wars' future since it will branch off from the Skywalker narrative.
Back when it was first announced that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm, the plan was to make a new trilogy that continued the story of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Leia Organa, in addition to spinoff films that would focus on key characters from throughout the franchise's history. Right now, we are almost halfway through that promised trilogy and have received one spinoff film, with another set to debut next year. The plan for what was going to happen after this trilogy finished wasn't public knowledge, but now we know that Disney and Lucasfilm have an entirely new series of movies in mind to keep us busy for the next couple years. This trilogy from Rian Johnson is the most exciting thing they could have announced because it addresses a few big problems Star Wars is currently facing.
Few details are known about Rian Johnson's trilogy (The Johnson Trilogy?), but it will take place in a corner of the galaxy we've never seen with all-new characters created by the Brick director. The tale of the Skywalkers is officially over with Episode IX, but I think it's safe to say that we're all pretty much over the Skywalkers by this point.
The tragedy and triumph of the Skywalker family will have been the focus of nine films spanning over four decades by the time the last movie comes out. We've seen Luke Skywalker save the galaxy, Anakin Skywalker ruin it in the first place and now Luke and Kylo Ren (and maybe Rey) both try to save and ruin it at the same time. At some point, we have to admit that we've exhausted the story potential of these characters. The Skywalkers have been the dominant characters in this franchise, and fresh blood is exactly what it needs to feel fresh again.
There's a reason that newbies like Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron have had such a huge impact on the Star Wars fandom after appearing in only one movie. The casting and their personalities are a big part of it, but people naturally like new things. Being new to the franchise leads to a level of unpredictability that old mainstays just can't generate as much anymore. Think of the obsession over Rey's parentage and how many theories have been written on the subject. This is something that the Johnson Trilogy can easily emulate with its own new characters.
One could make a solid argument that the Star Wars franchise has not been living up to its potential ever since Disney began making one movie a year. Making a follow-up the Original Trilogy is an expected move and a safe bet. The warnings of the prequels may have loomed originally, but The Force Awakens was always destined to be a box office champion. It's an entertaining and nostalgia-laced ride, and while it has plenty of merits, it's still basically a retread of A New Hope.
Likewise, the spinoffs haven't really been impressive either. Rogue One benefits from entirely new characters (even if they aren't exactly memorable), but it still lives in the nostalgia of A New Hope, literally leading directly into that movie. Plus, no one really had to strain themselves to think up giving spinoffs to Han Solo, Obi-Wan and perhaps Boba Fett. Maybe they'll be great movies, but the ideas are predictable. Conversely, we don't know what to expect from Rian Johnson's trilogy, which only makes the potential for them limitless. It could be set in any time period, in any location, and could have nothing to do with age-old battles of Jedi and Sith that we've come to expect. Star Wars is the biggest universe out there, and there's no need to keep every movie familiar. It can afford to push boundaries a little and go somewhere unique. It's Star Wars; people will go see it.
The Last Jedi has some echoes of The Empire Strikes Back, but Rian Johnson's imagination had to have helped inspire the decision to give him his own trilogy to do with as he wishes. While we still haven't seen The Last Jedi, Lucasfilm must have a huge amount of confidence in it and Johnson to make him a key architect of their next slate of projects. Colin Trevorrow, Chris Miller, Phil Lord and Gareth Evans (who was pretty much replaced by Tony Gilroy in reshoots) were dumped by Lucasfilm. For whatever reason, Johnson embodies exactly what Lucasfilm wants from a director and we should look forward to what he has in store.
Much like the superhero genre, as more Star Wars films arrive in theaters, Lucasfilm and Disney will eventually have to do something bold to keep the franchise alive. It's way too early to say if the answer to that is Rian Johnson -- who may not even be directing the entire trilogy -- but just the idea of it is proof that Star Wars is heading in the right direction.
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