As the Star Wars saga ventures towards pastures new, what can fans expect in the future as the franchise moves towards a galaxy far, far away?
Star Wars was never expected to be a success.
So unsure were they about the film’s popularity, 20th Century Fox allowed director George Lucas to retain ownership of the merchandising and licencing rights instead of forking out an extra $500,000 in directing fees.
The 1977 sci-fi western, projected to flop, took almost $800m (AED 2.93bn) at the box office and in the 40 years that followed, Star Wars merchandise is estimated to have made $42bn (AED 154bn) in retail sales. That’s a lot of Chewbacca slippers and Darth Vader Pez dispensers.
Flash forward to 2012 and Lucas sold his company, Lucasfilm, and those lucrative rights to Disney for $4bn (around AED 15bn), pushing his personal net worth to just over $5bn (around AED 18bn).
Before Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was released, no one could have predicted where the story would go, never mind that it would become a pop-culture phenomenon. Since then, the trajectory has been ever-changing.
First there was a trilogy, then a prequel trilogy, now there’s a third trilogy and a growing number of stand-alone outings are taking the franchise into new territory once again, but this time under new leadership.
Directed by Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick), the latest film, The Last Jedi, scheduled for release in the UAE on 14th December, is the middle film in the third trilogy.
Picking up from 2015’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, the upcoming film
will continue the story of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), where Rey, having now taken her first steps in the Jedi world, joins Luke Skywalker on an expedition to unlock the past of the mysterious Force.
The Last Jedi will also give closure to the stories of legendary characters Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), with the latter, following her death late last year, having her last-ever outing in the franchise.
Reshaping Star Wars as we know it, Disney has announced plans to launch a fourth trilogy in the series with Johnson at the helm. Introducing new characters, the trilogy will supposedly bring to life “a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored”, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger.
Having grown up a fan, dreaming up plotlines and stories, taking over the reins of the franchise with no clear path set out for him was an exciting, if not nerve-racking, experience for Johnson.
“Star Wars was everything for me,” Johnson told the New York Times.
“As a little kid, you get to see the movies only once or twice, but playing with the toys in your backyard, that’s where you’re first telling stories in your head.
“It was so emotional to step onto the Millennium Falcon set, because that was the play set we all had when we were kids.
“Suddenly, you were standing in the real thing. There’s this rush of unreality about it.”
With the box office on stand-by and fans chomping at the bit ahead of The Last Jedi,
it seems there’s no stopping the Star Wars saga anytime soon.
Also starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o and Peter Mayhew
Running Time: 150 mins
WORDS Colin Armstrong