In exactly one week, the first audiences will be walking out of the preview night screenings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and will be announcing their darts and/or laurels on social media feeds around the world. Even if The Force Awakens doesn’t turnout to be the cash cow Disney hopes/wants/expects, they have $4 billion invested in Star Wars and they want to make that back plus interest, hence an entire slate of Star Wars movies coming now till the end of time. But how will these movies be different? How will they distinguish themselves in both style and substance? The head of Lucasfilm addressed all those questions and more.
While on the Star Wars junket, Kathleen Kennedy discussed the difference between the new trilogy that begins with The Force Awakens and the standalone films that will begin next Christmas with Rogue One. The trilogy, as with the previous two, Kennedy said, “are primarily the soap opera centered around the Skywalker family.” Meanwhile, “the standalone films can be a wide variety of genres inside the Star Wars universe,” she added.
As for the latter, the intent is to make each one stand on their own as a separate story that has a beginning, middle and ending and doesn’t continue on into another movie (or two). “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,” Kennedy said.
Naturally, people are going to want to draw a connection between what Disney is doing with Star Wars and what they’re doing with the Marvel Studios movies. Kennedy said not so fast, as both franchises, while taking place in one expansive universe, have two different mandates. “It is definitely in the genre thinking but Star Wars is very different than Marvel in that they basically build their stories around characters, and then they seed those characters in different stories,” Kennedy explained. “Star Wars, you know, is a place, it’s a universe, so those stories are constructed a little differently than Marvel.”
Currently, the Star Wars slate after The Force Awakens and Rogue One includes Episode VIII from director Rian Johnson and Episode IX from Colin Trevorrow, as well as an anthology film featuring a young Han Solo. After that, it pretty much seems like the sky’s the limit, and that’s why, despite some fan protest, the Expanded Universe was exiled to the non-canon status of “Star Wars Legends.”
“George [Lucas] 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,” Kennedy explained. “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.”
Phase one begins next weekend when Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters everywhere.