“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is dominating pop culture at the moment as it breaks all kinds of box office records and moves toward potentially dethroning “Avatar” as the highest-grossing movie of all time. This is only the beginning of Lucasfilm owner Disney‘s plans for the blockbuster movie franchise, however.
Back when franchise creator George Lucas was making “Star Wars” movies, fans had to wait three years between installments. Now, because of Lucasfilm’s aggressive and ambitious slate, audiences thirsty for more of the Skywalker family saga after Episode VII, “The Force Awakens,” need only wait 18 months for Episode VIII. What’s more, in just less than a year, the first “Star Wars” spinoff movie will hit theaters as Lucasfilm and Disney begin to experiment with characters, concepts and stories within the franchise’s universe but don’t have a direct connection to the main story.
Here is a look at what “Star Wars” fans — whether you’re a die-hard or you’re a newbie or you’re back onboard thanks to “The Force Awakens” — can expect over the next four years. (Warning: There are spoilers for “The Force Awakens” in this article.)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Release date: Dec. 16, 2016
Cast: Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Alan Tudyk
Director: Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”)
The gist: This is the first of the spinoff movies, and it’s likely we’ll see a teaser or a trailer soon given that it’s only less than a year away. Instead of dealing with the core story that’s been told from Episode I through VII, “Rogue One” will focus on the rebels who banded together to steal the plans for the Empire’s Death Star battle station. It is set in the time frame between the events of “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and “Episode IV: A New Hope,” and will focus more on the “ground-war perspective” of the fight for the Galaxy, according to producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. Also worth noting: Jones, who received an Oscar nomination for “The Theory of Everything,” is now the second woman to lead a “Star Wars” film following Daisy Ridley in “The Force Awakens.”
Episode VIII (title not yet known)
Release date: May 26, 2017
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, John Boyega; (presumably) Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac; Benicio Del Toro (rumored)
Director: Rian Johnson (“Looper”)
The gist: It’ll pick up after the events of “The Force Awakens,” only we don’t know how much longer afterward. Kylo Ren (Driver) is off to finish his training with Supreme Leader Snoke (Serkis), while General Hux (Gleeson) will try to rally the evil First Order after the destruction of Starkiller Base. Finn (Boyega) is recovering from his injuries, while the Resistance, including hot shot pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac), looks to press on after the devastation of the New Republic. Most tantalizing of all is what will happen between Rey (Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Hamill). Will he take his father’s lightsaber back from her? Will he train her in the ways of the Force? Director Johnson knows how to handle dark family drama after directing some of the most acclaimed “Breaking Bad” episodes, someething he’ll need to tap into again if this is going to be the “Empire Strikes Back” of the new trilogy.
Han Solo spinoff (title not yet known)
Release date: Targeted for 2018
Cast: not yet determined
Directors: Reportedly Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“The Lego Movie”)
The gist: The development of the movie is still in its early stages, but writer Lawrence Kasdan has said the movie will focus on a younger version of Han Solo — perhaps 10 years or more — than the one we met in “A New Hope.” Needless to say, Harrison Ford won’t be playing the part, but Lucasfilm is reportedly casting a wide net to find the right actor to play the young rogue smuggler.
Release date: 2019
Cast: Presumably many of the main players from Episodes VII and VIII
Director: Colin Trevorrow (“Jurassic World”)
The gist: We’ll have no idea about this one until we see what happens in Episode VIII, but since this installment is going to conclude the third trilogy of main “Star Wars” saga movies, it’s likely this will be a “Return of the Jedi”-style kitchen-sink action adventure. Trevorrow’s work on “Jurassic World,” which is a box office monster in its own right, shows that he can handle big-time special-effects mayhem, while his work on indie comedy “Safety Not Guaranteed” shows he can handle the intimate character stuff, too.
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