Star Wars sequel trilogy

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Star Wars sequel trilogy
Star Wars - The Force Awakens logo.png      Star Wars - The Last Jedi logo.png
Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker logo.png
The Star Wars sequel trilogy logos
Directed by
Produced by
Screenplay by
Starring
Music byJohn Williams
Cinematography
Edited by
Production
companies
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$837 million
Box office$4.471 billion

The Star Wars sequel trilogy is the third trilogy of the main Star Wars franchise, an American space opera created by George Lucas. It is produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The trilogy consists of episodes VII through IX, chronologically following the prequel trilogy (Episodes IIII; 1999–2005) and the original trilogy (Episodes IVVI; 1977–1983). Lucas had planned a sequel trilogy as early as 1976,[1] but had canceled it by 1981[2] and produced only the first six episodes. The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm in late 2012 and announced plans to produce the sequel films, although Lucas's plans for the films were largely discarded.[3] It serves as the final act of the 'Skywalker saga'.

The first installment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was released on December 18, 2015. It was directed by J. J. Abrams who co-wrote the screenplay with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and other cast members from the original trilogy returned to reprise their roles and co-star alongside Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and Oscar Isaac. The second installment, The Last Jedi, was released on December 15, 2017, with Rian Johnson as screenwriter and director, and most of the cast returning. The final installment, The Rise of Skywalker, was directed by Abrams, who co-wrote it with Chris Terrio. It was released on December 20, 2019.

The trilogy follows a 19-year-old orphan, Rey, and the plight of the Resistance against the First Order, which has risen from the fallen Galactic Empire. Rey learns the ways of the Force under Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, and confronts Kylo Ren—the son of Leia and Han Solo, nephew of Luke, and grandson of Anakin Skywalker—who has fallen to the dark side. The first two films received positive reviews from critics, while the third received mixed reviews. The trilogy grossed over $4.4 billion at the box office worldwide with each film surpassing a billion dollars worldwide.

Background[edit]

Early development[edit]

According to Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker, in 1976, Star Wars creator George Lucas told him that he planned three Star Wars trilogies. Lucas suggested Hamill could have a cameo role in Episode IX, which he imagined filming by 2011.[1][4] A Time magazine story in March 1978, quoting Lucas, stated there would be ten Star Wars films after The Empire Strikes Back.[5] Gary Kurtz was also aware of proposed story elements for Episode VII to Episode IX before 1980.[6][7] In 1980, at the time of the release of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas said there were seven further Star Wars films he wanted to make. He said he had "twelve-page outlines" for those films.[8] In an interview with Jim Steranko in Prevue magazine published in late 1980, Lucas described how the expansive scope of Star Wars had started with an overlong screenplay:

So, I took the screenplay and divided it into three stories, and rewrote the first one. ... Then, I had the other two films, which were essentially split into three parts each, two trilogies. When the smoke cleared, I said, 'This is really great. I'll do another trilogy that takes place after this.' I had three trilogies of nine films, and then another couple of odd films.[a] ... It's a nine-part saga that has a beginning, a middle and an end. It progresses over a period of about fifty or sixty years with about twenty years between trilogies, each trilogy taking about six or seven years.[9]

In this interview, Lucas also stated that he had "titles and ten-page story outlines for each of" the nine episodes.[9] In an interview with Gary Kurtz in the same magazine, Kurtz said:

Whether or not all nine or twelve films actually get made depends on how George feels as time goes along. The series may happen the way he originally planned or may completely change. As the films are made, each of the stories develops. As each is finished, I think the direction of the saga may change a bit.[10]

In an interview with Starlog magazine published in September 1981, Lucas confirmed that he had the nine-film series plotted, cautioning:

... it's a long way from the plot to the script. I've just gone through that with Return of the Jedi, and what seems like a great idea when it's described in three sentences doesn't hold together when you try to make five or six scenes out of it. So plots change a lot when they start getting into script form.[11]

When Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, Lucas had already written story treatments for all nine Star Wars episodes. Author Dale Pollock revealed in a 2012 interview, that as part of his biographical research on George Lucas during the 1980s, Lucas had allowed Pollock to read these plot outlines, albeit on the condition of signing a confidentiality agreement.[12] The plans Pollock saw, however, were drastically changed after The Empire Strikes Back was released, because Lucas decided to make only one Star Wars trilogy. This led Lucas to rework and fully incorporate many of the plots from his discarded sequel trilogy directly into Return of the Jedi. Gary Kurtz, the producer of the first two films, gave the details of these incorporated elements, yet remained coy about any discarded ideas that could be still used on future sequels. Kurtz said elements from the discarded sequel trilogy that were directly incorporated into Return of the Jedi included:

  • The focus on Luke Skywalker's journey to becoming the premier Jedi Knight
  • "Luke's sister", who was originally meant to be a new character (set to appear in Episode VIII). However, by Return of the Jedi's final script, it was decided Leia would be retconned into being Luke's sister (a plot element further set in stone by Episode III: Revenge of the Sith).
  • The first appearance of the Emperor and Luke's ultimate confrontation with him. Lucas originally planned for both to happen in Episode IX. The specific storyline had been planned as early as pre-1980, according to Kurtz.[6][7][13]

About the 1980s sequel trilogy drafts, and their surviving elements that could still have been used after Return of the Jedi, in 2012, Pollock said:

  • "The three most exciting stories were 7, 8 and 9. They had propulsive action, really interesting new worlds, new characters. I remember thinking, 'I want to see these 3 movies.'"
  • They would "involve Luke Skywalker in his 30s and 40s".

Other than Pollock's vague description, no official information about the 1980s script treatments for the sequel trilogy has been released. Commenting on the announcement of Lucas selling Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, and the official announcement of a sequel trilogy, Pollock said that Disney would probably use Lucas's outlines from 1980 as the basis for the sequel trilogy, saying "That's in part what Disney bought."[12]

Cancellation period[edit]

After release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, Lucas gave many hints about many of the plot elements from his discarded 1980s script treatments for the sequel trilogy, or what would happen if he were to make a sequel trilogy. While many ideas seem to have ultimately been retained, these two particular ideas were apparently discarded for Disney's sequel trilogy, which entered development in the early 2010s:

  • The trilogy would deal with the rebuilding of the Republic (Lucas in 1980).[14] Instead, the trilogy starts at a time when the Galactic Republic has already been rebuilt.
  • Luke would have a romantic relationship with a female partner (Lucas in 1988).[15] This idea was discarded, given that within the trilogy Luke is alone in exile.

Lucas' ideas that were partially or completely retained in Disney's trilogy include:

  • Episode VII would begin 20–40 years after the end of Return of the Jedi (Lucas in 1980 and 1982).[9][16] (There is a three-decade gap between trilogies.)
  • "It's like a saga, the story of a group of people, a family", (Lucas in 1980).[9]
  • R2-D2 and C-3PO would be the only characters to appear in all nine films (per Lucas in 1980, 1981, and 1983).[9][17][18]
  • The key actors, Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Ford as Han Solo, and Fisher as Princess Leia, would appear, in their 60s or 70s (Lucas in 1983).[19][20] (This became true, but only Luke and Leia would appear all three films, with Luke's appearance in the first a silent cameo appearance and Leia's performance in the last composed of her performance from deleted scenes filmed for the previous two films, as Carrie Fisher died in 2016.)
  • In regards to Luke Skywalker:
    • "The other one—what happens to Luke afterward—is much more ethereal. I have a tiny notebook full of notes on that. If I'm really ambitious, I could proceed to figure out what would have happened to Luke," (said Lucas in 1980).[21]
    • "It's either going to be on another plane of existence, or not the same character. I can't really tell you why, without getting into sensitive material. When you see the ending, you'll see why it has to be last one, period," (said Hamill in 1983).[22][23][24]
    • In Episode IX, Hamill would cameo, "like Obi-Wan handing the lightsaber down to the next new hope" (according to Hamill, in 2004).[1]
  • The main theme of the trilogy would be moral and philosophical problems, such as the necessity for moral choices and the wisdom needed to distinguish right from wrong, justice, confrontation, and passing on what you have learned (Lucas in 1983 and 1989).[20][25]

Timothy Zahn, who wrote the Legends non-canonical Thrawn trilogy of novels, was interviewed about the sequel trilogy after its development by Disney was announced in 2012. He confirmed that it was never meant to be based on his Thrawn trilogy nor the rest of the Expanded Universe, and said that he had been briefed years before on Lucas's plans for the sequels:

The original idea as I understood it—and Lucas changes his mind off and on, so it may not be what he's thinking right now—but it was going to be three generations. You'd have the original trilogy, then go back to Luke's father and find out what happened to him, and if there was another seventh, eighth, or ninth film, it would be Luke's children.[26]

In 1992, Lucas announced his intentions to produce a prequel trilogy.[27] When asked, he would frequently repeat that he had no plans to make the sequel trilogy and that he would not allow other directors to make it.[19][28][29] At a press conference for the 1997 Special Edition of the original trilogy, Lucas stated, "I don't have scripts [for the sequel trilogy]. The only notion on that was, wouldn't it be fun to get all the actors to come back when they're 60 or 70 years old and make three more about them as old people."[19] Also in 1997, he said: "The whole story has six episodes.... If I ever went beyond that, it would be something that was made up. I really don't have any notion other than, 'Gee, it would be interesting to do Luke Skywalker later on.' It wouldn't be part of the main story, but a sequel to this thing."[28] He further stated, "When you see it in six parts, you'll understand. It really ends at part six."[30][31]

On the possibility of someone else making Star Wars films, Lucas said, "Probably not, it's my thing."[30][31] In August 1999, at a press conference to discuss The Phantom Menace, Lucas described the "nine year commitment" required to make a Star Wars trilogy.[32] In 2002, he said: "Basically what I said as a joke was, 'Maybe when Harrison and Carrie are in their 70s, we'll come back and do another version.' The thing I didn't realize then, and that I do realize now very clearly, is that not only would they be in their 70s, but I would be in my 70s too."[33] He reiterated, "Ultimately, the saga will be six films, a 12-hour story. Then people can watch all six films together as they were intended to be seen."[34]

In 2007, Lucas described making the films at that age as "an idea that seemed amusing at the time, but doesn't seem realistic now", and suggested that "off-the-cuff" comments he had made in earlier years had been misconstrued as absolute statements.[35] In 2008, after all six films had been released, Lucas said: "The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that's where that story ends."[36] In another 2008 interview, Lucas ruled out anybody else making Star Wars films, and added that the Expanded Universe did not line up with his vision. Asked if he wanted new Star Wars films to be made after his death, he said: "I've left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features. There will definitely be no Episodes VIIIX. That's because there isn't any story. ... The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story."[37]

Renewed development[edit]

In May 2011, Lucas was in Orlando, Florida, to celebrate the opening of Star Tours – The Adventures Continue at Walt Disney World. He was invited to breakfast by Disney CEO Bob Iger, who asked Lucas if he would be willing to sell his company to Disney. Lucas had begun to consider retiring, but was not ready to do so at that time.[38] Lucas considered directing Episode VII for a May 2015 release[39] and then selling his company,[40] but decided to leave the franchise in the hands of other filmmakers, announcing in January 2012 that he would step away from making blockbuster films.[41]

In early 2012, after being disappointed by the weak performance of Red Tails, Lucas announced to The New York Times that he was planning to retire.[42] While he was in New York, he asked Kathleen Kennedy to lunch, knowing that she was in town working on Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. He asked Kennedy if she would be a co-chair at Lucasfilm with him, with the intention of transferring leadership entirely to her after about a year. She began working for him on June 1, 2012; Lucas soon proposed that they work together on the sequel trilogy.[43] They brought in Michael Arndt to write a draft of Episode VII based on Lucas's synopsis. Star Wars screenwriting veteran Lawrence Kasdan was hired to support Arndt.[b] After making an appearance at Star Wars Celebration VI in late August, Lucas took Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher to lunch and asked if they would be willing to reprise their roles for the new films.[44][45] They agreed, as did Harrison Ford after being promised that Han Solo would be given meaningful closure.[44]

Details of his sequel trilogy treatments included the conclusion of the Skywalker family's story, with its third generation being portrayed in their twenties.[46][47] Lucas hoped to explain concepts he had imagined when he originally drafted his saga in the 1970s. Most specifically he revealed the "symbiotic relationships" between the Jedi, the Force, midi-chlorians (microscopic lifeforms, first mentioned onscreen in 1999's The Phantom Menace), and the Whills (all-powerful creatures first mentioned in the title of the original outline of Star Wars, Journal of the Whills):[48]

[The next three Star Wars films] were going to get into a microbiotic world. But there's this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force. Back in the day, I used to say ultimately what this means is we were just cars, vehicles, for the Whills to travel around in. We're vessels for them. And the conduit is the midi-chlorians. The midi-chlorians are the ones that communicate with the Whills. The Whills, in a general sense, they are the Force. ... But it's about symbiotic relationships. I think, personally, one of the core values we should have in the world, and kids should be taught, is ecology, to understand that we all are connected. (Lucas, 2018)[49]

By June 2012, Lucas had agreed to sell his company, provided that Kennedy would replace him as president of Lucasfilm. Iger agreed, while insisting that Disney would have final say over future movies.[50] Lucas's final stipulations before the sale in late 2012 were that his story treatments would be used and that the number of Disney employees who could read them would be limited.[51] Lucas gave Kennedy the final draft of his story treatments during the October 2012 sale.[52] The same month, the Disney sale and production of the sequel trilogy were announced to the public.[53] Lucas stated, "I always said I wasn't going to do any more, and that's true, because I'm not going to do any more. But that doesn't mean I'm unwilling to turn it over to Kathy to do more."[54] Both plot outlines, the one written in the 1980s and the one written in the 2010s, were given to Iger around the time that Disney acquired Lucasfilm.[55]

In January 2013, George Lucas held the first story briefing about the as-yet untitled Episode VII at Skywalker Ranch. Related concept art stemming from these session includes the following story elements:[56]

  • A teenager female young Jedi Padawan named Kira, described as a "loner, hothead, gear-headed, badass." (The female Padawan was retained, albeit renamed Rey. The phonetically similar name Qi'ra would be used for the girlfriend of a young Han Solo in the anthology film Solo: A Star Wars Story.)
    • The teen character friend was a teenager named Sam who carried a blaster. He was renamed into the stormtrooper character, Finn. (Both are young adults instead of teens, in the film).[57]
  • Regarding the character of Luke Skywalker:
    • An older Luke Skywalker who, decades after the fall of the Empire, exiled himself to the remote planet where the first Jedi temple was located. The first Jedi temple concept art was bell-shaped, and designed by VFX art director James Clyne. (The idea and designs would later be reworked as the planet Ahch-To, briefly seen at the end of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and explored in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.)
    • Luke would have started off reluctant to train the female Padawan, but eventually have a change of heart and agree to train her. (This idea was fully incorporated in The Last Jedi.)
    • Lucas seemingly had planned for Luke dying at the end of Episode VII. (This element was instead incorporated into Episode VIII.[58] Conversely, some months later, Mark Hamill contradicted the statement and said that George Lucas' original vision for the ending of Episode IX was to have Luke dying there instead of a simple cameo, leaving his sister Leia as a Jedi).[59]
    • Luke was going to be a "Colonel Kurtz type, hiding from the world in a cave". Luke was going to be in a self-imposed exile, haunted by the betrayal of one of his students, and spiritually in a dark place". (Which is how Luke was presented in The Last Jedi, this preceded the involvement of both, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson).[57]
    • Luke was going to appear with dialogue in the first film. (Pushing Luke to a speechless cameo at the end of the first film, was writer Michael Arndt's idea; he entered after Lucas had left).[60]
  • The main antagonist would be a man named Skylar that would be corrupted by a character named Talon, until both became the same character Skylar. In some drafts, this character was not anyone's son, and in others it was not decided whose son he was. Skylar ultimately became Ben Solo, the fallen son; this was George Lucas's idea (not J.J. Abrams), and his backstory was to be explored beginning in Episode VII.[60]

At some point after that conference, Lucas decided not to do the film himself. In 2015, Lucas revealed (to his disappointment) that his outlines had been discarded in order to "make something for the fans".[61][62] The same year, Episode VII writer and director J. J. Abrams revealed that Disney had given him a mandate to discard Lucas's story and "start from scratch".[63] Disney was faced with the challenge of pleasing devoted Star Wars fans more so than with the company's other franchises.[64]

The first film in the sequel trilogy was titled Episode VII: The Force Awakens and was written by Lucasfilm veteran Lawrence Kasdan, along with its director J. J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt. Bob Iger's memoirs, published in 2019, recount that Lucas was upset after hearing the plot of The Force Awakens in meetings, specifically about elements that were derivative of the original 1977 film.[c] Lucas felt betrayed by Iger and Abrams because they discarded some of his sequel trilogy ideas.[67] In 2018, Lucas revealed a few elements of his discarded pre-Disney script about midichlorians, a microbiotic world, and the Whills.[68]

As announced by Lucasfilm, the sequel trilogy meant the end of most of the existing Expanded Universe, so as to give "maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience". Only Episodes I–VI would remain canon to the franchise, along with The Clone Wars animated film and series. Most everything produced after the announcement would also be considered canon.[69]

Films[edit]

Unlike the previous two trilogies, whose films were released approximately three years apart ahead of Memorial Day weekend, the sequel films were released two years apart from each other in December. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released on December 18, 2015, and introduces the 19-year-old orphan, Rey, who is drawn into the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order, a ruthless military faction commanded by Kylo Ren—the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo.[70] In The Last Jedi, released on December 15, 2017, Rey is trained by Luke Skywalker, the last living Jedi, while again facing Ren and the First Order. The Rise of Skywalker was released on December 20, 2019, and features the conclusion of the age-old conflict between the Jedi and Sith, with Rey confronting the resurrected Emperor Palpatine.[71]

Film U.S. release date Director(s) Screenwriter(s) Story by Producer(s) Distributor
December 18, 2015 (2015-12-18) J. J. Abrams Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams and Michael Arndt Kathleen Kennedy, J. J. Abrams and Bryan Burk Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
December 15, 2017 (2017-12-15) Rian Johnson Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman
December 20, 2019 (2019-12-20)[72] J. J. Abrams[73] J. J. Abrams & Chris Terrio[73] Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow, J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio Kathleen Kennedy, J. J. Abrams and
Michelle Rejwan[73]

Star Wars: The Force Awakens[edit]

Fisher, Hamill, and Ford reprised their characters in supporting roles.

About 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker has vanished. The remnants of the Empire have become the First Order, which seeks to destroy Luke and the New Republic. The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa, opposes the First Order. On Jakku, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron obtains a map to Luke's location, but he is captured by First Order commander Kylo Ren—the son of Leia and Han Solo. Poe's droid BB-8 escapes with the map and encounters a scavenger, Rey. A defecting stormtrooper, FN-2187, frees Poe, who dubs him "Finn". The pair escape, but Poe is seemingly killed. Finn finds Rey and BB-8; the group leave Jakku in the Millennium Falcon and are discovered by Han Solo and Chewbacca. They agree to help deliver the map to the Resistance.[74]

Episode VII began pre-production on October 30, 2012. The screenplay for the film was originally set to be written by Michael Arndt,[75][76][77][78] but time management and creative differences contributed to his departure from the project.[79][80][81][82][g] On January 25, 2013, J. J. Abrams was officially announced as Episode VII's director and producer, along with producer Bryan Burk and Bad Robot Productions.[86] John Williams was hired to compose the music for the entire sequel trilogy.[87] In October, it was announced that writing duties would be taken over by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.[88]

George Lucas was set to provide Abrams with advice as a creative consultant; however, Lucas had no involvement, with his representative stating that he "ideally would love not to see any footage until he walks into the theater next December. He has never been able to be surprised by a Star Wars film before and he said he was looking forward to it."[55][89][90][91] Production began in April 2014;[92] it was released on December 18, 2015.[93] In the US, the film received a PG-13 rating "for sci-fi action violence" and an M Rating In Australia,[94] the second Star Wars film to receive that classification after Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.[95]

The film broke opening weekend box office records in North America with $248 million ($39 million more than previous record holder Jurassic World) and totals of $529 million worldwide, the largest opening ever. The film set another new record by becoming the first movie to break the $1 billion mark in box office sales in just 12 days.[96] It is currently the highest-grossing film of all time in North America and the third highest-grossing film worldwide, unadjusted for inflation.[97]

Star Wars: The Last Jedi[edit]

The main cast of the sequel trilogy is played by Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), respectively.

After finding Luke Skywalker in self-imposed exile, Rey attempts to convince him to teach her the ways of the Force. She also seeks answers about her past and the conflict between Luke and his nephew Ben Solo (now Kylo Ren). Unbeknownst to Luke, Rey starts using the Force to communicate with Kylo. Meanwhile, Leia leads the Resistance as they are pursued by the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke. Rey leaves Luke in an attempt to redeem Kylo and achieve peace. After Kylo kills Snoke, Rey is forced to choose between ruling the galaxy with him, or helping the outnumbered Resistance survive.[98]

On November 20, 2012, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg would write and produce Episodes VIII and IX,[99] but were later confirmed to be writing standalone films. On June 20, 2014, Looper director Rian Johnson was announced as writer and director of Episode VIII;[100][101][102] he confirmed in August that he would direct.[103] On March 12, 2015, Lucasfilm announced that Johnson would direct Episode VIII with Ram Bergman as producer.[104]

In March 2015, Oscar Isaac confirmed he would reprise his role as Poe Dameron in Episode VIII.[105][106][107] In July, it was reported that Benicio del Toro was being considered for a villain;[108][109] he later confirmed that he had been cast.[110] In September, it was reported that Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tatiana Maslany, Gina Rodriguez, Olivia Cooke, and Bel Powley were on the shortlist for two separate parts.[111][112] Jimmy Vee was cast as R2-D2, succeeding Kenny Baker, who would die the next year.[113][114] Some pre-production filming took place in September 2015 on the island of Skellig Michael, Ireland to take advantage of better weather conditions.[115] Abrams revealed that the film's script was completed in a November 2015 interview with Wired.[116] In December, Hamill, Isaac, Christie, and Boyega were confirmed to reprise their roles as Luke Skywalker, Poe Dameron, Captain Phasma, and Finn, respectively.[117][118][119][120] Kennedy announced at the December 17 London premiere of The Force Awakens that most of its cast would return for Episode VIII.[121]

On January 20, 2016, Lucasfilm and Disney announced that the release of the film would be delayed from May to December 2017.[122] Three days later, the release date of December 15, 2017 was confirmed, as well as the title Star Wars: The Last Jedi.[123][124][124] Principal photography began in February 2016;[125] additional filming took place in Dubrovnik from March 9 to March 16,[126][127] as well as in Ireland in May.[128] Principal photography wrapped in July 2016.[129][130][131] Carrie Fisher died on December 27, 2016, but had completed filming her role as Leia.[132] Much of the filming took place at Pinewood Studios near London.[133][134] Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman were the producers and J. J. Abrams executive produced.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker[edit]

The Rise of Skywalker is the final film of the Skywalker saga,[135] featuring a climactic clash between the Resistance and the First Order, and the Jedi and the Sith.[136][137] The film is set a year following The Last Jedi and depicts the return of Palpatine,[138] who has been secretly controlling the First Order from the Sith planet Exegol. Palpatine orders Kylo Ren to find and kill Rey, who is revealed to be Palpatine's granddaughter.[139] Palpatine unveils an armada of Star Destroyers to reclaim the galaxy. Rey and the Resistance learn of Palpatine's return and embark on a quest to find him. They eventually locate Exegol; Rey confronts Palpatine, while the Resistance attack Palpatine's fleet.[140]

In June 2014, Johnson was announced as writing a story treatment for The Rise of Skywalker,[101] but later stated he had not been involved with writing the film.[141] In August 2015, Colin Trevorrow was announced as the director of Episode IX,[142] and he, with Derek Connolly, began writing a script.[143] In February 2016, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that pre-production of The Rise of Skywalker had begun.[144]

Following the death of Carrie Fisher in late December 2016, media outlets speculated on whether her role would be recast for The Rise of Skywalker and whether the absence of her character would affect the film's plot.[145][146][147] A few weeks later, Lucasfilm stated that they would not digitally recreate Fisher's performance for the film.[148] In April 2017, Kathleen Kennedy stated that Fisher would not be in The Rise of Skywalker,[149] but it was later announced that Fisher would in fact appear using unreleased footage from The Force Awakens.[150] In August, it was reported that Jack Thorne would rewrite the script.[151]

John Williams, composer of the scores for the film trilogies, has stated that The Rise of Skywalker will be his last involvement with the franchise.

In September 2017, Lucasfilm announced that Trevorrow had stepped down as director,[152][153] and a week later, it was announced that J. J. Abrams would return to direct The Rise of Skywalker. He co-wrote the script with Chris Terrio, in addition to producing the film through Bad Robot Productions with Kennedy and Michelle Rejwan.[73][154] Disney had originally scheduled the film's release for December 2019, in keeping with the previous two sequel trilogy films, but then moved it up to May 24, a time of the year more common to the first six Star Wars episodes.[155] However, after Abrams' return, its release date was moved back to December.[72][156]

On January 10, 2018, it was reported that John Williams will return to compose and conduct the music for The Rise of Skywalker.[157][158] The next month, Williams announced that it would be the last Star Wars film music he would compose.[159]

On July 6, 2018, it was reported that Keri Russell was in early talks for a role in The Rise of Skywalker.[160] On July 9, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Billy Dee Williams was confirmed to reprise the role of Lando Calrissian.[161] On July 27, the official casting announcement was made, including the return of Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Mark Hamill, and Anthony Daniels, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant joining the cast. The same announcement confirmed Williams' return and that Carrie Fisher would posthumously portray Leia Organa using unreleased footage from The Force Awakens.[162][163][164] Lucasfilm also initially had plans to include unseen footage of Fisher from The Last Jedi, but it was ultimately not used in the film.[165][166] It was announced later the same day that Russell had joined the cast.[167] It was reported that the character Yoda would also return.[168] Principal photography began on August 1, 2018 and wrapped on February 15, 2019. The Rise of Skywalker was released in the United States on December 20, 2019.[169][72]

Themes[edit]

Rey's journey mirrors that of Anakin and Luke in the prequel and original trilogies.[170] According to J. J. Abrams and Chris Terrio, the trilogy's core theme is about learning from the previous generation, akin to the Americans in the War of 1812, who preserved what was fought for in the American Revolutionary War.[171] On the inspiration for the First Order formed "from the ashes of the Empire", Abrams spoke of conversations the writers had about how the Nazis could have escaped to Argentina after World War II and "started working together again."[172]

Polygon considers that The Last Jedi's portrayal of Luke Skywalker as a pacifist Jedi master reflects the Jedi's beliefs as being inspired by the Buddhist religion due to the character's inner conflict towards using a lightsaber and seeing it as a weapon of destruction.[173][174] The Last Jedi features scenes recalling Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950), utilizing the Rashomon effect when Luke tells Rey that he considered murdering his nephew, Ben Solo, due to sensing his inevitable fall to the dark side. Later, Kylo recounts his perspective, which prompts Luke to tell a third, combined perspective of the event.[175]

Snoke encourages Kylo Ren to kill his father[176]—this takes him further in a reversal of the hero's journey,[170] which the Star Wars films are heavily patterned on.[177] According to Adam Driver, Kylo is "morally justified in doing what he thinks is right".[176] The Rise of Skywalker depicts Kylo Ren having his helmet repaired following its destruction in The Last Jedi. Abrams compared the fractured mask to Kintsugi, a Japanese ceramic art of repairing broken pottery which accentuates the breakage. The fractures in Kylo's mask represent those of his character, as opposed to its obscuration in The Force Awakens.[178]

The final scene of The Last Jedi depicts servant children playing with a toy of Luke, with one boy using the Force to grab a broom. According to Inverse, this symbolizes that "the Force can be found in people with humble beginnings," such as Rey;[179] she was introduced in The Force Awakens as an unknown with possible relations to previous heroes, claimed to be a "nobody" in The Last Jedi, and revealed to be the granddaughter of Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker.[180][181] Ahead of the release of the last film, Terrio explained that any trilogy of films is based on "thesis, antithesis, and synthesis", further saying,

If Force Awakens asks the question of who is Rey and where did she come from, and then The Last Jedi answered it with a negative in a certain way, hopefully The Rise of Skywalker will take those two ideas and create a third thing.[182]

According to Inverse, the end of The Rise of Skywalker sees Rey "bury the past" and reject "any power her grandfather held over her" in a completion of the hero's journey.[183]

Release[edit]

The Force Awakens was made available on Disney+ upon the service's launch on November 12, 2019. The Last Jedi was made available on United States Disney+ accounts on December 26, 2019. The Rise of Skywalker was added to Disney+ on May 4, 2020.[184]

Reception[edit]

The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi received a positive reception from critics, while The Rise of Skywalker received mixed reviews.[185][186][187][188][189][190][191] However, fan criticism has surrounded aspects of The Force Awakens being too similar of previous films in the franchise, and criticized The Last Jedi for subverting conventions of the franchise without a compelling reason.[192] Critical opinions of The Rise of Skywalker have been polarizing; while some praised its celebration of the entire saga, its tribute to Carrie Fisher and return of many longtime characters from the original trilogy, many were divided on the film's perceived retconning of The Last Jedi as well as its heavy fan service.[193][194][195][196][197]

Some critics and fans have made allegations that Lucasfilm lacked sufficient planning for the trilogy's overarching story, feeling that the films have appeared inconsistent and contradictory as a result of the opposing visions of directors J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson. Said criticism has been directed at the consensus that Johnson had essentially been given a blank slate for The Last Jedi with no clear guidelines or direction from Lucasfilm, and in doing so either controversially handled or ignored many of Abrams' decisions for The Force Awakens. For the third installment, The Rise of Skywalker, Abrams had chosen to further deviate from plot points raised for The Last Jedi, while attempting to introduce his own that were never mentioned or alluded to during the film's two predecessors. Some critics felt many of the narrative choices for the films had been raised in an effort to appease dissatisfied fans. Others disagreed with the decision not to use a showrunner to helm the sequel trilogy, akin to other individuals in projects undertaken by Disney, while Insider acknowledged Lucasfilm's strict creative control over the Star Wars franchise, highlighting how a number of directors who had initially been hired to produce their own films had been forced to leave the respective projects.[198][199][200][201][202]

Despite allegations of Lucasfilm's inefficiency of planning the trilogy, some reports indicated that in contrast to popular belief, not all plot points in the films were suddenly conceived. The idea of an older, withdrawn Luke Skywalker living on an island following his failure to stop the murder of his Jedi students, and then training a new apprentice who would help him to overcome his self-doubt, was first pitched by George Lucas in 2013 during creative meetings between himself and Lucasfilm as part of story discussions for Episode VII (these ideas would later be incorporated by Rian Johnson for Episode VIII: The Last Jedi).[203][204] The idea of Rey's decision to adopt the Skywalker family's surname to live up to their legacy in Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker was pitched in an early 2014 story meeting, as shared by the Lucasfilm Story Group executive Pablo Hidalgo.[205] The return of Emperor Palpatine in Episode IX was also planned as far back as the earliest development phase of the trilogy.[206] Similarly, Abrams hinted that the revelation of Palpatine being Rey's grandfather was an early idea he and Lawrence Kasdan had while working on The Force Awakens.[207]

From Star Wars filmmakers[edit]

George Lucas agreed with critics who considered The Force Awakens too derivative of the original trilogy. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Lucas likened his decision to sell Lucasfilm to Disney to a divorce, and outlined the creative differences between him and the producers of The Force Awakens. Lucas described the previous six Star Wars films as his "children" and defended his vision for them, while criticizing The Force Awakens for having a "retro feel", saying: "I worked very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships ... to make it new." Lucas also likened Disney to "white slavers", which drew some criticism. He subsequently apologized for this remark.[208][209] In 2016, the Disney-produced Star Wars anthology film Rogue One was released, and it was reported that Lucas liked it more than The Force Awakens.[210] In 2017, Lucas described the sequel The Last Jedi as "beautifully made".[211][212] In a 2019 memoir, Disney president Bob Iger wrote that Lucas felt "betrayed" after learning that Abrams, Kennedy, and Iger were not using his ideas for the sequel trilogy.[213]

In 2016, responding to complaints that The Force Awakens was too derivative of previous films,[c] Abrams said, "What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards".[214][h] Abrams apologized for how he handled Chewbacca and Leia's meeting after Han Solo's death, noting that Han Solo's best friend and widow ignore each other, with Leia instead hugging Rey (whom Leia is meeting for the first time).[216] Johnson's sequel included Leia hugging Chewbacca at the end of The Last Jedi as a way to apologize for the previous film oversight.[217][218] After being confronted about The Force Awakens, Abrams further apologized about it, saying he "wished it would have been Lucas' favorite movie", and that he was "grateful for Lucas", while understanding his complaints about the film being highly derivative of A New Hope. Abrams also said the scene of Starkiller Base destroying a solar system would have had a similar emotional impact to the Death Star destroying planet Alderaan in the original film, had he not chosen to delete scenes of a character who Leia interacted with, prior to the deleted character dying on one of the exploding planets.[219]

Johnson's initial response to the script of The Force Awakens included the suggestion of minor adjustments to the ending. According to Abrams, these improved the movie and made it line up more with The Last Jedi. Abrams intended for BB-8 to help Rey search for Luke, which Johnson changed to R2-D2 (due to being Luke's droid, as well as BB-8 belonging to Poe, and not knowing Luke).[220][221] Additionally, Abrams' ending featured Rey finding Luke lifting rocks with the Force, which was changed due to Johnson's plot of Luke having disconnected himself from the Force.[222] In 2019, Abrams said that he liked Snoke's death in the sequel. He also said that the boldness of The Last Jedi inspired him to be more original on The Rise of Skywalker and that its plot did not derail his plans for the film, adding that in response to The Force Awakens criticisms, Johnson advised him to "not to just do something that you've seen before".[223] Abrams also affirmed his dedication not to retroactively release alternate versions of the films, saying, "I feel like [when] you're done with a thing, ... that's what it is."[224]

Critical response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 93% (428 reviews)[225] 80 (55 reviews)[226] A[227]
Star Wars: The Last Jedi 91% (460 reviews)[228] 84 (56 reviews)[229] A[227]
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 51% (494 reviews)[230] 53 (60 reviews)[231] B+[227]

Academy Awards[edit]

Academy Awards Film
The Force Awakens The Last Jedi The Rise of Skywalker
88th Academy Awards 90th Academy Awards 92nd Academy Awards
Best Film Editing Nominated N/A N/A
Best Original Score Nominated Nominated Nominated
Best Sound Editing Nominated Nominated Nominated
Best Sound Mixing Nominated Nominated N/A
Best Visual Effects Nominated Nominated Nominated

Box office performance[edit]

Unlike the previous trilogies, the sequel trilogy experienced diminishing box office returns with each succeeding film. Nevertheless, it is the highest-grossing trilogy overall, with The Force Awakens ranking as the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time.

Film U.S. release date Box office gross All-time Ranking Budget Ref(s)
U.S. and Canada Other territories Worldwide U.S. and Canada Worldwide
Star Wars: The Force Awakens December 18, 2015 $936.7 million $1.132 billion $2.068 billion 1 4 $245 million [232]
Star Wars: The Last Jedi December 15, 2017 $620.2 million $713.3 million $1.333 billion 9 13 $317 million [233]
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker December 20, 2019 $515.2 million $558.9 million $1.074 billion 14 32 $275 million [234]
Total $2.073 billion $2.405 billion $4.475 billion $837 million

Tie-in novels and comics[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes

  1. ^ For a total of twelve films. These included "a film about robots, with no humans in it" and "a film just about Wookiees, nothing else".[9]
  2. ^ Kasdan would also support Lucas in developing a Han Solo prequel, finished under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy.
  3. ^ a b While J. J. Abrams had directed the critically acclaimed 2009 Star Trek reboot,[65] its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness (the most recent film Abrams had directed before The Force Awakens) was similarly criticized as being a loose remake of an earlier film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).[66]
  4. ^ Also known as Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens or simply The Force Awakens
  5. ^ Also known as Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi or simply The Last Jedi
  6. ^ Also known as Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker or simply The Rise of Skywalker
  7. ^ Concept art possibly based on Arndt's draft shows Kira (Rey) searching for the underwater remnants of the second Death Star.[83] This idea may have been repurposed for The Rise of Skywalker, as the film's trailers depict Rey in the remnants of the second Death Star, which rest in a watery environment.[84][85]
  8. ^ In 2017, Abrams said he would not do more remakes or reboots, to instead focus on his own creations, saying: "You know, I do think that if you're telling a story that is not moving anything forward, not introducing anything that's relevant, that's not creating a new mythology or an extension of it, then a complete remake of something feels like a mistake."[215]

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Sources[edit]

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External links[edit]