With the news that Rian Johnson will be helming a trilogy in the Star Wars universe, we couldn’t help but speculate on the might explore.
Our beloved galaxy far, far away has told many of our favorite and enduring stories. Some old, some new, and some yet to come. And now, before we even get to experience The Last Jedi for the first time, Rian Johnson has been appointed his own trilogy of films.
Not only is that a resounding endorsement on Lucasfilm’s part when it comes to the next instalment in the Skywalker saga, but has catapulted our anticipation for The Last Jedi to new heights. (If that was even possible.)
So, whilst we wait not-so-patiently for the film to arrive, Michal and I decided to come up with some ideas for where Rian Johnson’s trilogy could possibly go.
Our only guideline? Lucasfilm’s comments that “Johnson will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.”
Unknown Regions, Wild Space, and beyond
If the new Star Wars trilogy is really going to explore uncharted territory, what better place to start than, well, literal uncharted territory? Whether it’s the Unknown Regions, Wild Space, or some new corner of the galaxy, Rian Johnson has the opportunity to build his own little universe among the endless stars. Perhaps he’ll tell the tale of a diverse crew of explorers adventuring among new planets and cultures. Or maybe the action will be confined to one secret planet or system, ensconced within its own dramatic struggles utterly separate from the Empire and Republic. Maybe there’s a colonialist parable to unspool in space, or the tale of a wandering clan searching for home.
Of course, these areas haven’t been entirely untouched by Star Wars canon. The Unknown Regions have found their way back into Star Wars canon recently in several different forms, two of the most notable being Star Wars Rebels, and the recently revisited Thrawn novel by Timothy Zahn. (Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the major antagonists in Rebels, is a member of the Chiss species that originates somewhere within the Unknown Regions.)
Of course, the Chiss aren’t the only ones to have hailed from the Unknown Regions. Our current, major antagonists, The First Order, rose from the ashes of the Empire out there, in uncharted space. Starkiller Base was created from a planet in the Unknown Regions as well. So, does that more recent connection – and possibility of expansion in The Last Jedi and the as-yet-untitled Episode IX – discount the possibility that Rian Johnson will explore the Unknown Regions further?
It could have had the opposite effect, with Johnson using his work on The Last Jedi as a springboard to dive deeper into the most mysterious part of the Star Wars universe. With endless possibilities at his fingertips, and subtle threads leading into both the main continuity and supplemental material, it could be the perfect location to set a new trilogy.
It’s also worth mentioning the link between the Unknown Regions and the mystical Ilum system – the original source of kyber crystals for the Jedi. The area also contains Rakata Prime, a hugely important location for any Knights of the Old Republic fans.
(Are we going to stop angling for KOTOR entering Star Wars canon again? Never.)
Whatever the case, moving the story of the new trilogy to a separate, wild region offers terrific opportunities for characters and stories unencumbered by the weight of Star Wars mythology. Johnson can employ whatever familiar props and terminology prove useful, without being beholden to the demands of canon (as the Star Wars Stories are.) It’s a fresh page in an old, familiar notebook — and that might just be the perfect place for Johnson to work his magic.
‘I am one with the Force’
The ancient origins of the Jedi Order are a topic of fascination for many Star Wars fans — and something that we’ve speculated could be an intriguing focus of a Star Wars standalone film. That’s certainly still a possibility for Rian Johnson’s trilogy, as the subject has only been lightly treated in the new canon. The legendary Journal of the Whills — essentially a sourcebook for the philosophy of the Force — could serve as a strong basis for the story, especially as the book and its spiritual concepts come into sharper focus through the Skywalker saga.
But through both the new films and expanded materials, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Jedi are but one path of access to the Force. Far beyond the binary of Jedi and Sith, the Force is a multifaceted concept worshipped, observed, and utilized differently by beings across the galaxy. The Lasan of Star Wars Rebels approach the Force with their own unique language and methodology, and Greg Rucka’s Guardians of the Whills novel expands on the many different iterations of belief in the power that binds the galaxy together.
Logically then, it makes sense that beings across the galaxy must have been following the ways of the Force long before the Jedi Order coalesced. Johnson’s trilogy could explore this time and the rich spiritual implications of the Force without being beholden to the concepts Star Wars fans now find familiar. There is no limit to history in such an ancient galaxy, and a tantalizing number of possibilities. What do the earliest Force users look like? Is their technological status primitive, or perhaps more advanced than we’d expect? And most importantly, what are their struggles? Who are their enemies, and what dangers do they face?
Traveling back in time would certainly present challenges for Johnson’s storytelling, but it would also present incredible creative and thematic opportunities. Rian Johnson is nothing if not a thinking storyteller, and this might be just the challenge he needs to keep the Star Wars galaxy fresh.
Something a little more… alien
If we’re being frank about spaces that Star Wars has yet to fully explore, we can’t go without mentioning a truly alien-centric story. Though creatures and beings of every imaginable species populate all Star Wars stories, non-humans are virtually always relegated to sidekicks and crew members. With the notable exceptions of Grand Admiral Thrawn, Hera Syndulla and Ahsoka Tano, aliens are almost never the stars of the show.
Always a quirky thinker, we feel that Rian Johnson might be just the director to change this dynamic. Telling an alien-centric story on a new or barely-explored planet (Rodia, anyone? Or perhaps Sullust?) offers the chance to dive deep into an uncharted culture, dense with its own conventions and conflicts. Could Johnson’s trilogy be an intricate Game of Thrones-esque political drama on an alien world? Or perhaps the story of two cultures struggling to share their home planet? Or an alien protagonist’s path through the galaxy at large?
Whether it’s a Twi’lek or Ithorian, Hutt or Wookie, or some entirely new species, the aliens of Star Wars deserve their chance to shine. It would be a challenge unlike any faced by a previous Star Wars creator, and Rian Johnson is just the guy to handle it.