“No one’s ever really gone.”
When Luke spoke those words to Leia in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, tears sprang to my eyes. The character’s warning to his sister about his imminent death doubled as a farewell to actress Carrie Fisher, who died after filming for the movie was complete. But when I heard those same words in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth and (for now) final installment in the generation-spanning series, my eyes rolled instead of misting up.
It was a foregone conclusion that Luke, who died—or whatever it is one calls the disintegration of his corporeal form—would return in the last movie, just as Alec Guinness did after Obi-Wan was struck down in the first Star Wars. But the trailer confirms that despite Fisher’s death, Leia, too, will be back, thanks to unused footage from The Force Awakens. (Director J.J. Abrams reassured fans at Friday’s Star Wars Celebration that she will not appear as an uncanny digital doppelgänger as she did in Rogue One).
And though Disney CEO Robert Iger said that the Star Wars movies will enter “a bit of a hiatus” after the release of The Rise of Skywalker, he also announced that that the first episode of spinoff series The Mandalorian will be available on the company’s streaming service, Disney+, when it launches on Nov. 12, with another, yet-untitled series focusing on Rogue One’s Cassian Andor to follow in 2021. More films and series, including a new trilogy from The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson, are purportedly on the way, fulfilling the promise of Adam Rogers’ Wired article, “You Won’t Live to See the Final Star Wars Movie.”
To paraphrase an old Dan Hicks song, how can we miss Star Wars when it won’t go away? Iger talks about the “hiatus” like it’s a silent moment of respect, but it’s more like a pit stop, a brief pause to kick the tires before getting back on the track and speeding around in circles. If you love Star Wars, as I sometimes do, this ought to be good news. You get a Star Wars, and you get a Star Wars, and you get a Star Wars! But seeing the first live-action Star Wars TV show listed alongside the likes of High School Musical: The Music: The Series—a title that looks more like an old-school SAT question than a forthcoming Disney+ offering—makes it feel like just another brand extension, about as thrilling as a new variety of Snickers. Part of what made the Star Wars trilogies so exciting was their sheer improbability, but it’s now more difficult to imagine a world in which they stop churning out Star Wars content than one in which it goes on forever.
I wish Solo had been better, but there’s a strange kind of relief in its relative failure, which proves that it’s possible for a Star Wars movie to be bad, or at least mediocre, enough to scuttle its clearly prepared-for sequel. When the new trilogy was announced, I was thrilled that my daughter would have a Star Wars to call her own. Now I hope that someday she’ll know a world without Star Wars—at least for long enough that the next time it comes back, it’ll be a surprise and not an inevitability.
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