The announcement of new Star Wars films came as a shock to everyone outside the selected few in Lucasfilm who had already been setting wheels in motion. But the biggest shock, with all of the denials that Lucas has made about a third trilogy, was that the first new film would be Episode VII. Apart from that Star Wars fans will learn more Roman numerals, what does it mean?
It means that the story from the classic trilogy will continue. All of those lingering plot points can be resolved – after all, the Empire was seemingly defeated, Anakin Skywalker returned to the light side of the force and the arch villain of the Saga die – wait a minute, there aren’t any lingering plot points! That’s because Return of the Jedi served as a satisfying conclusion to the six-part story. With the addition of Naboo and Coruscant to the final celebrations, and knowing just how long the Emperor has been bothering the galaxy, the ending carries even more weight than when it only concluded the trilogy.
So how can the new trilogy follow on? The trend in Hollywood now seems to be for the past generation (Luke, Han and Leia) to pass the torch (lightsaber) to the new generation (maybe Han and Leia’s children). But with the Emperor, Empire and Sith defeated a new threat will be needed. New heroes and villains will be needed, embarking on a new adventure. This would seem like less a sequel trilogy and more a new story in the same universe, unlike the prequels in which the events directly led into the classic trilogy.
With this in mind, it would seem more appropriate to leave the story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall and redemption as the core “Saga”, and leave subsequent films as other stories in the Star Wars universe. Rather than call the film Episode VII, just give it a title. That way, the “Episodes” would forever be the backbone of Star Wars, and like The Clone Wars, the new films could be adventures that exist around it. This would leave no one in any doubt as to what the key story of Star Wars is.
This would also allow more scope for the new filmmakers to take Star Wars in different directions, such as a film about a specific character such as Mace Windu, an adventure set in-between trilogies, a movie about nothing but Ewoks (oh yeah, that one’s been done!) or even a musical revue on Kashyyk (whoops, and so has that). But it would alleviate the pressure in having to continue a story that had already been neatly wrapped up and requires no continuation.
The only way that it seems Episode VII could continue the story is if in his Creative Consultant role Lucas demonstrates to someone how easy it is to change an exist film, and the ending of Return of the Jedi is altered for a Blu-ray re-release. In this new version Darth Vader throws the Empire down the Second Death Star’s chasm, but rather than disappear in an explosion of energy the Emperor can be spotted just clinging on for dear life half way down, leaving him open to threaten the galaxy in Episode VII…