With “Solo: A Star Wars Story” just weeks away, here’s everything you need to watch, read, and play to get up to date on the galaxy far, far away.
The Star Wars Universe is rapidly expanding at all times. Far more than an ongoing series of movies, Star Wars plots unfold across a variety of media, filling in details for famous characters and launching new ones. The latest high-profile addition to the canon is “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” set to premiere at Cannes next month and open theatrically on May 25 — but it’s far from the only recent update to this 41-year-old franchise. It can be tricky to keep tabs on so many narrative threads at once, so consider this primer a good place to start as the Star Wars Universe undergoes another major growth period.
But first, a bit of history. Bear with us, because context is necessary to understand where the franchise stands at the moment.
After “Return of the Jedi” finished rolling credits in 1983, the “Star Wars” story was done as far as George Lucas was concerned — so other storytellers swarmed in. The fantasies of telling a nine-part epic fizzled under the reality of making blockbuster films every few years and the world of “Star Wars” was turned over almost entirely to licensees. Games, novels, and comics all pushed the story in new directions: Luke became an all-powerful Force user, Han and Leia had twins, a moon fell on and killed Chewbacca.
Then, around 1996, Lucasfilm became engaged again. The Special Editions of the original trilogy and the “Shadows of the Empire” multi-media project started to bring order to the “Expanded Universe” and some semblance that some stories were “canon” and others were larks. Lucas made three more Star Wars movies from 1999 to 2004, and booted up the canonical “The Clone Wars” animated TV series before selling off his creation to Disney in 2012. The company promptly cleared the slate and started almost from scratch. The only Star Wars plots that remained canon were the two movie trilogies and the animated series “The Clone Wars.”
Six years later, the Star Wars Universe has managed to maintain an official continuity (leaving out Young Adult Reader books, sticker books, and the “separate” Lego Star Wars universe) across several media, ensuring there’s always some new Star Wars material in between each film.
As the Skywalker Saga of films winds to its conclusion with J.J. Abrams returning to direct Episode VIII, Disney has been finding ways to ensure the continuation of the property for years to come. Director Rian Johnson was awarded a trilogy of films from Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, three movies that won’t be bound to the galaxy George Lucas created, but will focus on a new set of characters and a new trilogy arc.
In February, we learned that “Game of Thrones” showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff will also be conceptualizing a “series” of Star Wars movies on their own. Soon, the comics, books, video games, and internet shorts we’ll be watching will feed into a whole new set of characters and situations in the Star Wars lore, and it’ll be a story created by Johnson or Weiss and Benioff, not solely George Lucas.
Below is an outline of the different projects that are currently building off the Star Wars Universe canon and how each medium covers a certain type of Star Wars experience. Certain children’s books, browser games, the “Forces of Destiny” shorts, and promotional comics in magazines have been left out for the sake of streamlining this vast universe and clarifying its various narrative threads.
The backbone of the Star Wars universe will always be the films. The original 1977 movie unleashed an experience that writer-director George Lucas thought was missing from modern children’s entertainment: the thrill of the old fashioned adventure and science fiction serials of his youth. Each Star Wars movie released in theaters steals this method of plotting, with escalating action, broad characters, and a story that forces (pun intended) forward motion and grand gestures.
The basis for what we know as the “Star Wars Universe” is still the eight movies that form the retroactively labeled “Skywalker Saga” tracing the descendants of Anakin Skywalker and their impact on the galaxy.
- The films spotlight major events in the lives of the Skywalker family, often omitting world-building details in favor of large set pieces.
- The movies retroactively became “The Skywalker Saga” when George Lucas devised the prequel trilogy as the tragedy of Darth Vader in the late 90s.
- The “Star Wars Story” entries have so far been used to ensure there is a Star Wars movie released every year after 2015’s The Force Awakens.
Star Wars Movies in Universe Order:
“The Phantom Menace”
“Attack of the Clones”
“The Clone Wars” (Animated)
“Revenge of the Sith”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“Star Wars (A New Hope)”
“The Empire Strikes Back”
“Return of the Jedi”
“The Force Awakens”
“The Last Jedi”
The Future: We don’t know much about “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which hits theaters in May, except this: It’s going to be a prequel featuring Han Solo who (at some point) washes out of the Imperial Flight Academy, meets both Chewie and Lando and — if trailers are to be trusted — flies the Kessel Run, a hyperspace route used by smugglers. The Skywalker Saga of films will presumably end with Episode IX in December 2019 with J.J. Abrams returning to the franchise to direct the finale.
Before “The Last Jedi” was released, Lucasfilm announced that Rian Johnson would be developing a trilogy of Star Wars films that will have new characters and new locations, but no additional details have followed. The most recent news is that “Game of Thrones” showrunners Weiss and Benioff would be developing a “series” of films, but that doesn’t specify how…
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