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The Star Wars universe will expand with Anthology films
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With Star Wars' cinematic return in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens this Christmas, fans are already looking ahead to the vast possibilities of Disney's announced Star Wars Anthology films, which are poised to tap the rich mythos of the Star Wars universe. - photo by Cody K. Carlson
With Star Wars' cinematic return in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens this Christmas, fans are already looking ahead to the vast possibilities of Disney's announced Star Wars Anthology films, which are poised to tap the rich mythos of the Star Wars universe.

At April's Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California, the first footage from the first film in the Anthology series, Star Wars: Rogue One was revealed. The brief teaser featured a voiceover from Obi-Wan Kenobi and followed a lone Imperial TIE Fighter as it flew through a jungle canyon of an alien world, only to climb into a sky dominated by the distant bulk of the first Death Star in orbit.

Bryan Young, editor-in-chief of fan site Big Shiny Robot, as well as a contributor to StarWars.com and Star Wars Insider magazine, was there for the screening.

It was overwhelming, Young said. As a fan of the prequels, I love the idea that we're getting a war-based prequel to the construction of the first Death Star.

Rogue One will take place just before the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and will feature not only the construction of the first Death Star but also the daring rebel mission to capture the blueprints of the battle station. This first film in the Star Wars Anthology series, directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, is set to be released on Dec. 16, 2016.

A second Anthology film is in the works, and speculation is already running wild about its story. The production's original director, Josh Trank, left the project earlier this year according to StarWars.com, only fueling speculation about the film.

Comic book writer and Star Wars fan Ben Hodson, who blogs at benlanehodson.com, said it may be too early to speculate with any accuracy what the second Anthology film will offer.

It's hard to get a sense of what they are going for, Hodson said. "I'm not sure if (Josh Trank) was the right director or not (Disney certainly decided he wasn't), but it does put the project in the status of 'troubled' from the get-go.

Still, Hodson said these films will scratch an itch for fans.

The Star Wars Anthology films were inevitable, Hodson said. With a Star Wars fan base more rabid than ever before, clambering for new content, along with the huge amount of money Disney paid for Lucasfilm rights, additional stories were a certainty.

Together with the episodic Star Wars films, the new Anthology series means Disney and Lucasfilm will be producing a new Star Wars film every year for the foreseeable future. This kind of long-term cinematic scheduling is nothing new to Disney, which also owns Marvel Studios and its recent, interconnected throng of Marvel superhero films.

Think about Marvel, Young said. They're putting out two movies a year and people are still clamoring for more. Star Wars is arguably a bigger draw. These Anthology films are designed to give us the sort of Star Wars films we've never seen before.

This is exciting news for fans of the Star Wars universe and opens up possibilities for some new and fun adventures. Fans of Star Wars novels, video games, tabletop games, and other media have long enjoyed the Star Wars universe beyond the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The question is, what kinds of adventures will Disney and Lucasfilm bring to the big screen? Fans are already speculating. Hodson has his own ideas about where the new films should take fans.

I still think 'The Ewok Adventure' and 'Caravan of Courage' are two of the better Star Wars spin-offs ever made, said Hodson, referring to two Star Wars TV movies from the 1980s. I'd like to see more intimate stories like those, a group of interesting characters in a new setting with a story problem to solve and some emotional weight. I feel like Jedis are way overdone and would love to see more stories dealing with other non-Jedi characters.

Young would like to see a Star Wars film with a Western theme featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett on Luke Skywalker's homeworld of Tatooine. And I'd love to see a film about a Jedi and his padawan on the run in the days after Order 66, added Young, referring to events in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Sites like moviepilot.com and screenrant.com have been abuzz with rumors and hopes for a Han Solo origin story, detailing how the scoundrel-turned-freedom-fighter started out. Could a Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian or Qui-Gon Jinn origin story soon follow?

Star Wars also boasts mountains of novels, comic books and games. These, too, could be mined for material. Upon Disney's acquisition of the Star Wars rights from creator George Lucas, it was soon announced that existing novels and tie-in media would be re-branded as Star Wars: Legends, effectively giving the filmmakers license to ignore characters and events from the expanded universe. Still, given the rich Star Wars mythos beyond the existing films, it remains a possibility that filmmakers may tap some of the characters and events from the novels and comic books.

While these characters are possibilities, it's more likely that filmmakers will look to the earlier Star Wars films for storytelling fodder. Given the cult following among fans, almost certainly Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace baddie Darth Maul will be back in one form or another. Maul actor Ray Park recently stated his desire to return to the role, according to ign.com. Perhaps his evil master Darth Sidious will pop up again as well. Likewise, the robot bounty hunter IG-88 has long had a legion of fans, and it's possible he too may get the star treatment in the years to come. And of course some fans may want to further explore the noble Jedi Order. Perhaps Samuel L. Jackson is up for igniting the popular Mace Windu's purple lightsaber once again.

While some of these characters will no doubt appear again in upcoming episodic and Anthology films, expect a healthy dose of new and original characters. Just as important as the characters and events, new and dynamic filmmakers will bring their own unique flair to the Star Wars universe. The generation that grew up watching Star Wars is now carrying on Lucas' original vision.

Even during the original trilogy, George Lucas' Star Wars universe grew beyond him," said Hodson. He brought on writers, directors, artists, all contributing to his vision with their own perspectives and ideas. The Anthologies will hopefully continue in this creative collaboration tradition. If they do, this will be a good thing for Star Wars.

Young said this is an exciting time for storytelling in the Star Wars universe. I think the Anthology films are a great way to tell Star Wars stories in a one-off format, he said. I think the greatest thing about Star Wars is its elasticity to absorb genres. The classic trilogy showed us that it could tell an incredibly moving personal hero's journey, the prequel trilogy gave us a Faustian political drama. The Clone Wars proved that you could appropriate anything from Hitchcock to Kurosawa and anything in between into the Star Wars universe. To see those muscles get flexed on the big screen is nothing short of exciting.

With the Star Wars Anthology films, the Star Wars universe has never appeared brighter, and the years to come promise more surprises, action and adventures for fans. After all, as Jedi Master Yoda, himself a contender for an Anthology film, once said, Always in motion is the future.