In a recent promotional video for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, director Gareth Edwards came up with a particularly succinct way to explain where the movie falls inside the franchise's timeline: "The simplest way to explain it is, that text you see at the beginning of A New Hope? That is essentially our movie," he said.
He's right. For those who don't remember the opening crawl for the movie word-for-word, this is what it says: "It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…."
That got me thinking: What potential Star Wars spinoffs could be culled from the opening crawls of the other movies? Here are six suggestions, one for each of the remaining movies. Lucasfilm, have your people call my people. Let's make a deal.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Opening Crawl: "It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy. Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth. The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space…."
The Spinoff: What fan wouldn't want to see the story of the Imperial troops driving the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursuing them across the galaxy from the point of view of the Rebel pilots who are risking their lives trying to find a new home for their movement, exploring new expanses of the galaxy for safe places while avoiding Imperial patrols … and the one Imperial officer who's obsessed with tracking them down? Is Benedict Cumberbatch available to play the Imperial officer? He'd be able to use his own accent.
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
The Opening Crawl: "Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine in an attempt to rescue his friend Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt. Little does Luke know that the GALACTIC EMPIRE has secretly begun construction on a new armored space station even more powerful than the first dreaded Death Star. When completed, this ultimate weapon will spell certain doom for the small band of rebels struggling to restore freedom to the galaxy...."
The Spinoff: The movie follows Boba Fett as he travels from Bespin to Tatooine to deliver Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt, revealing the previously unknown deal between the Empire and Jabba: Upon safe delivery of Solo, Jabba will give the Empire the one piece of technology in the galaxy that will make the second Death Star more powerful than the first. Can [Insert Name Here, played by Lin-Manuel Miranda], a charming smuggler, save Solo and the galaxy as a whole before the deal is done? (Spoilers: Obviously not.)
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
The Opening Crawl: "Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute. Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo. While the Congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict...."
The Spinoff: Obviously, what's called for is a four-hour lecture on the specifics of taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems. No? Something else…? Fine, then let's go with the flashier option: A movie centering around the Jedi Order as the peacekeepers of the Galactic Republic, dealing with the first signs of trouble from the Trade Federation, filled with lots of obvious foreboding dialogue like, "This Trade Federation sure is a handful! Glad there aren't any more Sith out there, that would make things really difficult to deal with!" or "I wonder if anyone will ever bring balance to the Force?" Jessica Chastain plays the wise Jedi mentor, while her padawan is a CGI character voiced by Mindy Kaling.
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
The Opening Crawl: "There is unrest in the Galactic Senate. Several thousand solar systems have declared their intentions to leave the Republic. This separatist movement, under the leadership of the mysterious Count Dooku, has made it difficult for the limited number of Jedi Knights to maintain peace and order in the galaxy. Senator Amidala, the former Queen of Naboo, is returning to the Galactic Senate to vote on the critical issue of creating an ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC to assist the overwhelmed Jedi...."
The Spinoff: This Star Wars Story would update the paranoia of 1970s political thrillers as members of the Galactic Senate slowly uncover separatists in their midst, fighting against the clock to expose the threat before their own systems vote to pull out of the Senate. Part-science fiction actioner, part-allegory for the Brexit vote, this complex tale could only be grounded by Kevin Spacey in a mo-cap suit, with Jennifer Lawrence playing a fearless, impassioned believer in the system who has to fight for what she knows to be right.
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The Opening Crawl: "War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere. In a stunning move, the fiendish droid leader, General Grievous, has swept into the Republic capital and kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate. As the Separatist Droid Army attempts to flee the besieged capital with their valuable hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a desperate mission to rescue the captive Chancellor...."
The Spinoff: Admittedly, The Clone Wars TV show sucked up a lot of air in the obvious spinoff material, but anyone who thinks that there's not a movie waiting to be made about the aftermath of Grievous kidnapping Chancellor Palpatine is fooling themselves. To give the movie some breathing space of its own, however, bring in two bounty hunters hired by the Senate to try and retrieve the Chancellor - two bounty hunters with the names Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, preferably.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
The Opening Crawl: "Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed. With the support of the REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa leads a brave RESISTANCE. She is desperate to find her brother Luke and gain his help in restoring peace and justice to the galaxy. Leia has sent her most daring pilot on a secret mission to Jakku, where an old ally has discovered a clue to Luke's whereabouts...."
The Spinoff: It's possible that subsequent movies will cover this in some way, but there's definitely a movie in just how the First Order got started, told from the First Order's point of view. Not even a "Secret Origin of Supreme Commander Snoke" story - that is almost certainly going to be revealed in the main series - but a sequence spanning the end of Return of the Jedi and beginning of The Force Awakens that watches one Imperial soldier go from strength to terrifying strength as he or she rises in the ranks of this new organization founded on the ruins of the Empire. Get someone who can do charming and chilling in equal amounts, preferably British. Hmm ... is Tom Hiddleston up for a Star Wars role, do you think?