Just five years ago the world of Star Wars was rocked and reignited by the double announcement that Disney were buying Lucasfilm and producing a whole new trilogy of movies.
Things moved fast and only two years later, The Force Awakens is one of the highest-grossing movies of all time and has re-established Star Wars as the biggest and best franchise in the world. That particular trilogy seems to be doing quite nicely, with The Last Jedi in cinemas next month and the final instalment unleashed in 2019, completing the Skywalker saga.
But let's go back again.
In February 2013, the chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, told investors that "a few standalone films" were in development. Exciting times for those interested in exploring the ever-expanding Star Wars universe.
The following year, the first directors for the new series (which was given the "Anthology" tag in 2015 but quickly dropped) were announced: Gareth Edwards, known for 2014's Godzilla, and Josh Trank, director of 2012's Chronicle.
The former would go on to make a worldwide hit in 2016 with the first standalone film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (not without numerous reports of a troubled production).
The latter did not fare as well.
After the box office failure of Fantastic Four, and a problematic relationship between its director and 20th Century Fox, Trank was let go by Lucasfilm mid-2015.
As of yet, we don't know for sure what film he was working on but it was strongly rumoured to have featured notorious bounty hunter and fan fave, Boba Fett.
In happier news, just months later Lucasfilm revealed that the next "anthology" instalment would focus on a young Han Solo. The Lego Movie's Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were hired in what seemed like a dream move for all concerned.
It wasn't long before it turned to a nightmare.
Lord and Miller were removed after months of shooting on the film, which stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Hollywood legend Ron Howard took over behind the camera.
Despite the setback, the film is still on course, rather incredibly, to meet its May 2018 release date.
So what about the third standalone film?
Fans speculated that Boba Fett and Yoda would be the focus, and actor Ewan McGregor added fuel to the fire by saying he'd happily return as Obi Wan Kenobi for his own spin-off.
But, back to Bob Iger again. Last year, the Disney CEO positively announced that a third standalone Star Wars film would roll out in 2020. Cue more joyous fans, who were to be treated with an episodic film one year and a standalone the next for the next few years.
So, all being well, 2017 should have been the year when the third Star Wars standalone film was formally announced. And where better than the huge Star Wars Celebration or equally massive Disney D23 Expo?
Well, the former went on with no news (they didn't even announce the title of the Han Solo movie – Ron Howard did that himself a few months later).
Before D23, Disney CEO Bob Iger even stated that they were very close to announcing the details of the film with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy (pictured above with George Lucas) telling the world a decision would be made by June of this year on who was involved and who it would focus on.
July saw D23 come and go with not a whisper of new information. In fact, the lack of information was quite telling when Disney revealed their upcoming movie slate for the next three years.
Surely, A Star Wars Story number three would still be on the schedule for 2020?
That's a no.
Alongside the as-of-yet untitled fifth Indiana Jones movie, Disney informed fans of what to expect in 2020:
- UNTITLED MARVEL – July 7, 2020
- UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION – April 3, 2020
And, just for completion, this is what they've got planned for 2021.
- UNTITLED DISNEY ANIMATION – November 24, 2021
- UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION – March 12, 2021
- UNTITLED PIXAR ANIMATION – June 18, 2021
Now, we should it make it clear that "Disney Live Action" refers to the live-action remakes, such as Beauty & the Beast and the forthcoming The Lion King, not the Star Wars franchise (you'll note Marvel movies are indicated as such in the schedule).
So where the Mustafar is Star Wars?
Given that 2020 was always the intention, it seems very odd that there's no place for it in the Disney slate.
What has been announced is another new trilogy – The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson (pictured above with Carrie Fisher) will take care of three new episodic films set in the Star Wars universe.
And, at the same time, Disney dropped another Death Star-sized bombshell: a live-action Star Wars series was on its way too, courtesy of the company's own to-be-announced streaming service.
Are Lucasfilm and Disney hoping – by dazzling us with three new films and a television run in their right hand – that we won't notice the left hand slowly and quietly taking away a once-scheduled third Star Wars Story?
Perhaps this combined with the problematic relationship between directors and the films tells us that the future of standalone Star Wars entries is over after the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story next year.
Those hoping to find out just what how Obi Wan changed his name to "Ben" and how Yoda got to Dagobah may have to wait a little bit longer.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits UK cinemas on Dec 14, 2017.
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