So NOW what?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens just opened in theaters this week, and it might seem like a we’re getting ahead of ourselves to already be talking about the state of the Star Wars franchise four years from now, but four years will be here before you know it (it seems like just yesterday Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced an Episode VII).

The Phantom Menace was released 16 years after Return of the Jedi. The Force Awakens was also released 16 years after The Phantom Menace. If you think Disney is going to wait until 2035 to release the first part of the next Star Wars trilogy, you’re crazy. Lucasfilm and Disney have said in the past that they want a Star Wars movie every year, so does this mean we’ll be getting Star Wars: Episode X in 2021? Star Wars: Episode XVIII in 2037?

Here’s the current Star Wars franchise schedule, which has a movie set for every year through 2020.

Star Wars: Rogue One — December 16, 2016
Star Wars: Episode 8 — May 26, 2017
Untitled Han Solo Movie — TBD 2018
Star Wars: Episode 9 — TBD 2019
Untitled Star Wars Spinoff — TBD 2020

With that said, let’s take a look at a few options for how Disney and Lucasfilm could handle the new era of Star Wars movies. (Whatever it is, it will probably involve a plucky young trio with some level of Force sensitivity and familiar lineage taking down a Death Star-like weapon.)

Splitting Star Wars: Episode 9 Into Two Parts

While we’d certainly be surprised to see Disney wait those 16 years until 2035 for Star Wars: Episode X, we’d also be surprised if they moved so quickly into a new trilogy of movies so quickly after the end of Star Wars: Episode 9.

To buy some time (and money), Disney could break Star Wars: Episode 9 up into two parts like many trilogy finales before it. Look at the finales of recent franchises: The Avengers, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Divergent, The Hobbit, Twilight, the upcoming Justice League; pretty much every major film franchise has broken its last film into two parts. Disney sure does love making money, and the decision to split the Star Wars finale into Episode 9, Part 1 and Episode 9, Part 2 could not only be highly lucrative, it also would buy some time on the upcoming schedule to get additional Anthology stories into development to pad the schedule until Episode X was ready for production.

A Secondary Star Wars Trilogy

Disney and Lucasfilm will also likely try to launch a sub-franchise that can run concurrently with the main franchise. For example, Marvel has their main franchise, The Avengers, but in between the three years we wait for those films, we have the sub-franchises like Captain America, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy. Neither Rogue One nor Han Solo seem like movies that can have sequels (both films lead directly into A New Hope), so expect Lucasfilm to eventually launch an Anthology film that can start its own trilogy.

The problem is finding characters that can launch and sustain their own franchise. With a lot of the expanded universe essentially wiped out, they may need to look at products like Knights of the Old Republic for inspiration. Or, if they don’t want to go 4,000 years into the past, they could slowly start introducing characters to spinoff. Why can’t Poe Dameron and BB-8 get their own movie? So, while we’re waiting for a Star Wars: Episode X, we can go see Poe Dameron and the X-Wing Fighters, Part 2 in theaters.

Remaking the Prequel Trilogy

Another possibility that fans have been buzzing about is the potential to remake the prequel trilogy, essentially rewriting Episodes I-III out of Star Wars canon. It would allow Lucasfilm to tell an important story with recognizable characters (Obi-Wan, Anakin Skywalker, etc.), while slowly phasing out the three Star Wars movies that most fans don’t like.

The Force Awakens goes out of its way to ignore the Prequel Trilogy (the only nod we could find is having Ewan McGregor provide some voiceover during Rey’s Force vision), so how much longer until Lucasfilm makes it official?

As much as some fans might like for this to happen, this seems especially unlikely, at least this soon into the Disney partnership, and while George Lucas is still alive. Yes, Lucas has nothing to do with the new version of Lucasfilm, but remaking three of the films he created would be seen as a slap in the face. We could see this happening maybe 20-30 years down the line, but don’t hold your breath for a Star Wars reboot any time soon.

Eliminating the Concept of Star Wars Trilogies

It’s highly possible that Disney will completely do away with the notion of Star Wars trilogies in anything other than the structural sense. For all intents and purposes as release dates go, the Saga films (The Force Awakens, Episode 8, etc.) will alternate every other year with the next set of movies, starting with Star Wars: Episode X, coming in 2021, 2023 and 2025. Eventually they will all just bleed together as one giant mass of movies with no more “Prequel Trilogy,” “Original Trilogy” and “Sequel Trilogy” designations.

We know that there will essentially be Star Wars movies now long past the time all of us have shuffled off this mortal coil, so why bother trying to create these breaks in between arcs? Lucas has always described the Star Wars movies as “space operas” and eventually they may turn into soap operas where the storylines just continue from one episode to the next, like chapters in a never ending book.

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