To begin with: I’m not saying that these new movies couldn’t be made. It could all be Jar Jar Binks backstory, or it could be some crappy animated or all CGI Jawas and Ewoks In Space Christmas-type trilogy. People would go see it. Kids would probably like it and they’d make a ton in merchandising. It’s always easy to make a lifeless, steaming pile of animated crap with no emotional depth.
But it would be very hard to make a new and nuanced three-movie cycle.
The Star Wars universe, as presented through the six films that exist now, is essentially an entirely closed universe. The original trilogy was a triumphant and amazing stand-alone story, but it was also simultaneously setting the viewer up for the prequels. This was done on purpose, and it’s evident in so many ways, from the references to the Clone Wars, the Old Republic, the history of the Jedi, the formation of the Rebel Alliance, all the way up to Han Solo’s sordid past as a smuggler. Travelling backwards in time to flesh out the history of beloved characters as well as their family and enemies was a natural progression, and one that was guaranteed to grab an audience in the future. The two sets of films, while vastly different in scope and quality, are symbiotic in this way. There’s been a fairly successful animated show the past few seasons that deals solely with the Clone Wars, in fact, but it’s coterminous with the events that happened between episodes 2 and 3, and people are familiar with the Clone Wars and a young-ish Anakin Skywalker. The introduction of new characters in this familiar environment makes sense, and is palatable.
Big deal, you say. What does this really mean, though, that the story is now a closed universe? It means that in the 33 years that Star Wars has been in the world’s consciousness, George Lucas himself has never once hinted at any of the events that would follow the destruction of the Death Star. I had heard rumors when I was younger that it was supposed to be 9 complete movies, but have never heard one shred of evidence or deduced one foreshadowing clue from the films to back this assertion up. No character ever mentions what the form of government would be following the demise of the Empire, nor who would lead it, or the fact that there are hundreds of Imperial bases, starships, and occupied planets that would still have to be subdued.
So, barring a complete shit-show creation of something like Jawas and Ewoks 2: Tatooine Boogaloo, I assume that the storyline for an entirely new trilogy will have to come from someone’s imagination (either Lucas as writer, maybe or some Hollywood hack) and will follow the main characters as they navigate life after the Emperor.
What most of the world doesn’t realize is that, for the past 25 years, this trajectory has been mapped out by no less than a dozen authors writing for such big-name publishers as Dell Ray, Bantom Doubleday, and Dark Horse comics. This collection of books, novels, and comics is called the expanded universe. It’s non-canon, in that they don’t reflect information originally taken from the films themselves.
They’re still fun to read though, and in middle school I read literally all of them. The books are arranged on a timeline beginning with the year after Return of the Jedi, and are now somewhere around 50 years after ROTJ. While some folks think these books are just fan fiction, they’re written by some of the big names in science fiction, and they all have to respect and reflect the events and history that happen in each one. There’s continuity, in other words, and there’s even a man whose job it is to cull through information and ensure that one character doesn’t die twice in different ways. For example, Chewbacca dies eventually. He can’t be resurrected two years later in a different novel. Having not read them in years, I’m something like 30 years behind now. It’s insane the amount of things that have happened
So there’s all this information that is just lying out there, ready to be adapted. They could go with the best of all of the EU, the Timothy Zahn Trilogy, which takes places five years after ROTJ. These novels discuss the problems of dealing with building a new political and governmental system (the New Republic), facing a new enemy (a bad-ass Grand Admiral who is rallying what’s left of the Imperial forces), and oh, Princess Leia is pregnant with twins. By her baby daddy, Han Solo. The next major trilogy in the EU is the Kevin J. Anderson set, which are my personal favorite, and deal with Luke’s establishment of a new Jedi Academy on Yavin 4 as well as a new rogue Imperial Admiral and a Death-star-like superweapon called the Suncrusher.
These are potential trilogies, and the stories are already mapped out. So what’s the next roadblock, you ask? The fact that the original actors are all incredibly old, or dead. Reboot you say! This is where I think it will be hard if not impossible to recreate. Others have mentioned the fact that comic book movies are constantly being remade, and audiences seem to have no problem with this. 1). I think lots of reboots are crap and 2). There’s no baseline for comic book characters except for drawn or animated personas. Star Wars characters (and I’m going with the original trilogy characters, as I assume they’d be the subject of eps 7-9) on the other hand, are iconic in their imagery. To this day, on all of the covers of the novels that are published, the original actors’ likenesses are still used. So, for instance, on one of the most recent novels, there is a great drawing of Han Solo—and it’s Harrison Ford frozen in time at age 35.
I’m not sure if these main characters would be replaceable on the big screen. To be fair, Ewan MacGregor played a fantastic young Obi Wan, but he had the added help of not replacing, but merely showing him as a younger man. If they decided to set episode 7 only a few years after ROTJ, they’d have to find brand new actors of roughly the same age that the main actors were in the early 80’s.
And who knows. Maybe it could be done. Do or do not. There is no try. Unless you’re trying to make it for the Ewok dolls. In which case, don’t.