Eleven-ThirtyEight Looks to the Future One Last Time

After years of uncertainty regarding the future of Star Wars screen content (with the exception of lots and lots of The Mandalorian), a picture is beginning to take shape at last. With solid runs from The Clone Wars and The Bad Batch and a stellar showing by the first season of Andor, television content is breaking free from the iron grip of Baby Yoda at last, a process only expedited by Ahsoka, Skeleton Crew, and The Acolyte all debuting in the next year or so.

But we’ve known about all of those for years now—even if it takes a teaser these days to really believe a project is coming. The bigger question mark has been the future film slate, and only now do we finally know the name of the game there: something for everyone, with three new films announced in three disparate eras of the Star Wars timeline—one on the origins of the Jedi; one picking up Rey’s story after the sequel trilogy; and even one loosely adapting Heir to the Empire (imagine telling yourself that would happen after watching The Force Awakens!). Video games and publishing are also claiming distinct territory of their own, with The High Republic about to enter its third phase stronger and more prominent than ever; Jedi: Survivor delivering an improved continuation of Cal Kestis’s story and teeing up a likely third installment; and the newly announced open-world game Outlaws carving out a big new space during the original trilogy (hopefully) free from the entanglements of the movie characters.

With Eleven-ThirtyEight’s final days looming and the publishing schedule filling up rapidly, a group piece seemed like a good opportunity for the staff to speak their minds one last time independent of the demands of a solo article. The topic: with all these new projects on the horizon, what are you looking forward to the most? After years of uncertainty, what gives you (ugh) hope for the future of Star Wars? Here’s what they had to say.

Nick: Of all the upcoming Star Wars projects announced, I am most excited for the post-IX film by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. Hearing “New Jedi Order” is a bit jarring in some ways for those of us who grew up with Legends, but I honestly hope that this film could be the springboard for a new era of Star Wars stories. The potential for this film cannot be understated. To see the galaxy come to terms with the past fifty-plus years of war and put itself back together after a brief but intense year of warfare with the First Order is fertile grounds for storytelling.

What sort of Jedi Order does Rey Skywalker want to build? What does the galaxy need? A millennium of troubles all stems from the ongoing struggle between light and dark. Jedi and Sith. How will the galaxy react to a new order of Jedi? Do they even want one? When I think about this, there is potential for Rey to finally drop the bureaucratic, semi-regal features of the old order and make her new Jedi truly servants of the people and guided by the will of the Force.

Of equal interest to me is what sort of government or governments fill the void left by the destruction of the New Republic and the defeat of the First Order/Sith Eternal. Anyone who knows me or has read my articles for ETE knows that I have a keen interest in the concept of a galaxy-spanning republic. The Galactic Republic fell due to its own failings and corruption. The New Republic, despite the noble intentions of its own founding, overcorrected in some areas and created a weak government incapable of helping or defending the very people of the worlds composing it. Will we see, as Lando mused in the novelization of The Rise of Skywalker, a “New New Republic”? If so, will it, like Rey’s new order of Jedi, finally be able to let go of the past and chart a better path forward?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that there is risk for this film to devolve into something more akin to late Legends. If this new story ends up with Jedi peering down from their white tower on Coruscant and a new galactic government either too strong-willed or too weak, it will be a hugely missed opportunity. To fall into that overdone scenario and mirror past eras would be hugely disappointing. This is their chance to chart a new story for Star Wars and I truly hope they take chances and show us something new.

Ben W: The Star Wars project I’m most looking forward to isn’t a movie or a show at all, it’s a video game. Star Wars: Outlaws was revealed recently during a developer livestream, showing off both a concept trailer and a longer gameplay snippet, and it has me genuinely intrigued. While I’m not as excited for it to be coming from publisher Ubisoft, given their track record on things like microtransactions and DLC, it is coming from an experienced development team under Ubisoft’s umbrella and the gameplay trailer in particular showed a lot of promise, at least to my eyes. Plus, it’s the first triple-A budgeted Star Wars game developed by a team outside of EA’s stable in over a decade, and I’m intrigued to see what a game brought to life under a separate brain trust will be like.

With Outlaws, we will be getting what the development team has promised to be the “first open-world Star Wars game”. While that title might be debated, there’s still a lot of possibilities and promise coming with an open-world Star Wars game where you don’t play as a Jedi or Force-user in general. The promise of branching dialogue with consequences (but no Bioware-style morality meter) could lend itself to a lot of diverging play styles and experiences, and the exploration of the underworld of the GFFA in the time period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi is something previously only done through the lens of the main characters from the films, i.e. things like Shadows of the Empire. Outlaws has the potential to be much more of a ground-level experience, similar to the Battlefront games, but with a focus on the fringes rather than the militaries of the major factions.

Admittedly, the OT era is a bit safe in terms of where to set a Star Wars anything at this point, but I’d balance that by saying that it also has the most potential for exploration and appearances of things we’ve only seen in book or comic form up to this point. One of the planets shown off in the gameplay trailer was Akiva, which first appeared in the Aftermath books but had not been seen in any visual medium until the trailer was released. The video games we’ve gotten in the new canon era thus far have been rich with references to all levels of media, from Battlefront II’s tying in to the Aftermath books, to Jedi: Fallen Order giving us an Imperial-era Dathomir. We don’t yet know how much Outlaws will use ties to other media versus being content to go off on its own, but given that one of the main characters appears to be a BX-series commando droid, I’m willing to bet that it will follow the same pattern.

More than anything, though, I’m excited for Outlaws’ potential as an interactive experience. A game can be technically “open-world” while not being anything more than a barren wasteland with nothing living in it except the player character, but open-world games are at their best when the world itself has a sense of density and depth to it. It allows the player to get lost in the world itself, to busy themselves with otherwise-mundane things or even just to wander around and sightsee, rather than hustling from one objective marker to the next to get the game over with as soon as possible. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a Star Wars game that gripped me that way, and I’m intrigued and excited to see if Outlaws can evoke the same sense of immersion.

David: Let me confess: the Star Wars franchise hasn’t really been my thing over the last few years. It could be the inevitable ebb and flow of interests (really into Terminator right now!) or the occasional disappointments that can accompany such a massive and beloved universe. Nonetheless, I’ve accepted that Star Wars has an enduring allure that continually calls me back to its warm embrace, like a familiar home I can never abandon or a siren that really, really wants me to drown while she points and laughs.

So right now, I’m eagerly anticipating James Mangold’s upcoming project, which may or may not end up being called Dawn of the Jedi. We don’t know much about it, but it already feels like a fresh breeze, like the kind of movie project I had already given up on seeing. It just holds so much promise! It’s not only that it’s going to venture into a previously unexplored era (sorry, comic fans, you know what I mean), taking us to an age so distant in the past that the creators are pretty much forced to develop an entirely new atmosphere and a whole different feeling (and given the absence of Bad Robot’s involvement, I think the chances of encountering a prehistoric TIE fighter are rather slim). No, everything about it sounds fascinating.

Every time we’ve visited the past of the Star Wars galaxy, we’ve fallen into the same trap: the more mainstream the project became, the more it leaned toward the aesthetics and themes of the original trilogy. However, this project offers a unique opportunity to break free from that predictable pattern, finally providing a refreshing departure from the same old tropes. Mangold has mentioned The Ten Commandments as one of his influences. He’s promised to tell us how sentient life forms first learned to commune with the Force, through a Biblical movie about an utterly made-up religion. Yes, please. I want that. I want some raw imagination on screen. I desire that so much that I don’t even care that it’s going after one of the sacred cows of the franchise. Give me the origin of the Force, show the first Jedi, make Smooth Yoda canon: I don’t give a fuck.

I’m aware that, as of this writing, we don’t know if the first collaboration between James Mangold and Lucasfilm, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, will be successful or fall short, reminiscent of the Colin Trevorrow incident. It’s completely plausible that, if Indy 5 bombs, Lucasfilm’s faith in the director and the project overall may waver. I hope it doesn’t. I can only wish that history does not repeat itself and that the production proceeds as intended, without setbacks. Please, Star Wars. I know you love me, but I need a win here.

Ben C: I was expecting the usual things from Jedi: Survivor – improved combat, audio, and visuals, a good story. I did not expect it to go much, much further with two outstanding, sustained sequences late in the game. These sequences do not just redefine SW games but games in general. They show what the solid state drive technology enables – new experiences on a level not possible before.

Warning – the next paragraph contains a major Jedi: Survivor spoiler

The extended engagement with the Imperial drilling machine on Jedha is absurdly detailed in what it depicts and has the player do. A later Jedha sequence, where control switches to Cere, really emphasizes the fact you are now playing a Jedi Master. Along with racking up a stormtrooper body count that even John Wick would respect.

End of spoilers.

These sequences were amazing experiences. It is so easy to assume everything is done, known about, but these blow a huge hole in that in the best ways possible. They are film-level quality and fully interactive, executed with a huge amount of ambition, confidence and skill. If Outlaws has similar up its sleeves, it could be quite something.

If I have to opt for a specific project then the “New Jedi Order” film is it. The best way to help flawed stories is by following them with better ones that also boost them. Done in the right way, the NJO film could be exactly what the sequels needed.

Jay: What Star Wars project am I looking forward to the most? Well — my answer is that it’s the one I don’t know about yet. There’s something out there that has something I’m looking for, but it’s not been made clear to me. No, I don’t mean that there’s a hypothetical unannounced goldilocks project out there: I mean that we know so little about these upcoming projects that some of them could surprise me.

Let’s take a step backwards and look at my favorite SW projects in recent memory: Andor and Visions/Ronin. I was always looking forward to them, but what did I really know about them before they came out? I knew Andor was a prequel to Rogue One, and Mon Mothma was being billed as the dual protagonist of the show. It got me excited: but I had no idea just how it would hit everything I wanted it to hit. Same for Visions and Ronin: I was looking forward to them as a chance to get a Japanese take on the Star Wars setting that had adapted so much from Japanese culture, but I had no idea how these stories could take the basic Star Wars DNA and make something special and unique out of them (and do it twice, with Visions volume two!).

So what’s coming up that could do the same thing for me? I can think of a few examples. I’m really looking forward to Outlaws: I really enjoy Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games for their historic settings, and the chance to develop a lived-in world with as close to a regular-person protagonist as we’ve gotten (at least since Andor) has a lot of potential. We’ve gotten a few Acolyte teases and it looks like it might be shaping up to be an outside-the-box story, something that the High Republic era really needs (as much as I’ve enjoyed Phase II, which I really have so far). Finally, of the three films announced, Dawn of the Jedi might be the most different — I have Jedi fatigue but I do have a soft spot for the mythological, mystical aspects if it can deliver.

I’m looking for Star Wars to stretch its wings and do something different, and have something to say while doing it. I don’t know which of these upcoming projects will do it, but as long as Andor and Visions aren’t flukes, I have hope that Star Wars can do it again. I’ve had enough of playing it safe.