Cover Story

The Future of 'Star Wars'

Disney's $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm has given Star Wars fans the ultimate reason to bust out their wookie costumes. EW investigates what the next three films will entail, who will steer them, and what the surprise deal means for the moviegoing galaxy.

The Force moves in mysterious ways, and so does its creator, George Lucas, who relinquished a galaxy Oct. 30 when he sold Lucasfilm — and with it the Star Wars franchise — to the Walt Disney Co. for $4.05 billion, most of which is going to charity. It was the biggest Jedi shocker since Luke Skywalker found a father and lost a hand back on Bespin in 1980. Fans' reactions across the globe were as passionate, conflicted, and complicated as their views on Lucas and his mythology, which for 35 years has possessed modern geeks the way Olympus owned the ancient Greeks. There was one clear, chiming sound amid the planetary talk: a new hope.

Lucasfilm's co-chairman and soon-to-be president, Kathleen Kennedy, has told employees she wants the company to produce two or three films a year (it's averaged fewer than four per decade), and first up is Star Wars: Episode VII for 2015, which will pick up sometime after Darth Vader gave his life to overthrow (figuratively and literally) the Emperor and save Luke in 1983's Episode VI — Return of the Jedi. Yes, the plan is to return to the characters in the first trilogy (1977-83). Whether the original actors will have significant roles or merely be on hand to pass the baton to a new generation of actors — something Lucasfilm tried with mixed success with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Disney with TRON: Legacy — is unclear. But the reintroduction of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo is a jolting concept that will inspire a lot of goose bumps and at least a few groans from anyone old enough to remember, say, Polaroid pictures or the star-spangled polyester of the Bicentennial. George Nolfi, a Star Wars buff as well as the writer-director of The Adjustment Bureau, says the horizon will need to be bigger to handle the colossal project taking shape. ''I can't imagine,'' Nolfi says, ''a larger event film for our generation than a sequel to Return of the Jedi.''

Many fans, though, worry about an Imperial Walker stomping on their childhood memories. One of those fans is Star Trek reboot director J.J. Abrams, who was so conflicted in his feelings about the news that he veered into something close to Shatnerian syntax: ''Part of me? Thrilled. Part of me? Terrified. Most of me? Thrillified.''

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