How Return of the Jedi could spawn new Star Wars movies

Rogue One was a killer space war movie in its own right, as well as a worthy addition to the Star Wars saga. But it also proved the franchise has plenty of room to find new stories within, around, and in between the films we already know and love. Just as the months leading up to A New Hope gave us Rogue One, it isn't hard to imagine how other installments in the original trilogy might produce more spinoff movies—and here's how we think Return of the Jedi could lead to more standalone Star Wars stories.

Coruscant rebellion

When the Special Editions of the first Star Wars came out, some of the movies received bigger facelifts than others. Obviously, much of the critical attention focused on the weird new additions to A New Hope, including the hotly debated decision to have Greedo fire first. However, Return of the Jedi received some less-controversial changes to its ending, including replacing the infamous old "Yub Yub" Ewok song with a rather beautiful new composition from John Williams. While that music plays, we now see scenes of different planets celebrating the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star. It's here where we receive our onscreen introduction to Coruscant—and glimpse a celebration that could be the end of its own movie.

As celebratory fireworks go off on Coruscant, a statue of Palpatine is dragged to the ground. We quickly transition back to Endor, but there has to be an epic story behind taking down that statue. How did people at the very center of the Empire's propaganda machine even learn what happened so quickly? How did a group on the homeworld of iron-fisted Imperial control (a world where we know the favored solution to perceived uprisings is to slaughter every man, woman, and child potentially involved) organize? And what happened to them afterwards? It's quickly clear that, like Rogue One, these simple events required a coordinated team of rogue agents risking their lives to defy the Emperor.

The Empire under new management

Speaking of that Return of the Jedi ending, it seemed to highly imply that the Empire had been utterly defeated because they lost one battle and the Emperor died. Of course, even in a galaxy far, far away, audiences understand this isn't how things work when a leader is killed. Realistically, this would simply create a power vacuum as different people scrambled to fill the void left by Palpatine, fighting to effectively become the new Emperor.

There are several directions this could go for a movie, many inspired by the older Star Wars comics and novels. For instance, the Dark Empire comics portrayed an Empire in a state of civil war, with factions openly fighting each other for control. While audiences would likely love to see some of that Empire-on-Empire violence, an even better possibility would be to focus on the rise of a new leader such as Grand Admiral Thrawn, a fan favorite introduced in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire. Thrawn has actually been introduced as a villain in the Star Wars Rebels cartoon, which makes him canonical once more and a solid candidate for headlining his own movie.

Crimson Empire

Some of the absolute coolest designs in Star Wars belonged to characters that never said a word onscreen—like the Imperial Guard. They looked badass, really liked the color red, and fiercely guarded Emperor Palpatine. Out of all of the groups who might be affected by his death, the Imperial Guard must have an amazing story waiting to be told.

In the Star Wars comics, a version of this story has already been told. Crimson Empire focused on a guardsman named Kir Kanos who, when betrayed by fellow guardsman Carnor Jax, must reluctantly ally himself with some Rebels in order to get his revenge. It isn't necessary to re-tell that particular story on the big screen, but the basic question of "what does someone do when they've lost the only thing giving their life meaning?" can make for powerful drama.

Rebels become an Empire

While most people agree that The Force Awakens is awesome, many left the theater scratching their heads at some of the finer plot points. Like, the New Republic is nominally separate from the Resistance, but the Republic is the First Order's target? As it turns out, there's a fairly crunchy political story at the heart of the plot, and the setup for this begins with the end of Return of the Jedi.

While the New Republic portrayed in Force Awakens presents themselves to the galaxy as being neutral, they're actually helping to fund and supply the Resistance so the Resistance can fight against the First Order. While this is glossed over in Force Awakens, the First Order sees the New Republic as a government that's paying others to do their dirty work. And while killing countless innocent people with their Starkiller is extreme, they aren't wrong about the New Republic's shady way of doing things. Thus, a movie portraying the slow transition from New Republic (willed with Senators and democracy) to a new kind of Empire (where a handful of leaders use military might to their own ends) would make for a Star Wars movie we've never seen before.

Mara Jade Movie

In addition to Grand Admiral Thrawn, Timothy Zahn introduced another fan favorite character in Heir to the Empire: Mara Jade. In the now non-canonical Star Wars novels, she married Luke Skywalker, and they had a son together. However, one Mara story that would make for an amazing movie doesn't have to involve Luke Skywalker or other famous Rebels, and it's tied directly to the death of Emperor Palpatine.

In Zahn's novels, Mara Jade was a special assistant to the Empire whose codename was "The Emperor's Hand." The vast majority of people in the Empire didn't know who she was, which is how the Emperor liked it. The secrecy surrounding her identity and purpose meant she could be used to spy on and assassinate enemies as well as supposed allies that were plotting against him. When Palpatine dies, however, she's in a kind of double blind, as her loyalty was to Palpatine personally rather than the Empire in general, and when he's gone, nobody knows she's a high-ranking Imperial. This forces her to create a new life for herself on the fringes of the galaxy, and she must constantly balance using the remnants of her Force abilities (that Palpatine helped develop) while keeping her Force sensitivity a secret. Mara's movie would focus on this critical time in her life and make countless fans happy by bringing their favorite fiery Star Wars redhead to the big screen.

Tattooine Tales

Just as an inevitable power vacuum would have been left when Palpatine and Vader died, a similar situation was created after Jabba the Hutt died. A movie exploring the aftermath of Jabba's death has a lot of potential. Just as part of the fun of Rogue One was seeing unfamiliar characters like Jyn Erso and Director Krennic in familiar places like Yavin IV and Mustafar, a movie about crime and crime bosses on Tattooine would allow new faces to flesh out a well-known world. Plus, Disney should theoretically have plenty of raw material to adapt this story, as 50 scripts were completed for a planned television show focusing on the underworld of Star Wars that never came to light. There was also a planned Star Wars video game, simply called 1313, that would have involved exploring the criminal underworld of the planet Coruscant. Neither the game nor TV series will ever be brought to life, but some of the characters and concepts from them could kickstart one hell of a movie.

Birth of the Starkiller

Speaking of movies based around the bad guys, the sheer existence of the Starkiller base in The Force Awakens raises a series of questions. To start with, it's an entire planet that's been turned into a weapon utilizing theoretical technology, and it was even fitted with rocket boosters so it could move (although thanks to the Resistance, we never see that happen). How did all of this happen without the Resistance knowing? It's one thing to imagine that the Empire, at the height of their power, could secretly build a superweapon and hide it from a struggling Rebellion. It's another to imagine that the First Order, who must nominally operate on the fringes of the galaxy, could easily convert an entire planet into a superweapon without the New Republic or their allies hearing about it.

Thus, part of the purpose for such a movie would be to explain the actual mechanics of how this thing was created. This might include how long it took, how it was powered (it's easy to wonder if they had to strip-mine more Kyber crystals, as we saw in Rogue One), and who had to die to keep the Starkiller a secret. Additionally, this movie could help flesh out more of how the First Order sees themselves. Every writer knows that the secret to great villains is that they think they're the good guys. Do they really believe they're restoring order to the galaxy? Better still, do they see the New Republic as a threat to the galaxy, since they're secretly using the Resistance to crush anyone who opposes Republic rule? These questions (and more) could be answered in a truly unconventional movie.

Bothan Intelligence

Bothans are arguably the most important unseen race in Star Wars. They're mentioned in a throwaway line from Mon Mothma about securing the plans to the second Death Star, as she mentions "Many Bothans died to bring us this information." However, according to Emperor Palpatine, letting the Rebellion know about his second Death Star was all part of the plan. Exploring who the Bothans are, and the ramifications of their most important mission, could make for an awesome cinematic experience.

One possible option is to focus on the mission to get the second Death Star's plans. As Rogue One illustrated, following an entirely new crew on their suicide mission to save the galaxy makes for thrilling viewing. Another take is to focus on Bothan intelligence in the aftermath of the second Death Star's destruction. The organization would likely be viewed as "tarnished goods," as they unwittingly played a part in luring plenty of good Rebels to what Admiral Ackbar famously declared "a trap." Perhaps the Bothans would want to prove themselves to the Rebellion by taking on even more dangerous assignments. Giving this group such a mission, like assassinating a dangerous leader of whatever's left of the Empire, would allow Disney to essentially create their own James Bond adventure in the Star Wars universe, starring a never-before-seen alien race.

Last Jedi

Another idea for a new movie that riffs off of Return of the Jedi is to focus on a Jedi who survived the Emperor's purge. From a purely practical angle, it would seem impossible that the Empire could kill every single Jedi in the galaxy, and this idea is backed up by various canonical and formerly-canonical sources. Surviving Jedi might include maverick Quinlan Vos, who in some stories survived his wounds from Order 66, and anyone else Obi-Wan and Yoda might have successfully warned away when they changed the beacon near the end of Revenge of the Sith. Despite the fact that such survivors exist, Luke Skywalker is seemingly thought of as the last of the Jedi by the time Force Awakens rolls around. What happened?

Answering that question would provide a lot of potential directions for a movie. One might focus on a Jedi trying to survive on the fringes of the galaxy, where they're so focused on surviving attacks from Darth Vader that they don't yet know he's dead. Another might focus on a surviving Jedi master trying to gather other survivors together while avoiding remaining Imperials and bounty hunters. Another possibility is to focus on the Wild West trope of an older Jedi who's laid his lightsaber down and tries to raise a family and lead a simple life before being forced to defend his new life. Basically, every single potential Jedi who managed to survive is an opportunity for a new movie.

A galaxy of possibilities

Of course, the ideas above primarily center on post-Return of the Jedi adventures featuring characters that audiences haven't seen much of before. However, Disney's bold choice to create a young Han Solo movie that features Alden Ehrenreich as Solo and Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian opens up a galaxy of possibilities for building new adventures around Star Wars favorites during their younger days. Fans might get to see the romantic highs and lows of the doomed relationship between Han and Leia, or even see Luke when he first opens his equally-doomed Jedi Academy. Between the ability to cast impressive young talent and the continued maturation of cutting-edge CGI (like the technology that brought Peter Cushing back to life for Rogue One), the new adventures of old characters may continue to be told for years to come.