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Theories as to why Star Wars: Episode VIII has been delayed

Don't panic...but Star Wars: Episode VIII has been pushed back from its original release of May 2017 to December of that year. Yes, that means you'll have to wait an extra seven months to see what happens next in the newly reinvigorated Star Wars saga. Film delays are often a sign for worry, since it tends to point to problems that need to get worked out. Then again, it also means the filmmakers are taking the time necessary to make the movie as good as possible. Either way, we've got a few theories about what might be the real reason behind Episode VIII's new release date...

December allows Disney's Marvel movies to rule summer

Unless you've been living in a cave for the last few years, you may have noticed that each summer features a bunch of big-budget, high-grossing movies featuring Marvel's stable of comic book characters. Since Disney owns both Marvel Comics (which obviously includes Marvel Studios) and Star Wars, the company is going to want to make as much money off of both properties as possible. As such, scheduling a Star Wars flick for the summer, which is prime Marvel movie time, could wind up hurting the box office receipts for both franchises. Pushing Episode VIII to December means Disney won't compete with itself.

Yearlong marketing possibilities

Up until this delay, Disney's first Star Wars spin-off movie, the December 2016-slated Rogue One, was set to come out a mere five months before Episode VIII. While Disney would really only need a week and a half and a single YouTube video to successfully market a new Star Wars movie, it's a huge help to have a full year to devote to Rian Johnson's sequel to The Force Awakens. After all, Rogue One is going to be the first time audiences get a Star Wars flick that's not set in its episodic timeline. Jamming Rogue One and Episode VIII so closely together might only confuse less savvy consumers.

Star Wars could have gone up against Avatar 2

The long-awaited sequel to James Cameron's 3D CGI-fest Avatar from 2009 was all set to premiere in December 2017. Soon after Cameron mentioned the movie's planned holiday release date, Disney announced that Episode VIII would be delayed to that same month. Moreover, The Force Awakens managed to unseat Avatar's previous box office records during its theatrical run, meaning that these two franchises would've had a serious score to settle. That is, until 20th Century Fox decided just days after Disney's announcement that Avatar 2 would be pushed back to an as-yet undetermined date. Summer 2017's looking pretty open...

Need to flesh out minor characters' backstories

One of the more frustrating aspects of The Force Awakens was how tantalizingly close we were to getting some real backstory on characters like Maz Kanata, an apparently Force sensitive, thousand-year-old lady who just happens to have Luke Skywalker's old lightsaber sitting in a box in her basement. With the huge and immediate online reaction to the movie's twists and turns, it's entirely possible that the flimmakers for Episode VIII are listening to their fans and figuring out which characters need the most fleshing out. Maz is an obvious one, but other characters, like X-Wing pilot Jessika Pava or Unkar Plutt, may be other fan favorites who could benefit from expanded roles this time around.

Working out scheduling conflicts

Before The Force Awakens, had you heard of Daisy Ridley or John Boyega, who portrayed Rey and Finn, respectively? Don't pretend like your answer is yes. But since their star turns in J.J. Abrams' Star Wars flick, the two actors have gone from zeroes to heroes. These are two of the hottest young actors in the world right now, so it's entirely possible that some schedules have had to be moved around just a bit to accommodate their burgeoning stardom.

They're adding a love triangle to the mix

The original Star Wars trilogy featured a love triangle between Luke, Leia, and Han...at least, that is, before we found out that Luke and Leia were siblings. The Force Awakens, by contrast, features no such obvious love subplot, though there is plenty of subtext to go around. We know that Finn and Rey have strong feelings for each other, which will be further explored either romantically or otherwise in Episode VIII. We also know that Poe and Finn seem to have an awesome rapport and have definitely become fast friends, with Poe even giving his jacket to Finn because it suits him. Many fans, however, have picked up on a romantic subtext between Poe and Finn that may definitely be explored in Episode VIII in some really interesting ways. And isn't it about time we finally see characters embracing the full spectrum of life and love? After all, The Force Awakens bucked the trend by casting a woman and a black man in the lead roles. Poe being revealed as having more-than-friendly feelings for Finn might be the next logical step in that direction.

They're bringing Jar Jar Binks back

You knew this was coming. You can't keep a good Gungan down, after all. After totally missing out on The Force Awakens, Jar Jar Binks is long overdue for a return to the audiences who love him. Rian Johnson probably just needed the extra time to make sure this fan-favorite superstar gets the treatment he truly deserves.