When Lucasfilm announced out of the blue today that Star Wars: Episode 7 was in development for a summer 2015 release, we know that the first question to pop into your head was a confused one: "How should I feel about this?" And perhaps you're still puzzling out the emotional pros and cons of this unexpected new Star Wars installment, which will come as Disney acquires Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy replaces George Lucas as the head of the company. Still, as our initial shock settled, many more questions about the announcement popped to the fore, some of which we hope will be answered soon. Here are seven of the most pressing questions prompted by Episode 7.
Who will direct?
In a new YouTube video, Lucas says his involvement with Episode 7 will be limited: "I always said I wasn't going to do any more, and that's true: I'm not going to do any more. But that doesn't mean I'm unwilling to turn it over to Kathy to do more. I have story treatments of [Episodes] 7, 8, and 9, and a bunch of other movies." Kennedy then says she's been discussing those treatments with writers … but who? And if Lucas isn't directing a Star Wars film, than who might? Would his friend Steven Spielberg want to get involved? Would an A-list helmer like Spielberg (or even David Fincher, who began his career in the effects department at Lucasfilm) be willing to step into a franchise that another director has already put his definitive stamp on? Or will we get a shortlist of talented journeyman directors vying for the role, drawing from the same contenders who came up when both the Hunger Games and Planet of the Apes franchises dropped their original directors this past year?
Will Episode 7 begin a distinct new trilogy, or has the franchise become open-ended?
It looks pretty open-ended from here. Lucas says he has ideas for "a bunch of other movies" past Episode 9, and Disney executives said they're hoping to put out a new Star Wars film every two or three years. That means we might be looking at more of a James Bond–style franchise, with only a few aspects of the story carrying over from movie to movie. Could that actually refresh the series somewhat, since anything that doesn't deal with the main arc of the first six films -- the open and closed story of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader -- will inevitably feel like an add-on?
Will any of the original stars come back?
Here be dragons. Does anyone want to see a septuagenarian Han Solo, or relive any of the profound casting disappointments of Episodes I, II, and III? We'll accept a cameo from Billy Dee Williams, but otherwise, here's hoping for a fresh start.
Will the movies be based on storylines from the Star Wars books that followed Return of the Jedi?
There's a ton of material in the so-called "expanded universe" (not to mention the staggering volume of unofficial writing), much of which is about characters never even mentioned in any of the movies. Some of the books follow marginal characters or cult favorites, like the series on Boba Fett. Others follow Han and Leia's children (Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo), some follow Luke's Skywalker spawn, and some include Chewbacca's extended family, in particular his nephew, Lowbacca. (Lowbacca! Oh man.) Among the better books is the Thrawn trilogy, but they're set pretty soon after Return of the Jedi and include a lot of main characters from the movies, which could be tough to cast anew. There are also the solid short-story anthologies, like Tales of the Bounty Hunters and Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, but those don't hugely lend themselves to large-scale film adaptations. Still, would new writers feel beholden to the semi-canon established in these continuing stories?
Will Episode 7 have a dorky title?
The Phantom Menace. Attack of the Clones. Let's not forget how those semi-silly subtitles initially baffled fans. Will Lucas be able to bring that same wacky touch to Episode 7, or will Kennedy and her new creatives opt for something that's actually cool-sounding? We kind of want that, but … well, we kind of want another head-scratcher of a title, too, just for kicks.
How will Lucas walk back his previous comments about Episode 7?
"I'm doing this so that the films will have a longer life, so that more fans and people can enjoy them in the future," Lucas says in the video released today. However, just four years ago, Lucas sang a very different tune, telling Total Film, "I've left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features. There will definitely be no Episodes VII–IX. That's because there isn't any story. I mean, I never thought of anything." Even this past January, Lucas moaned to the New York Times, "Why would I make any more [Star Wars films], when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?"
Does this put a stake through Indiana Jones 5?
Ask anyone involved in the Indiana Jones franchise whether there will be a fifth film, and they all defer to Lucas, a hands-on producer who comes up with the Indy concepts himself. But now, with Kennedy (who's also an Indiana Jones producer) in charge of Lucasfilm and Episode 7, and Lucas acting as a consigliere for the new Lucasfilm regime, will either have enough time to commit to Indy 5 in the near future? Lucas is about to enter his seventies and he still hasn't made the smaller, more personal films he's said he intends to direct; meanwhile, Harrison Ford is already 70 and can't wait much longer to play Indy if indeed there is a new movie. Then again, if Lucas is already envisioning a Star Wars franchise that continues on long after he's gone, perhaps he's started making the same contingency plans for an Indiana Jones sequel that wouldn't need him or Ford. Brave new world, folks ...