Right now, somewhere as you read this, pre-production is well underway for Star Wars Episode VII. The script is being written and re-written, conceptual artists are creating new visions of a galaxy far far away, and there is already a casting call for major roles in the next movie. Barely eight months ago we could have never imagined a new Star Wars trilogy would be happening (in fact, I still find myself hardly believing it). And now under Disney's management, we are being promised not just a new trilogy (perhaps even two) but a Star Wars movie every year from 2015 until the end of time.
And therein rests a problem which hopefully is being discussed somewhere at the Mouse House and at Lucasfilm:
With all of these new Star Wars movies... how are they going to be titled? And what does it mean for the Star Wars films we have already?
Until now it's been easy enough: "Episode I: The Phantom Menace", "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" and so forth. Those were individual chapters of one story in an epic fantasy setting. And it suffices for that one multi-generational epic on film.
Except now, there is the intent to produce several stories in that same setting. And they aren't necessarily going to pertain to the tale of the Skywalker family from Anakin to Luke to whoever it will be in the next trilogy.
There are already plans for Star Wars "one-shot" films, focusing on individual characters like Yoda and Boba Fett. Once that big beautiful Star Wars logo blares loud on the screen and the scroll unspools, it's easy to envision it saying "Yoda: Making of a Master" or somesuch.
But those will be self-contained stories. What of the story that started it all, when it is now to be but one piece of an entire tapestry of tales? How is the epic at the heart-meat of the entire franchise going to be set apart from what is yet to come?
And there exists the possibility of future Star Wars trilogies: multi-film stories which aren't focused on the Skywalkers or any of the classic characters at all. Perhaps not even the familiar era of the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire. The nomenclature of those potential future trilogies must be taken into account. The sooner the better.
There is a very simple solution: amend the style of the opening crawls of the Star Wars films we already know and love.
There is precedent for it. When the very first movie came out it was simply "Star Wars". Only when The Empire Strikes Back was released three years later did the original get retroactively subtitled "Episode IV: A New Hope". That's been the titling protocol since.
There hasn't been a need to revise that protocol. There will be soon. And if accommodation was made before, it can be again.
Here is the proposal: retroactively amend the titles of the existing Star Wars movies so that they will stand apart from the films which will be produced in the years to come. Let there be no confusing that Episodes I through IX are a singular epic, standing apart as George Lucas' vision of one movie. Have the core story of the Skywalker family be branded as something unto itself, yet a major component of the larger Star Wars universe which Disney is now creating.
Call it "The Skywalker Saga", or "The Skywalker Cycle" (a Wagner-ish notion in keeping with the operatic motifs at work through the trilogies). So for example, the scroll for Episode IV could look like this:
That's all that needs to happen. Just expand the titling format. It's an elegant and non-invasive alteration that will set the classic films and their sequels apart, and can accommodate any movies still to come. Including full-bore trilogies set in new times and with characters all their own.
From a literary perspective, it makes a lot of sense. From a corporate viewpoint, it also might prove to be quite lucrative. It certainly lends itself well to marketing and merchandising possibilities.
And wouldn't it be grand to someday have a set of Blu-rays on the shelf: "Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga", alongside such classics as A Tale of Two Cities, Moby-Dick and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A truly timeless work of literature, standing on its own merit.
That is what the story of Anakin Skywalker, his son Luke and the next generation of their family deserves. It's what every story in the Star Wars galaxy deserves in its own right. And hopefully the good folks at Disney and Lucasfilm will take that into consideration.
(Speaking of Star Wars, hearty congratulations are in order to George Lucas on his recent marriage to the very lovely Mellody Hobson. May they have a long and happy life together!)