As we prepare for Rogue One to hit theaters, it's crazy to think that we were doing the same for The Force Awakens only a year ago.
After Star Wars exploded onto the scene in 1977, audiences had to wait three years for The Empire Strikes Back to continue the story (with not much but the dreadful Star Wars Holiday Special to tide them over), and then another three years for Return of the Jedi to wrap up the trilogy. Audiences then went 16 years without a Star Wars movie, until The Phantom Menace was released in 1999. While hindsight hasn't been kind, people were ecstatic at the time. Like the originals, the prequels were released with a three year gap between each film.
A decade after the prequels wrapped up with Revenge of the Sith in 2005, The Force Awakens took the box office by storm. The point is, people had to wait years for the release of a new Star Wars movie. Now that the franchise belongs to Disney, Star Wars movies are being produced simultaneously in order to keep to a much faster release schedule. The currently untitled Episode VIII is scheduled for release next December, the Han Solo prequel is being released in 2018, Episode IX is coming out in 2019, and an unidentified spin-off is coming in 2020.
In the span of five years, Disney will have released as many Star Wars movies as George Lucas did in almost thirty years. On the one hand, that means audiences are guaranteed an entertaining blockbuster movie every year, but there's the risk of franchise fatigue. Enough people are invested in new characters like Rey, Finn, and Poe to ensure audience loyalty through Episode IX, but what happens next?
While they haven't made a decision yet, they've indicated plans to continue beyond 2020. There are plenty of potential stories to be told in the franchise still, and there are plenty of people who want to see them. However, the wait for a new Star Wars movie has always been a big part of the experience.
Adjusted for inflation, the original Star Wars is still the highest grossing film in the series. All of the subsequent installments have been successful, but the ones that came closest to rivaling the original have been The Force Awakens and The Phantom Menace. The original movie was such a success because audiences had never seen its like before, and since then the series has always been most successful when audiences have waited years to see it. Rarity is the difference between a run-of-the-mill blockbuster and a cultural sensation, and cranking out Star Wars movies has the potential to lessen the impact of each film.
It's great that Disney is putting out new Star Wars movies, and it's not that I want to see them stop. However, it's better to leave audiences wanting than to leave them burned out. Disney may have found success with the never-ending Marvel series, but Star Wars requires a different approach. Star Wars needs a rest after the current slate of films has been released, so it can make a grand re-entrance to theaters everywhere when the time is right.