'Star Wars' series joins growing trend of 'spin-off' movies

The new 'Star Wars' movie 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' features familiar characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia. But the upcoming movie 'Rogue One' will center on all-new faces.

Film Frame/Disney/Lucasfilm/AP
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' stars John Boyega.

Much has changed since "Star Wars" last appeared at the multiplex. Hollywood is fascinated with “universe-building,” and those behind “Star Wars” are following suit with their upcoming projects. 

The new film, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” is the next chapter in the galaxy-spanning saga. “Force” features the return of characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa as well as new characters like Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega). It’s a direct sequel to the 1970s and ‘80s “Star Wars” trilogy. 

By contrast, the next “Star Wars” movie scheduled for release, “Rogue One,” strikes out on its own. The plot of “Rogue,” which will be released in December 2016, centers not on Luke and his friends, but a whole new group of characters. The story is shrouded in secrecy but expect to see the tale of a group of rebel spies working to obtain the plans for the evil Empire’s first Death Star battle station. 

In this new Hollywood universe-building paradigm, the audience doesn’t follow one group of characters from movie to movie. Instead, a new film could introduce a new character that’s living in the fictional world already familiar to moviegoers.

Marvel is the current king of this strategy. The studio continues to produce standalone movies about individual heroes like Iron Man and Thor, then has them meet in “group” films like “Avengers: Age of Ultron” or has one character cameo in another’s film, as seen in this summer’s “Ant-Man.” 

Marvel movies have proved extremely popular and so of course others in Hollywood are following suit. The upcoming Warner Bros. movie “Batman v. Superman” will see the two heroes come together along with characters like Wonder Woman.

The newest “Harry Potter” movie, which will be released in November 2016, will center not on Harry but on the wizard Newt Scamander, an expert on magical creatures living decades before Harry was born.

The upcoming “Star Wars” “Rogue” movie will be the first time the franchise has tried this strategy at the movie theater. Will fans follow the “Star Wars” universe to this new film? 

Dan Brooks says he’s a fan of the series and would be interested to see “Rogue” if it embraces the older technology seen in the original ‘70s and ‘80s movies (and, to some extent, the new “Star Wars” movie “Force”). 

“I wasn't so much a fan of the computer-animated effects,” Brooks says of the prequel “Star Wars” films. 

Sean Carmichael saw the original 1970s and '80s movies in theaters and has followed “Star Wars” ever since. He says he’s intrigued by new movies in the franchise since Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012. Carmichael has been impressed by the Marvel movies, which are also released by Disney. 

“Disney hasn’t let us down,” Carmichael says.

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