The news that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the showrunners for HBO's immensely popular Game of Thrones, will write and produce a new series of Star Wars films opens up the possibility for the galaxy far, far away to take a darker turn that it has in previous installments.
Frankly, it's an opportunity that Disney should take.
During their tenure on Game of Thrones, Benioff and Weiss have embraced the R-rating's hallmarks: nudity and violence. Although not everyone may agree with how they've portrayed those things on their TV show, there's no doubt that they've done them in a way that has kept audiences engaged and interested. They're masters of driving viewers to, and keeping them watching, "mature" content, and to make them work on more family-friendly movies would be to ignore those skills.
Disney has, in the past, been incredibly resistant to taking its many popular franchises in more mature-rated directions. But now is the perfect time for the House of Mouse to take advantage of the creators it has partnered with to pursue the possibilities of an R-rated Star Wars movie.
Following the success of Logan and Deadpool, the dialogue surrounding R-rated genre films has changed substantially. Although many studios were once reticent to do R-rated superhero and sci-fi films, DC is reportedly interested in making R-rated superhero films, Quentin Tarantino's Star Trek movie will be R-rated, James Franco wants a "hard R" for his Multiple Man movie, and the reboots of Hellboy and Spawn are also aiming for that adult-targeted rating. Superhero and sci-fi films are more regularly aiming for higher ratings, and Star Wars may not be immune to this trend.
Even Disney and its subsidiaries -- which include Lucasfilm -- seem more amicable to the idea of R-rated films than they have in the past. Disney CEO Bob Iger has openly talked about the possibility of films aimed towards older audiences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying, "there might be an opportunity for a Marvel-R brand for something like Deadpool." It's not outlandish, then, to think that Disney might see the value in exploring the possibilities of an R-rating in the Star Wars universe, especially after recruiting two creators who specialize in that kind of content.
A major reason R-rated films are becoming increasingly popular is that they present great storytelling opportunities that family-friendly films just don't. Benioff and Weiss could explore darker chapters in the galaxy's history, such as the the Great Hyperspace War -- which took place between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire -- and the subsequent Sith genocide. The Sith genocide is a dark topic, and could very easily feel out of place in family-friendly content, but it would be a perfect match for an R-rated movie. The mature rating would also help to avoid saturating the market with similar, family-friendly Star Wars films, allowing Disney to use Rian Johnson's separate trilogy to tackle events and stories in the style of existing Star Wars films.