Just a week after Disney kicked Colin Trevorrow out of the director’s chair of Star Wars: Episode IX, the company has found a replacement in J.J. Abrams. You may have heard of him.
Abrams, who kicked off the new era of Star Wars by writing and directing The Force Awakens, is a safe choice, which is exactly why Disney picked him. After initially presenting themselves as a gang of risk-takers betting on young, mildly proven talent, the studio heads have shifted time and time again to being more cautious. Rogue One, of course, underwent substantial reshoots in 2016, as Disney brought in Tony Gilroy to finish what Gareth Edwards started. And not three months before Trevorrow’s departure due to “creative differences,” Phil Lord and Chris Miller left 2018’s stand-alone Han Solo film under similar circumstances. They were promptly replaced by Ron Howard, a veteran director and friend of George Lucas.
So this news isn’t much of a surprise. Abrams’s The Force Awakens is the only recent Star Wars project to go from start to finish without a major hitch. Oh, also, the film made billions and became the top domestic earner of all time. Rian Johnson, who directed this year’s Episode VIII, was expected by many to be a leading candidate for the Episode IX job, but the prospect of getting Abrams back into the driver’s seat was probably too good to pass up.
As for what this means for fans of the franchise, it can be only good news. Episode VII managed to straddle the line between fan service and forward progression. Though the movie’s formula may not have been the most original, it felt sufficiently fresh and left enough questions to spark discussion about the remainder of the trilogy. Abrams is a known commodity for Disney and Lucasfilm—he’s already guided one Star Wars movie to the finish line—which means he knows where the series is going, how to get there, and how to navigate any bureaucratic obstacles that might get in the way.
With The Force Awakens keeping so many plot points secret (the reasons behind Luke’s disappearance, Rey’s parentage, Snoke’s identity), it has been clear that the next two main-film installments will hinge on those universe-shaking reveals. Obviously when dealing with such revered subject material, there are bound to be disagreements about the best ways to please everyone—and the danger of reliving the debacle that is the Star Wars prequels must haunt Kathleen Kennedy every night. The studio is clearly still wrestling with those concerns and figuring out how to treat its most prized IP. Hopefully, hiring the guy who started the adventure off the right way will bring some much needed calm to the franchise—for everyone.