Abrams Will Pass the Baton to Rian Johnson For Star Wars: Episode VIII & IX

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Honestly, I thought today would be something of a slow day.  Another week has gone by, and aside from some updates on Harrison Ford’s broken leg, and some rumors (that’s gone back and forth between refuted and confirmed) fans have been kind of left in the lurch in terms of Star Wars stuff.  Then a bombshell hits, coming from Deadline:

I’m told that Lucasfilm is making a deal with Looper writer-director Rian Johnson to write and direct Star Wars Episodes VIII and IX. Essentially, that means that the intention is for Johnson to take the baton from JJ Abrams, who has gotten the space franchise off the ground and is right now helming Episode VII.

Technically speaking, this could be considered another rumor, but other notable sites are now coming out to confirm the news, and it’s expected that Disney will make the official announcement soon.  As such, I’m not putting this under Rumor Control.  If you were hoping to see JJ Abrams take on the full Star Wars sequel trilogy, then you’re kind of out of luck.  Frankly speaking, however, this shouldn’t come as all that much of a surprise.

With Disney setting up the sequel films to release every two years, it’s a time frame I don’t think Abrams is comfortable with.  He’s had more time to work on Episode VII, and doing with it exactly what he wants.  He won’t have the same luxury with the other films and it’s an environment I never felt he wanted to work around. 

I’m sure he will have some influence over the other two films (likely he’s had a hand in laying out the basic story for the entire trilogy), but I never expected him to direct them all.  He’s a man who likes to work on a lot of projects, while having the freedom to bounce around at will.  Being a director for all three core films would tie him up too much.  Instead, he seems like a great “safe choice” for Disney to kick off their new Star Wars films, giving them a point to start from with the remaining movies. 

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What’s most surprising to me, is that we’re hearing about the new director so soon!  I wasn’t expecting that for a while.  I love Rian Johnson.  While his filmography isn’t large, it’s significant, and Looper (starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis) remains one of my favorites in the last few years.  It was a well crafted story, featuring people you care about and it sucked you in immediately while also being incredibly fun.  So to hear he’s writing and directing Episodes VIII and IX, has me through the moon.

Johnson will take over the core film franchise, and he’ll get started quickly and this will be his preoccupation for quite awhile. Technically, he’ll write that second treatment but the intention on both sides is that he direct the two installments. Joining him as producer will be Ram Bergman.

What has me most excited is that it’s apparent Disney is gathering new, unique, and strong filmmakers to helm their Star Wars films.  They’re going with people who have distinct voices (Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank) to add to the galaxy far, far away.  These are directors who can take Star Wars in a direction it’s never gone before (in a good way) and appeal to an even bigger audience.  I can’t wait to see the results.  Sadly, we’re going to have to wait, as Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII won’t hit until 2017…but any Star Wars news at this point is welcome!

What do you think about Johnson taking over on the rest of the Sequel Trilogy?

-Jordan