By Tom Holste
Sep. 15, 2017
Last week, I commented on the removal of Colin Trevorrow from Star Wars Ep. IX, and suggested possible replacement directors.
Just a few days later, Lucasfilm announced that JJ Abrams, who had previously directed Ep. VII: The Force Awakens, was returning to cap the series by taking over Ep. IX.
Originally, I expressed a bit of concern over the possibility picking Abrams. He’s a talented director, but ironically, I actually thought his two Star Trek movies functioned really well as imitations of Star Wars, but when it came to actual Star Wars, I found The Force Awakens just ever so slightly lacking. It was exciting and fun, but I strongly disagreed with the fates of some of the characters, particularly from the Original Trilogy. It’s still miles better than the prequels, but it was just a little less than what I hoped.
Having said all that, when this news broke, I found myself realizing that it was a completely sensible choice. While other directors may have potentially been more exciting, the last thing that Kathleen Kennedy wants right now is exciting. As the head of Lucasfilm, she’s had to fire far too many directors. She wants a dependable person who can bring this thing to the finish line on time. There were murmurs of some tension on the Force Awakens set, but Abrams and Kennedy still managed to get out a really good film that was popular with both audiences and critics. Considering how often the director hasn’t managed to survive all the way through production, that’s saying something.
As for “on time,” shortly after the news of Abrams’ hiring broke, yet another huge news item hit: Ep. IX got pushed back to December 2019, causing Disney to have to shuffle around the rest of their schedule. Originally the movie was supposed to be released in December anyway, but Disney has been trying to get the Star Wars back to their more traditional May release date. The Han Solo film is the only one on the current release schedule to still be slated for May 2018, even though that also recently had a director swap.
Again, I was originally skeptical when Disney wanted their Star Wars movies released in December instead of May, but at the moment, that makes more sense. In fact, I think positioning the Han Solo movie just a mere 3 weeks after Avengers: Infinity War might actually hurt both films. Star Wars: Episode IX was scheduled to be released 3 weeks after the fourth Avengers movie, and I was concerned about Disney cannibalizing themselves in that case as well. The December date avoids that problem.
And, at any rate, I would rather have the final episodic Star Wars movie to be done right than to be done quickly.
Apparently, Rian Johnson (currently working on The Last Jedi, due out in September) reportedly was asked to take over Ep. IX as well since Lucasfilm is so impressed with him. But he turned it down because he’s still too busy finishing the current Star Wars film to take on another one! To me, that seems like a very smart move on his part. He shouldn’t spread himself too thin.
The only worrisome point is that Chris Terrio has been brought on board to rewrite the script, despite having previously worked on the much-loathed Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. But I’m trying to keep an open mind.
When I told my wife the news about Abrams, she had the appropriate reaction: an excited gasp! We’re both huge fans of Lost and Alias (TV shows that Abrams produced), and Abrams’ film Super 8 is one of her all-time favorites. So, yeah, despite a little bit of reservation, I think Abrams will overall do a bang-up job. I’m looking forward to this.