J.J. Abrams to Write and Direct Star Wars Episode IX
The prodigal son has returned. J.J. Abrams will let nothing stand in his way. He will finish what he started. That’s right; J.J. Abrams will write and direct Star Wars Episode IX. I expected as much, he was one of the 11 directors I thought could do it. But if you really think about it, it is kind of surprising. Continue reading to see why.
J.J. Abrams starts a lot of things; Pilot episodes (like LOST), the new Star Trek franchise, etc. But he usually establishes something and then hands it off to someone else and let them finish it. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse inherited LOST. Justin Lin inherited Star Trek and Rian Johnson inherited Star Wars
Abrams is the master of ideas and moments. He can have 5 or 6 strong, brilliant, genius ideas, and then has to usually string those together to try and make a coherent plot. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But on the times that it doesn’t, you can see the moments he had in his head – they are the strongest parts of the film.
As far as we know, Episode IX is the final chapter in the Skywalker Saga (I highly doubt this, but it will certainly wrap up the new trilogy. Each trilogy wraps up a story even though it is continued in some way). I am curious as to how Abrams will finish something. Most of the characters he is dealing with are ones that he created and cast. I don’t know how much of their arc he had in his head, because I truly believe he thought he was only ever going to do The Force Awakens. But he might have some idea. Sure, he’ll have to conform to whatever Rian Johnson does in The Last Jedi but he’ll be able to navigate that fine.
Abrams does have a co-writer on Episode IX, which is Chris Terrio. Terrio won an Oscar for writing Argo but also has the stigma of having been involved with Batman V Superman on him. That garbage fire wasn’t completely his fault; he just zipped over the existing script doing a rewrite, and Warner Bros and Zack Snyder had the most control on what showed up in the actual film. So I don’t hold that (completely) against him. I am pleased Jack Thorne is no longer involved because to put it nicely, I didn’t particularly enjoy Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. Now, that is sort of a Terrio situation – Rowling still created/approved every story aspect so it is not completely his fault, but it still made me nervous. Terrio stringing together Abrams big, genius moments will hopefully work out well. I can only imagine what Abrams has up his sleeve to deal with the unfortunate passing of Carrie Fisher, but I can’t wait to have my heart broken by it.
Abrams was a safe choice for director. I love The Force Awakens (in fact I just completed my 18th viewing of it a few days ago). But I can respect the criticism of the film relying too much on nostalgia. I am hoping that changes this time around. He doesn’t have to be as safe. He is not relaunching the franchise. This train has left the station and is running full steam ahead now, I hope he gets a bit more creative and just doesn’t rehash Return of the Jedi. It might be more difficult for him to do if he has to follow some threads laid out by The Last Jedi which by all accounts is a different film and might even be divisive to some fans. A little bit of fan-service and nostalgia is okay, but I would like to see something new and fresh that I know Abrams is capable of. I don’t think his leash is as short as some of the other writers/directors has been, so maybe we are in for a treat.
All of the Star Wars movies announced have directors now. There isn’t much diversity there. Kathleen Kennedy is one of the most successful producers ever who has been tasked with protecting one of the most beloved brands ever. Her vision is tried and true and obviously successful, but I would like to see more risk taken on standalone films. It would be smart to take a break from the Skywalker Saga films if they want to continue it after Episode IX and do weird and inventive standalone films. There seems to be an Obi-Wan movie happening, but let's see Lucasfilm go bolder. Give Guillermo Del Toro a Hutt Gangster film. Develop a Knights of the Old Republic trilogy. Hire female and POC directors and writers. Take risks and tell stories outside of the timeline between Episodes 1-9. The franchise can handle it.
I am fine with the Abrams choice. I enjoy his films. He has proven that he’s able to navigate the new Lucasfilm regime. He did mention that he was a bit jealous of Rian Johnson when The Last Jedi started production, so I believe his heart is in it too. It's strange to have him finish something though. As long as it’s not a rehash of Return of the Jedi and we see a second, half-complete Starkiller Base being destroyed while Rey and Kylo Ren fight in front of Snoke, I will enjoy what Abrams gives us. But after “Phase 1” of Disney Star Wars is complete, let’s throw a little risk into the mix.