Star Wars has been through some big changes lately. The most recent shakeup was the removal of Colin Trevorrow from Episode IX. Fans speculated who might take over as director, with a lot of interesting and diverse choices being bandied about. But, we now know that Lucasfilm has tapped J.J. Abrams to write and direct the last entry in this new trilogy.
And in some ways, that’s the most disappointing choice of them all.
Star Wars Will Never Take Risks
When The Force Awakens was released, a common criticism was how much it cribbed from the original film‘s plotting and structure. It was clear that J.J. Abrams utilized nostalgia in a very calculated way. That doesn’t mean that The Force Awakens was a bad movie, but it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t a safe movie.
This new era of Star Wars films has, up to this point, felt like it’s playing well within a rigidly defined box. The stories don’t veer too far from familiar territory, and if something with a little creative freshness comes along like Rogue One or the Han Solo film, they have to be attached to stories and/or characters that tie directly into the regular film series.
With Abrams returning for Episode IX, it’s very unlikely that that entry will do anything truly surprising. It’s clear that’s what Lucasfilm wants, but it makes me very apathetic to the future of the franchise. And that’s a bummer because the original trilogy is filled with narrative directions and tonal changes that would not be considered safe by Lucasfilm’s standards.
As much as I recognize Abrams’s artistic talent, it is disappointing that Lucasfilm didn’t take this chance to hire a director that’s more diverse. Specifically, a female director.
This new trilogy is anchored by a female protagonist, so why aren’t female directors being considered for these films? Wonder Woman proved the value of female perspective with these kinds of stories. It’s a missed opportunity that only highlights the narrow-minded state of the Star Wars franchise.
The Last Jedi
What really intrigues me is how this will affect the appraisal of The Last Jedi in the long run. Rian Johnson’s film is going to be sandwiched between two J.J. Abrams movies. No matter what, that’s definitely going to make The Last Jedi — due out this December — feel like an outlier.
Honestly, that could end up being a boon to The Last Jedi if it’s a quality film. However, it could also make Episode IX feel like a step backward if The Last Jedi does deliver some unique filmmaking twists to the Star Wars canon.
All of this is not to say that Episode IX will be bad. There’s no way to make that kind of judgment call at this point; it’s far too early. But as far as the direction it seems to be headed in, it is fair to say it’s an unsurprising and unexciting one for now.