Disney announced today that J.J. Abrams, who directed Stars Wars: The Force Awakens, will direct and co-write (with Chris Terrio) Stars Wars: Episode IX. The announcement follows Kathleen Kennedy’s dismissal of Colin Trevorrow from the project as well as the controversial firing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from the Han Solo movie. In both situations “creative differences” were cited by LucasFilms as the reason for parting ways.
Trevorrow directed the massive Steven Spielberg-produced hit Jurassic World, making him the obvious director for Jurassic World 2. However, J.A. Bayona will helm the high-profile sequel. It’s possible that the critical and commercial flop of Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry tarnished his reputation.
Rumors circulated that Looper director Rian Johnson might direct Episode IX, but it’s obvious auteur filmmakers do not wield absolute power in Disney’s corporate model of filmmaking. In fact, Disney has made it clear from the firing of Trevorrow, Lord, Miller and Josh Trank in 2015 that the massive entertainment conglomerate will not tolerant difficult filmmakers or radically divergent visions.
Abrams, besides co-creating Lost, has made a name for himself as a director capable of reviving popular film franchises: Mission Impossible, Star Trek, and Star Wars. The Force Awakens was received warmly by fans and, most importantly, LucasFilm. Abrams’ return signals an upholding of the status quo as The Force Awakens bore an uncanny resemblance, narratively and visually, to franchise-starter A New Hope.
Regardless, because Episode IX is touted as the “final film in the sequel trilogy,” Disney needs a director they can trust, someone that can follow the formula – and Abrams has already proven himself to be that filmmaker.