While Abrams represents a tried and true helmer who should bring a stabilizing presence to the final installment in the new trilogy (the second film in that arc, The Last Jedi, will be released this December and was directed by Rian Johnson), not everyone sees the filmmaker as the magic bullet who will solve all of Star Wars problems. Meanwhile others don’t see Star Wars as having too many problems at all! With that in mind, I got together with IGN’s Jim Vejvoda and Joshua Yehl to break down the two sides of the argument below. Consider this the pros and cons of J.J. Abrams directing Star Wars: Episode IX…
Search your feelings… you know it to be true. Abrams is a producer, writer and director with plenty of Hollywood tentpole street cred. Aside from already reviving Star Wars with The Force Awakens two years ago — the film made over $2 billion in box office — Abrams brought Paramount’s Star Trek back to the big screen before that. He’s also had a ton of other successes on the small screen as well, and he’s the ultimate go-to-guy in town who doesn’t just have a vision as a writer-director but can also make things happen as a producer.
As he’s proven time and again, he isn’t just able to navigate the pipeline of a project this big, from script to production to marketing — which he is known for having a big hand in as well — but he’s also able to play the political side of things, which is perhaps as important as any inherent creative talent he may have when dealing with a studio.
That’s surely why Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has returned to Abrams now to complete the trilogy, after several misadventures with younger directors on the new crop of Star Wars movies.
Plus, of course, he was the key creator of our new favorite characters — Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, Poe Dameron, and BB-8! He took the classic Star Wars cast and brought them back as George Lucas has promised he would do all those years ago to complete their story. If The Force Awakens had been a failure, we’d probably be looking at a very different Star Wars movie scenario right now rather than the Golden Age of yearly films that we’re getting.
But perhaps most importantly, Abrams is a fan himself. He’s often said it himself: Star Wars was his thing growing up, and you can tell it’s true when watching The Force Awakens (even if, yes, that sometimes means the film hews a little too closely to the original Lucas movie). Who better to close out the tale of the Skywalker saga?
Here’s the thing about J.J. Abrams returning to write and co-direct Star Wars: Episode IX: It’s the kind of thinking that will prevent Star Wars from ever being truly great again.
Sure, The Force Awakens fine. But all the things fans complain about when talking about that film – the copycat-itis of it all – represent a trait that Abrams has exhibited in his movies before, and it’s what will ultimately make Episode IX a safe bet that will make loads of money for Kathleen Kennedy but not necessarily take the series to new heights.
In his too-eager-to-please-the-crowds mindset, Abrams resorts to what you could call the meme-ification of his subject matter. Star Trek Into Darkness is the worst example of this, where only two movies into the rebooting/rethinking of that series, he was already going to the Khan well. Of the vast universe of possible original concepts and ideas that Star Trek could explore, Abrams couldn’t help himself and had to adapt its most popular and identifiable storyline. And within his film, he unleashed awful spins on iconic moments and lines from the original Wrath of Khan, whether it was Zachary Quinto screaming “KHAAAAN” – instead of Kirk this time! – or Chris Pine dying in the engine room – instead of Spock! You see that same trend in Force Awakens’ aping of A New Hope, though in a less crass way, perhaps because Abrams has always been a self-professed Star Wars fan rather a Trekkie. All of this has happened before…
And so that brings us back to Abrams, who knows how to make a movie of this size within the system. Abrams is a visually talented, slick filmmaker, a P. T. Barnum for the multiplex who will make Disney a ton of money with Episode IX. And there’s no doubt the resulting film will be entertaining and hit all the beats that a modern Star Wars movie is expected to hit. But there was a time not that long ago when Star Wars seemed like it could truly grow and evolve into something more; now it’s clear that was a foolish belief to have. There’s just too much at stake now for Kennedy and the studio.
Star Wars: Episode IX will now be released on December 20, 2019, Lucasfilm announced today.