Moviegoers around the globe are finally getting a chance to see J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but well before Disney released the movie in theaters they were busy planning the franchise's future. As crazy as it sounds, fans are only a year and a half away from Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII, which is scheduled to hit theaters in May 2017.
Johnson has already filmed certain sequences in Ireland, and principal photography will commence in the near future. Because of that, it shouldn't come as any surprise that Star Wars 8 cast members have read the sequel's screenplay. And according to star Daisy Ridley, the goodwill generated by The Force Awakens' positive reception will continue in the next movie.
Speaking with Variety, the actress offered her thoughts on the Episode VIII script, which was written solely by Johnson. Though Ridley was brief in her review, she had nothing but good things to say about what she's seen:
It’s very good; very good. Let’s see “VII” first and then we’ll talk about “VIII.” [Laughs.]
Obviously, Ridley is not going to criticize Johnson's work, but it is comforting to know that she is offering praise so early in the process. After Abrams delivered the most critically acclaimed Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back, it can be argued that Johnson is under even more pressure than Abrams was, since the bar for the sequel trilogy has been set so high. Though The Force Awakens does have some noticeable flaws, it was still an enthralling film experience that pleased many who saw it (read our review).
Fortunately, Johnson should be a director who's more than up for the task of following Abrams' footsteps. He has an accomplished résumé in both film and TV, helming the twisty sci-fi drama Looper as well as some standout episodes of Breaking Bad (including the iconic "Ozymandias" from the series' final season). The announcement of Johnson's hiring was met with enthusiasm from viewers, excited to see where the filmmaker's sensibilities could take the Star Wars brand. Being the middle chapter of the new trilogy, several expect Episode VIII to be darker than its predecessor (much like Empire was after A New Hope), and Johnson seems like the perfect fit to pull that off and push the story further in interesting ways.
Though The Force Awakens had its fair share of shocking reveals, there were still a number of unanswered questions left to explore in the upcoming installments. The new generation of heroes have only taken their first step into a larger world, and the possibilities for where they can end up are endless. Fortunately for fans, the series remains in the hands of capable talent behind-the-camera. Like Abrams, Johnson is a Star Wars fan who understands the magnitude of what he's walking into. We saw how that played out the first time around, so fingers crossed history will repeat itself and the first leg of the Star Wars comeback tour wasn't simply a fluke.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.