The Last Jedi Backlash Hasn't Changed Episode IX
Star Wars: The Last Jedi was praised by some for being adventurous but received a mixed reaction from segments of the audience and parts of the Star Wars fanbase. Extreme negative responses in particular garnered attention, including a petition asking Lucasfilm to strike The Last Jedi from Star Wars canon and the online harassment of actress Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose Tico (and is also back for Star Wars 9); sexist and racist comments from trolls prompted Tran to delete her social media accounts.
Some have speculated that Lucasfilm's approach to Star Wars 9 has been shaped by the negative fan reactions to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. J.J. Abrams returning to the director's chair for Episode IX could signal Lucasfilm's desire to put The Last Jedi behind them and reunite the fanbase as he did previously with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, while the return of older characters is obviously a very fan-pleasing move.
However, everything that J.J. Abrams has said about Star Wars 9 tells another story entirely. Certainly, Disney and Lucasfilm are not trying to erase the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Abrams was onboard with Rian Johnson's vision for The Last Jedi, and he developed the ideas for Episode IX in response to seeing the film. Because he pitched his story for the final film directly after seeing Episode VIII and before the release, he couldn't have been influenced by any of the backlash that followed. To this end, Abrams has since publicly stated that the negative reactions to The Last Jedi have not changed his plans for Star Wars 9 in the slightest and thanked Johnson at the start of filming.
That's not to say there haven't been changes along the way from the trilogy's original vague design, but they're a result of other factors. Indeed, originally, Leia was going to be at "the forefront" of Star Wars 9, but Abrams joined the film long after Fisher's death, so the plot of his Star Wars 9 was written knowing both that she couldn't have major involvement and what archive footage was available.
Abrams' Star Wars 9 will hopefully blend the best elements of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The sequel trilogy was always meant to be about passing the torch to the next generation of Star Wars characters and Star Wars fans. The inclusion of Luke, Leia, and Lando does not diminish the story that J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson have told together. Instead, it fits within the intended arch of the sequel trilogy.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019