Star Wars: Episode IX director J.J. Abrams promises that the divisive fan response to The Last Jedi will not affect his handling of the sequel trilogy finale. Released last year, Rian Johnson's entry in the Skywalker family saga received positive reviews from professional critics and earned $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office, but it proved to be a highly polarizing movie. While some viewers felt Johnson had brilliantly subverted expectations with a thematically rich story, others were upset about aspects such as Luke Skywalker's portrayal, Rey's parentage reveal, and the Supreme Leader Snoke twist.
Abrams, unsurprisingly, was one of the many who did like Johnson's story, wishing he could have directed Episode VIII himself after reading the script. And Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy also enjoyed what she saw, seeing that she handed Johnson his own standalone Star Wars trilogy to work on before Last Jedi hit theaters. Still, given the public outcry and wide range of opinions in the aftermath of Last Jedi, some believe Lucasfilm will look to course correct for Episode IX as their way of responding to the complaints. But according to Abrams, that's not happening.
In an interview with IndieWire, the filmmaker discussed the Star Wars fandom discourse and was asked specifically if the reaction to the latest film would influence the Star Wars 9 narrative:
“Not in the least. There’s a lot that I would like to say about it, but I feel like it’s a little early to be having the Episode IX conversation."
Abrams pitched his Episode IX story to Disney on the day The Last Jedi opened in U.S. theaters, well before the conversation surrounding Johnson's film seized control of the zeitgeist. This is similar to how Episode VIII was developed; Johnson was hired for the job in 2014 and was working on his script while The Force Awakens was in production. Despite how it looked, Last Jedi was not Lucasfilm's reactionary way of dealing with the criticism that Force Awakens was too similar to A New Hope. It was simply the Star Wars story Johnson wanted to tell using Episode VII as a springboard. The studio did not map out a complete arc for the sequel trilogy ahead of time, allowing Abrams and Johnson plenty of creative freedom to make the best movies possible.
This may be frustrating to hear for those who do not enjoy the direction of the new Star Wars films, but this is a smart choice for Lucasfilm. It demonstrates they're confident in what they're doing, and they should be. In their Disney era, the three Star Wars films released to date are all Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and have collectively earned $4 billion at the worldwide box office. Whatever Kennedy and company are doing is obviously working well and there's little incentive to change things up now. They seem to understand that it's impossible to please everyone with the new movies, so the only thing Lucasfilm can do is stay true to their vision and hope viewers like what they see.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019