Rian Johnson, the writer/director behind such acclaimed films as the high school Noir Brick and the time-travel action/thriller Looper, was quick to confirm reports that he's calling the shots on Star Wars: Episode VIII last year, when the story first broke. Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm have now made the news (more) official, while also announcing a concrete release date for Episode VIII.
Director J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens will kickoff the new era of storytelling in the Star Wars live-action movie universe this December; a year later, director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla (2014)) will unleash what is planned to be the first of multiple spinoffs - based around characters who are not part of the central Episode storyline - with Edwards' film having today gained an official title: Star Wars: Rogue One. As of right now, though, Johnson's Star Wars feature (which he is also scripting) does not have an official subtitle.
Several new character additions to the Star Wars movie universe will be introduced in Force Awakens, including the three key players featured in that film's teaser trailer: young Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Their adventures will no doubt be continued in Episode VIII, though there are conflicting rumors right now about which (if any) of the old-favorite characters in Force Awakens - Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han (Harrison Ford) among them - will continue to be part of the Star Wars saga after the events that unfold during the seventh live-action movie installment.
Hamill, for his part, has already made it public knowledge that Force Awakens is most concerned with establishing a new generation of heroes, villains, and those falling somewhere in between those ends, as part of the Star Wars universe - with the older characters serving the narrative from more of a secondary position - as well as bringing moviegoers up to speed on life in a galaxy far, far away, thirty years after the death of Emperor Palpatine in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. But of course, that kind of goes without saying, at this point in the Star Wars franchise's history.
Episode VIII is now scheduled to arrive in theaters on May 26th, 2017: the same day that Warner Bros. has currently staked out for LEGO Batman (that'll probably change soon) and exactly forty years and a day after George Lucas' original Star Wars movie (nowadays referred to as Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) launched in theaters in 1977.
The Star Wars franchise returning to May ought to please the many fans who associate this series first and foremost with the fun days of the summer blockbuster season. It also means we could be looking at four Star Wars movies being released over the next three years, depending on when the second spinoff film arrives. And all the while, there will be the ongoing animated Star Wars Rebels (which has been generally well-received) and those upcoming 20-something Star Wars books to help keep fans invested.
Who would've thought that could happen one day, just three years ago (right before Disney bought Lucasfilm)?
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens opens in theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Star Wars: Rogue One on December 16th, 2016, and Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017.
Source: Star Wars.com
Header image artwork by pierreloyvet @ DeviantArt