30 years ago, how we look at film franchise was very different. Now, big brands are designed with sequels and spinoffs in mind. If it's not a trilogy or shared cinematic universe, what's the point? This is one of the reasons the return of the Star Wars saga this holiday is so interesting. It's not just another episode installment picking up the story a few decades after Return of the Jedi. It's a new trilogy and potentially an unlimited amount of Anthology films between them and afterwards. Star Wars may never end.
And because of that, with so many Star Wars projects in active development, Disney and Lucasfilm are enduring what so many other studios have done so in recent years with similar genre properties, namely comic book films. We're already talking about who's writing and directing Star Wars: Episode IX, for instance, and we know it's not going to be J.J. Abrams.
Just like he said "no" to directing the first new Star Wars episodic installment when first asked, Abrams - who literally broke his back filming Episode VII - The Force Awakens became intrigued when Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy asked him one magical question: "Who is Luke Skywalker?" Pondering the larger meaning of this question and the idea of regretting not doing the movie eventually convinced Abrams to join the club.
And at the time, the club was a strong one and already included writers Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi), Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) and Simon Kinberg (X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past) who had already been working on planning out an outline for an entire new trilogy - one they knew would at least begin with returning stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. Abrams joining when he did allowed him help break the story and take his time to write Star Wars 7 with Kasdan.
But after this one, after Abrams brings back and relaunches one of the most relevant pop culture entertainment brands ever like he did with Star Trek a few years prior, another director will jump in for the untitled Episode VIII. Rian Johnson (Looper) is helping write and direct the next core episodic installment set for May 2017, with Gareth Edwards' (Godzilla) Star Wars: Rogue One filling the gap in December 2016. Abrams says he will not return to the director's chair.
"No, I’m not going to direct Episode IX, as much as I am deeply envious of anyone who gets to work with this group of people on the future movies."
Of course, this is still early. No writer or director has been officially announced for the third trilogy's conclusion, a film we expect won't end the saga but help set the stage for another trilogy. Like we said up top, Star Wars may never end. Abrams said 'no' at first to Episode VII and there's plenty of time still for him to come back for Episode IX should he want to. But before joining this universe, he wanted to take a break from established franchises and work on something more original.
Disney's biannual D23 Expo takes place this week where Star Wars will have a major presence, even if no new trailer or footage will be shown at the event. Stay tuned for more news in the coming days though!
Who would you like to see direct Star Wars 9? We know it won't be Jon Favreau and some reports indicate Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) might be a top candidate.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in U.S. theaters on December 18, 2015, followed by Star Wars: Rogue One on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX does not have an official release date yet.