Congratulations, Rian Johnson—you survived the Star Wars obstacle course! In a world where not every director even gets to finish the movie they start producing, you, exalted amongst your peers, have not only wrapped one—you’ve been given more. Lucasfilm announced yesterday that you're getting your own trilogy (three films!) with which you can do whatever you want. (Like, within reason.) How does that feel? Thrilling, I’ll bet. It means big, big things for you.
It also means something else: Star Wars: The Last Jedi must be really frakking good.
Not that it was especially in doubt. Sure, there’s been a lot of turmoil in the Lucasfilm world this year, as both Episode IX and the Han Solo movie—since dubbed Solo: A Star Wars Story—lost their initial directors. But Johnson’s ship always seemed steady. Hell, there were even people who thought Johnson should take over Episode IX after Colin Trevorrow and the film parted ways. That job instead went to the similarly too-good-for-this-world J.J. Abrams, probably because, as we now know, Johnson had a masterpiece to complete—and an entire new trilogy to start.
The Last Jedi's excellence isn't guaranteed, of course. But, come on. If Lucasfilm honcho Kathleen Kennedy has proven anything this year, it’s that she and the studio's other shot-callers have no problem changing course mid-trip. They would not be giving Johnson his own freaking trilogy if The Last Jedi, which he both wrote and directed, wasn’t, well, the Empire Strikes Back of the current saga. So it’s probably great. That trailer was, amirite? Also, porgs!
Details about the new trilogy are sparse. The announcement from Lucasfilm just says that Johnson will write and direct the first installment, and that the new crop of films will be separate from the current Skywalker saga and allow Johnson to introduce new characters and lore in an unexplored area of the Star Wars universe. But whether or not these will tie into the Episodes or the standalone movies like Solo is unclear. Release dates for the new trilogy aren't known either, so when and where these movies will come into the fold is a bit of a mystery. Lucasfilm has seemingly been on track to release one new Star Wars film per year between now and eternity—will Johnson's films be one of those or just double the annual output? Hard to tell. But what isn't hard to tell is how confident the studio is that he'll deliver. "He’s a creative force, and watching him craft The Last Jedi from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career," Kennedy said in a statement. "Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy." (See? It’s good.)
Indeed, having Johnson head up this triad bodes well not only his forthcoming film, which hits theaters December 15, but also the future of the franchise. But there’s one thing worth noting: This also means that a big chunk of that future is in one man’s hands. The promise of the 21st century Star Wars universe was that new writers, directors, and actors could put their imprint on it. There may be other trilogies coming, there will be more standalone films, but right now Johnson is slated to create a big piece of the canon. The Force is strong with him, unquestionably, but it can be dangerous for one person to have so much power, and it’s imperative even the greatest Jedi always pass on what he’s learned.
Meanwhile? If you weren’t excited about The Last Jedi before, you should be now. Lucasfilm is—and that's no small feat.
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