One of the things that made the original Star Wars trilogy so special was its hand-off of the second two installments to other filmmakers. Each of those first three movies was helmed by a different director, and that was a hope I had for the new trilogy, especially after George Lucas’s hogging of all the prequels. Well, according to news out of Deadline this afternoon, we’re going to at least have two people at the helm this time around. Rian Johnson is reportedly taking over the central run of the Star Wars franchise from Star Wars Episode VII helmer J.J. Abrams. He’ll write and direct Episode VIII, presumably due in late 2017, and he’s also going to deliver a treatment for Episode IX.*
Apparently he’s to get started immediately, and obviously this will take up his attention for almost the rest of this decade. That means he’ll have to put aside a couple projects I’d heard were percolating in him since his acclaimed Looper hit theaters two years back. The news also means he won’t be doing the Star Wars project I’d originally wished for him: the young Han Solo adventure that would star Johnson’s buddy and regular collaborator Joseph Gordon-Levitt (perfect casting). Maybe there’s still a role for the guy somewhere, or maybe there can be some time travel thrown at the Star Wars galaxy where Harrison Ford meets his younger self. Wait, no, that’s more an Abrams thing to do, isn’t it?
I also am excited for a very personal connection this makes for me. The first Star Wars was the first movie I was ever brought to see, at the drive in, at age 3 months, and Looper was the first movie my son was ever brought to see, at the drive in, at age 3 months. By the time Episode VIII arrives, he’ll be 5 and ready to join his dad at the multiplex. It’s like our own special cinematic looper. This is what movies like these are made for.
Johnson knows how big a deal this is, and following the release of the news he tweeted this appropriate clip from The Right Stuff:
*Update and correction: Deadline’s report claimed Johnson is also directing Episode IX, but according to sources for The Wrap, he’s so far only set to write a treatment for that installment.