The Force is strong in director J.J. Abrams
He’s the right choice to head ‘Episode IX’
This was the director they were looking for. Again.
For the second time, J.J. Abrams has been tapped for the biggest film gig in Hollywood: first to write and direct 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the huge return of the storied franchise, and now to helm the finale, Star Wars: Episode IX.
The job opened up last week when Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow parted ways. That Abrams is taking over as Ron Howard replaces Phil Lord and Chris Miller on the young Han Solo spinoff, makes it clear the Star Wars galaxy is no longer willing to gamble.
Having Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson continue the saga seemed to me the smartest course of action, but he’s probably still in the throes of post-production. And it would have been very cool to end the parade of white guys. That day will come.
But with the tumult around recent choices, Disney and the House That George Lucas Built couldn’t afford to take a risk with Episode IX, wrapping the tale that launched Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron and put Star Wars back on the map. With the clock ticking down to its Dec. 20, 2019, release date and sharehold- ers to please, it’s understandable.
So, yes, Abrams was the safe pick. Many will say too safe. He’s also a visionary who has been in the trenches. There’s an inherent loyalty there: When nerves got the best of Ridley and she felt she shouldn’t be on the Force Awakens set, “J.J. definitely brought out the best performance I could have given,” she told me two years ago. The movie will benefit from that shorthand.
Abrams received some flak for following the structure of the first Star Wars movie: another youngster finding his/her way, another planetary destruction, another Death Star. Yet it’s a template that obviously still works, and Abrams is about telling new stories as well, such as Boyega’s Stormtrooperturned-hero, and putting a woman at the heart of the biggest cinematic series of all time.
More important, though: Abrams respects Star Wars. He saw the first one when he was 11 and has been a fan ever since.
I’ll always remember the time, two years ago, when Abrams pulled out his phone and said, “You have to see this.” It wasn’t a forbidden sneak peek. It was a video of his first time in a scoring session with John Williams, and the excitement as his face beamed with pride was infectious.
The key to doing a Star Wars movie is going with your gut, he told me that day. “When you’re working on the story, you go, ‘Oooooh, that feels so right.’ ”
And so does the return of this Jedi.
J.J. Abrams is back in the director’s chair for Star Wars: Episode IX.