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.

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