Ever since J.J. Abrams signed on to direct Star Wars: Episode VII early last year there was intense speculation as to whether he would be in for further installments in the sequel trilogy. Speculate no more, dear speculators, for Rian Johnson has officially been handed the directorial reins for the tentatively-titled Star Wars: Episode VIII and Star Wars: Episode IX, per Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr.
Previously best known for writing and directing the indie cult gems Brick and The Brothers Bloom, Johnson made his entry into the arena of original science-fiction cinema with the 2012 smash hit Looper. The director’s love of the genre and ability to work equally well with big name stars and acclaimed actors doubtlessly played a part in his nabbing the coveted assignment of bringing the second and third Star Wars sequels to life. In an unsurprising development, Johnson will also write the screenplays for both films.
Most of the cast already assembled for Episode VII will likely return to work with Johnson for the following two chapters if their characters survive the first installment of the new trilogy.
Rian Johnson has made some of the best films of the past decade, so this is great news for Star Wars fans. Clearly Disney wants to ensure the longevity of one of their most lucrative cash cows by hiring the best talent to make the films. They’re not retaining mercenaries who will get the job done fast and cheap but gifted filmmakers who love the Star Wars universe and want to see it revived with the utmost respect and craft. I hope that Johnson uses his time between making the sequels to finance some smaller, more personal projects in line with his first three films. He’s certainly going to have the clout to realize them now.
Star Wars: Episode VII will be released on December 18, 2015.