Expectations are high for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and it appears Disney and Lucasfilm are happy with the way the film turned out: today, Disney announced that its director, Rian Johnson, will be launching an entirely new trilogy in the Star Wars franchise.
Johnson will write and direct the first installment in the new trilogy, with his longtime producer Ram Bergman set to produce the films. While details are scarce, the new trilogy will be separate from the classic Skywalker saga, and instead will focus on “new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.”
“We all loved working with Rian on The Last Jedi,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement. “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. Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy.”
A long-term pact with a director like Johnson is the one thing that’s really been missing from Star Wars since Kennedy and J.J. Abrams relaunched the franchise with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. Instead, the series has seen a series of missteps and public reversals. Director Josh Trank was originally signed on to make a standalone Star Wars film, before being fired in the wake of concerns with his performance on Fox’s Fantastic Four. Gareth Edwards directed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but additional filmmakers were brought on in the final months before release to help rework the film. Perhaps most infamously, filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller were nearing the end of principal photography on the Han Solo standalone film, before they were fired and replaced by director Ron Howard. To top it all off, Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow had previously been set to direct Star Wars: Episode IX — before Abrams replaced him in September.
Much of the reporting in the wake of those changes pointed to problems with creative fit and vision: namely, that Kennedy hadn’t found the right collaborators to extend and expand the Star Wars universe in a way that aligned with the goals of Lucasfilm and Disney. Johnson, on the other hand, has always had a reputation for being extraordinarily easy to work with, and with memorable films like Brick and Looper, he’s built a varied filmography with a distinct voice and tone.
Release dates for the new films have not been announced yet, but it should be taken as a given that this news will only drive anticipation for the December 15th release of The Last Jedi even higher.