Is J.J. Abrams the Right Choice for 'Star Wars: Episode IX'?

The 'Force Awakens' filmmaker is the safe choice who has learned from a 'Star Trek' sequel that didn't go over so well.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Photofest; JB Lacroix/WireImage
'Star Wars: Episode VIII The Force Awakens' (2015); inset: J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams is once again bringing balance to the Force as the new director of Star Wars: Episode IX.

Abrams' name immediately began swirling after previous Episode IX helmer Colin Trevorrow exited the project last week, and why wouldn't it? Abrams revived the film franchise with 2015's The Force Awakens, and with quite a bit of behind-the-scenes shuffling of directors in recent months, people assumed Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy would look for a safe bet.

Heat Vision's Aaron Couch, Ryan Parker and Graeme McMillan have assembled to break down the news. 

Couch: Ever since Trevorrow's exit, there's been chatter online that this would be a great opportunity for a woman or a person of color to take over the franchise, and the announcement has left some disappointed on that front. At the same time, the news isn't surprising, as this is the safe choice in the sense that Lucasfilm knows it can work with Abrams. It always felt like it'd be Abrams or The Last Jedi's Rian Johnson for that reason. The surprising news is that Chris Terrio — of Argo, Batman v. Superman and Justice League fame — has joined to write alongside Abrams. He seems like he's following in the footsteps of oft-Abrams collaborators like Alex Kurtzman as the screenwriter who is getting every big job these days.

Parker: If this move were any more safe, there would be a dial on it. I think I am happy about it. I mean, Abrams has proven he can deliver a great Star Wars picture. So, I am not even worried about that. But — one of the aspects that made the original trilogy so complete was it was three different flavors from three different directors. Each piece had its own unique feel. I love that and was excited to experience it again through these three pictures.  

McMillan: But the prequel trilogy was all one creator, so having two directors across three movies feels like a happy medium to me, and I like the idea of having the same person who started the story return to end it. I'm actually really happy with this choice, not least of all because, as you say, Ryan, we know Abrams can do this. There's something to be said for Episode IX to be in a safe pair of hands. Let the stand-alone movies be where Lucasfilm experiments; the main trilogy is the place where Star Wars does unapologetic Star Wars.

Parker: I feel completely secure saying right now that Last Jedi will be the best of the new three. Rian Johnson will deliver and it is a good bet that just like Empire Strikes Back, Episode VIII will have a dark tone, rich in character development that leaves fans buzzing. 

McMillan: Sure it'll be the darkest, but I'm not sure that darkest is necessarily the best…? I have no doubt that Last Jedi will be good, but there really is something in the sincere optimism and corniness of The Force Awakens that really worked for me, and feels almost more appropriate to the franchise in some way. Darkness is great for a middle chapter — it sets up the conflict and ups the stakes for the final chapter, after all! — but when it comes to Star Wars, I want something approaching a happy ending. Ewok singing optional. Maybe that's just me. (The happy ending, not the singing Ewoks.)

Parker: Going more into Abrams being back in the saddle: I think IX will be better than Force Awakens. I am basing that off of the fact that I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness more than the first reboot. I think, just like he did there, Abrams will bring even more enjoyment to the characters he knows better with a second bite at the galaxy far, far away apple. 

McMillan: And this is where Ryan and I schism forever. Into Darkness better than Star Trek? Them's fighting words, Parker. But I'm definitely curious to see what — if anything — Abrams will do to reflect the older, more mature Rey, Finn, Poe, et al in IX, and to see what he can bring to the final showdown (for now) with the First Order.

Couch: Into Darkness is largely considered the weakest entry in the Abrams' rebooted Star Trek franchise, so it's interesting that you feel that way. I actually would point to Into Darkness as a reason why Abrams will nail Episode IX: He likely learned from the mistakes of that film and wouldn't repeat that with a second go. He's even spoken openly about some of the regrets he has about the choices on that movie. This is his chance at doing a sequel the right way. (Well, a sequel to one of his films — people liked Mission: Impossible III.

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Star Wars: Episode IX is set to bow Dec. 20, 2019.

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