Rian Johnson is returning to explore that galaxy far, far away.
The "Last Jedi" director will create an entirely new "Star Wars" trilogy, separate from the Skywalker saga that has unfurled over Episodes I through IX. Lucasfilm announced, "Johnson will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that 'Star Wars' lore has never before explored."
This seems to explain why Lucasfilm didn't tap Johnson to step in to replace "Episode IX" director Colin Trevorrow. Instead, the company asked J.J. Abrams, who helmed "The Force Awakens," to return to the chair for the final installment of this latest trilogy.
Lucasfilm has been hard at work in expanding the "Star Wars" cinematic universe, first by commissioning the new trilogy, and then by planning for standalone anthology movies. The first, "Rogue One," was a hit. The second, "Solo," has experienced some bumps in the road, but is scheduled for release on May 25, 2018.
"The Last Jedi" has been the only recent "Star Wars" project that hasn't been in turmoil. "Rogue One" reportedly went through extensive reshoots to recalibrate its tone. Lucasfilm fired the first "Solo" directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, deep into filming and replaced them with veteran Ron Howard. Then, the company fired Trevorrow.
But Johnson emerged unscathed.
"We all loved working with Rian on 'The Last Jedi,'" said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. "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."
If it is, indeed, a blank canvas, that opens up infinite possibilities for expansion. Even the standalone movies have ties to the Skywalker saga. Could we see stories and characters completely unrelated to Luke, Leia, and Darth Vader?
"'Star Wars' is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it," Johnson said. "We can't wait to continue with this new series of films."