PSA: The New STAR WARS Trilogy Is Being Made Up As They Go, There's No "Marvel Master Plan"

That's right, there's no master plan for the new Star Wars trilogy that's being kept under lock and key in some vault. J.J. Abrams could go in a totally different direction from Rian Johnson.

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October 2012 - Disney buys Lucasfilm. George Lucas retained as a creative consultant but only allows Kathleen Kennedy, Bob Iger, Alan Horn, and Kevin Mayer to read his original outline/treatment for Episode VII-IX.
November 2012 - Michael Arndt hired as screenwriter for Episode VII.

January 2013 - J.J. Abrams hired as director
October 2013 - Arndt exits the project and his script is re-written by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan.  Arndt's initial draft had Luke appearing midway through The Force Awakens.

January 2014 - Abrams reveals the script is complete.
May 2014 -  Filming begins on The Force Awakens.
August 2014 - Rian Johnson hired as The Last Jedi director AND writer. He was also reportedly hired to write a treatment for Episode IX.
November 2014 - Filming on The Force Awakens ends.

August 2015 -  Colin Trevorrow hired as Episode IX director.  Derek Connolly to write the script.
December 2015 - The Force Awakens hits theaters.

January 2016  - Filming on The Last Jedi slated to begin but delayed until February due to rewrites.
July 2016 - Filming on The Last Jedi wraps.
December 2016 - Carrie Fisher passes away.

April 2017 - Johnson announces that he's not writing a treatment for Episode IX. Kathleen Kennedy says Fisher will not be in Episode IX.
August 2017 - Jack Thorne hired to write a new script for Episode IX
September 2017 - Trevorrow steps down/fired as Episode IX director.  Abrams hired as his replacement and Chris Terrio joins him to write a fresh script.
November 2017 - Rian Johnson announced to create and develop a new Star Wars trilogy separate from the current saga
December 2017 - The Last Jedi arrives in theaters

June 2018 - Filming on Episode IX slated to begin

December 2019 - Episode IX scheduled to arrive in theaters

With Star Wars Episode IX, it's possible that J.J. Abrams could veer left where Rian Johnson went right.  After all, that's exactly what Rian Johnson did after Abrams left Johnson with a clear,  conventional path coming out of Episode VII and Johnson intentionally subverted those expectations.   If you look back at the cast and crew interviews at the time of The Force Awakens release, even John Boyega and Daisy Ridley had no idea about where Finn and Rey had come from and what their connection to the original saga would be.  However, it was taken as a certainty that there was SOME type of connection there as Abrams confirmed that he intentionally avoided using their last names in the film

Case in point, take this December 2015 interview with Boyega by Variety---

"I didn’t know much going in [to the audition process].  I just remember during my time screen-testing, I was like, to Daisy [Ridley], ‘there’s no way that our stories are so simple,’ and we still don’t know! So I’ve still got some conspiracy theories as a fan as to where Finn comes from and I’m still trying to figure that out, but I like that it’s a mystery."

"I was at a party and someone behind me just tapped me on the shoulder and was like ‘Yo, black Jedi!’ I turned around and it was Samuel L. Jackson. He was like, ‘You’re my son!

Fast forward to December 2017 and the question of who Finn is and where he comes from is never even raised in The Last Jedi.  That apparently didn't interest Rian Johnson.  Instead, the focus is on Rey and her quest to find her parentage.  If you've seen the film, you know how that quest ends. 

In his recent appearance on The Director's Guild of America podcast, Johnson reveals how he had free reign to come up with whatever story he wanted and that he watched dailies of The Force Awakens while he was writing the script for The Last Jedi  [11:55 mark]. 

"First of all, when I came into it, there wasn't any secret whiteboard with the whole story laid out.  I read J.J. and Michael and Larry's script for Seven.  This was like a baton handoff and that led to- and first of all, that seems crazy coming into it. I was like, 'Wow, really?'  And as I started working it was like, 'Oh, thank God.' Because it meant that as opposed to just tagging based, we could or I could honestly react to what I felt from The Force Awakens and those characters and find the path forward for them that felt honest and real and led to some surprising places that we might not have gone to. 

[J.J. and Lawrence] had nothing that they dictated to me [as to whether they were specifically setting up future reveals or plot threads].   They were really gracious in kind of leaving it open.  For example, the question of Rey's parentage, which was a big question in this.  I never got the clue or the packet of things from so-and-so in the library.  I never got the equivalent of that for all the answers to this movie.  But the wonderful thing about that was that meant I was able to just come up with the answer that was best suited to the dramatic necessities of this story.  And the fact that this is Rey's quest for identity and it's the middle chapter where we have to throw the hardest stuff we can at her, I was able to say, 'Well, what is the hardest answer she could get?'  And the hardest answer is, 'You're not going to get the easy answer that you're so-and-so's daughter.  You're going to have to stand on your own two feet and define yourself in this story'. So, I'm very grateful that things were set up that way."

He also revealed on the podcast that J.J. and Chris Terrio are doing the same thing with Episode IX.  They recently had lunch to discuss the things that Johnson felt he set up but moving forward, Rian is now an audience member and the baton is now back in Abrams hand to win or lose the race on his own merits. 

"JJ and Chris Terrio are writing right now, the third movie.  It's a similar thing, I sat down with them, similar to how I sat down with JJ at the beginning of this process and had a talk.  But, it's just a talk.  We had lunch and I said, 'Here's where I thought I brought it to, here's the things I think I set up but then it's the baton handoff and now I turn back into an audience member and it's kind of exciting."

So the ball is now in Abrams' hands.  He can continue down Rian's path of unpredictability and subversion or he could opt for another ode to the original trilogy.  But if Abrams' past comments are any indication, that's not what he's going to do.  A year after The Force Awakens release, Abrams admitted that the callbacks in the film to the original George Lucas trilogy were on purpose. 

"What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards. So I understand that [The Force Awakens], I would argue much more than the ones that follow, needed to take a couple of steps backwards into very familiar terrain, and using a structure of nobodies becoming somebodies defeating the baddies...

Based on Abrams comments, even if he would have wrote and directed Episode VIII, he would have done something very different. Maybe not as different as what Rian created but it wouldn't have been another rehash of the same story.   

That's actually very much in keeping with George Lucas' wishes for the franchise.  In fact, he was a bit critical of The Force Awakens for being too similar to his films.  In his infamous November 2015 interview where he quipped that he sold Star Wars to "white slavers", Lucas revealed why he was no longer working as a consultant on The Force Awakens. 

"They wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that. Every movie, I worked very hard to make them different … I made them completely different—different planets, different spaceships to make it new...if I get in there, I’m just going to cause trouble, because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up.  And so I said, 'OK, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.' "

So for everyone out there criticizing Rian Johnson for making a wildly different film, that's exactly what George Lucas wanted and wished would've occurred in the previous film.
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