Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi doesn’t hit theaters until December 15th, but it appears that the movie’s sequel is already running into problems. Director Colin Trevorrow, who directed the runaway success Jurassic World, has stepped down from the project. The news comes a month after a new screenwriter, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’s Jack Thorne, come onto the project to rewrite the script by Trevorrow and co-writer Derek Connolly.
Trevorrow was announced as the director of the project back in 2015, fresh off his Jurassic World success. That film ended up grossing over $1.6 billion worldwide, but his follow-up The Book of Henry was both a commercial and critical disaster. Episode IX was reportedly set to begin shooting in January of next year, but it’s not clear whether this creative change will push that date further out.
Lucasfilm’s creative process has been a bit of a mess lately. Rogue One had to undergo extensive reshoots before release, and earlier this year producer Kathleen Kennedy took the extraordinary step of firing directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller of the standalone Han Solo film just two weeks before the end of principal photography. Ron Howard has since been brought on to finish the film, but the 11th-hour move raised questions as to why things were allowed to progress so far — particularly when massive creative differences apparently existed between Kennedy and Lord and Miller. That pair of filmmakers are known for making irreverent, audience-friendly hits like The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, and their take on the material shouldn’t have necessarily come as a big surprise.
That said, the Han Solo experience could easily have been what prompted the move this time. The Skywalker saga is the lifeblood of the Star Wars franchise — without Luke, Leia, Han, and now Rey, Finn, and Poe, there is no framework for the various standalone films to hang upon. A problem with one of those films simply isn’t the kind of financial risk Lucasfilm, or Disney, can take, and the companies will no doubt be quite conservative moving forward. Johnson’s handling of The Last Jedi has reportedly been problem-free from the perspective of Disney and Lucasfilm, but it’s as of yet unclear if he will be approached for Episode IX, or if an entirely new filmmaker will be brought in to take over the film.