For Star Wars fans, Dec. 18, 2015, the release date for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is seen as the exact moment in which the universe may or may not explode in a heat death of giddy, geeky enthusiasm and overwhelming nostalgia, as if it got zapped by the Death Star.
Let’s hope it doesn’t, because it turns out there’s life after Episode VII, as now we have a few more definitive dates for the next films in the franchise.
In a meeting with shareholders today, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed the dates of Star Wars: Episode VIII and the first spinoff film, which is titled Rogue One, per StarWars.com.
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In keeping with the series’ love of tradition, the sequel to The Force Awakens will premiere on May 26, 2017 – 40 years and a day after the release of the original Star Wars in 1977.
Iger also confirmed what we kinda sorta already knew about the talent behind the camera: Rian Johnson, the director of films such as the sci-fi time travel thriller Looper and a handful of Breaking Bad episodes, will write and direct the film. Lucasfilm regular Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman, who produced all three of Johnson’s films, will serve as producers with Abrams as executive producer.
But before Disney continues its Star Wars saga, it’s taking fans on a detour to another part of the galaxy. Not only do we have a title and release date (Dec. 16, 2016) for the franchise’s first spinoff film, but we also know Rogue One‘s main star.
Felicity Jones, an Oscar-nominated actress who appeared in the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, will star. And Gareth Edwards, the director of the Godzilla remake and Monsters, will direct.
This all-star talent will be backed up by writer Chris Weitz, also an Oscar nominee, and executive producers John Knoll, Simon Emanuel and Jason McGatlin, producers Kennedy and Tony To, and co-producer John Swartz. It starts shooting in London this summer.
While Rogue One is currently the only slated film during that month, Episode VIII will have some competition in May that year in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as well as sequels to the Terminator franchise and The Lego Movie. But it’s hard not to see Star Wars winning this duel of the sequels at the box office.
Johnson is one of my favorite directors working today, and I thought he was a superb choice to helm a Star Wars movie. If you haven’t seen Looper or his other films Brick and The Brothers Bloom, you have nearly three years to fix that. Johnson is superb at creating unique worlds that bear just enough resemblance to the real world while being supported by classic sci-fi conventions, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the universe.
On the other hand, let’s hope Rogue One features some brand-new creatures making their debut in Star Wars, as Edwards has already proven he can handle monster-on-monster action.
But I’m most intrigued by the casting of Jones in the lead role. This is a heartening move by the franchise’s managers, showing that they’re confident a female can be the centerpiece of a Star Wars film. All of it bodes for a bright future for the universe, and now we have some more tidbits to salivate over in between dining on morsels about The Force Awakens.