Updated: The release date has now been pushed back; see below. * Original article follows.
One day after we heard Rian Johnson wasn't likely to return for Star Wars: Episode IX, here's confirmation of that: another guy will be back at the helm of the franchise, as J.J. Abrams has been announced as the writer and director of the sequel. Lucasfilm has gone with someone they trust, the man who brought Star Wars back to life two years ago in a big way with The Force Awakens.
Abrams follows Lucas as the only other director to helm more than one installment of the Star Wars franchise. But while Lucas only helmed one of the original trilogy movies, A New Hope, and all of the prequels, Abrams has kicked off and will conclude the third trilogy in the saga. He takes the reins back following centerpiece director Rian Johnson, who handled this year's The Last Jedi.
Obviously Abrams is a safe, dependable choice, despite calls for a woman to direct and/or a person of color or an established fan favorite like Guillermo del Toro. So far in the Disney era of Lucasfilm, he's had the most success and least amount of trouble --- at least until we see Johnson's episode. The studio has had problems with five other directors so far, including original Episode IX hire Colin Trevorrow.
“With The Force Awakens, J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement announcing the news.
With Episode IX, Abrams will have two Star Wars movies under his belt to match his two Star Trek movies. He hasn't actually had any other directorial projects since The Force Awakens, as he's been busy producing Cloverfield movies and The Last Jedi and the upcoming TV series Castle Rock. He should presumably be able to jump on this and begin right away.
* Star Wars: Episode IX is set for release on
May 24, 2019 December 20, 2019.