It was first rumored over at Deadline, and has subsequently been confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter that The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi scribe Lawrence Kasdan and fellow writer Simon Kinberg have been brought aboard to pen Episode VIII and Episode IX in addition to producing, presumably, the entire Sequel Trilogy.
Right off the bat, this tells me a few things about how Disney sees this project. First, by bringing Kasdan onto the project, it seems obvious that Disney is looking to court back fans of the Original Trilogy who may have felt disenfranchised by the Prequels. Which on paper seems like a good idea, but I’m wondering if Disney understands at this point that there are now four distinct groups with different ideas of what Star Wars is to them: those who grew up in the 70/80s with the Originals, those who grew up in the early-to-mid-90s with the Expanded Universe and Special Editions, those who grew up during the Prequels, and those who are now growing up with The Clone Wars.
All four of these “generations” of fans are going to go see the new movies, and it’s going to be a balancing act coming up with something that appeals to everyone. It seems likely that they’re going for us older folk’s nostalgia factor by bringing Kasdan in (and if the rumors are true, the original cast), but it worries me that they may just rehash the structure and feel of IV, V, and VI without pushing the story forward, acknowledging the other parts of the fan base, and ultimately bringing “the Saga” to close in IX before going off and doing other movies set in the Star Wars universe. Hopefully, they will draw some of the best bits of every incarnation of Star Wars without stepping on too many toes, while also giving us a fun movie.
The other thing that it tells me is that Disney isn’t messing around when it comes to restarting the feature film franchise. With Oscar winner Michael Arndt penning Episode VII, and Kasdan and Kinberg being brought in this early to start penning VIII and IX (presumably off of Arndt’s rumored 40-50 page treatment of the entire trilogy), I’m led to believe that Disney wants to make sure that it’s scripts are right. I’d also wager that Episode VII is much further along in the process than we’ve been led to believe, and wouldn’t be at all surprised if we get a director announcement at the end of the five-part video series that’s been going on at the official website (here’s the newly release part three), if not by the end of the year, with shooting to commence no later than next fall (it’d kind of have to start by then, or I’d be worried about Disney making their announced 2015 release date). Of course, that’s just speculation on my part, but I can’t help but believe that they’d announce a date without being fairly confident that they can meet it (though, things do get pushed back, like G.I. Joe: Retaliation).
In any case, it’s clear they aren’t messing around at the House of Mouse, and while I may have some reservations over some of Kasdan’s recent work or the fact that Kinberg worked on X-Men: The Last Stand (tied with X-Men Origins: Wolverine as the worst of the X-flicks) starting the process on the scripts this early gives them plenty of time to fine tune them before production. And for all we know, Arndt could also remain a part of the equation after Episode VII. It’s difficult to say, as just a few short weeks ago, the general public didn’t even know that this was happening. Lucasfilm and Disney have been playing this one awfully close to the vest. It’ll be interesting to see what exactly they have in store for the fans.