J.J. Abrams And Kathleen Kennedy Talk About Mapping Out Star Wars: Episode 8 And 9

Even though we're still 127 days from seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this movie is the beginning of a plethora of projects all set in a galaxy far, far away. That means there has been a lot of planning behind the scenes with regards to the story arcs of the new characters and returning heroes in Episode VII, and thanks to all the Star Wars details emerging today, we have a better idea of how the future is being planned for the new trilogy.

Director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recently spoke about mapping out the new trilogy and emulating the themes of the original movies. There's also chatter about just how much creative freedom director and writer Rian Johnson has on Star Wars Episode 8, despite having a basic idea of where the characters in the Star Wars universe are headed.

George Lucas JJ Abrams Kathleen Kennedy Star Wars

Boarding The Force Awakens

First of all, we should take the time to thank J.J. Abrams wife for helping convince the director to take on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. By the time Abrams signed on to direct, there were a lot of possibilities of where this new Star Wars trilogy would begin, but a story hadn't been finalized. Entertainment Weekly explained how Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt started to break down possibilities for the entire trilogy along with Kennedy and Abrams. The director explains:

"[They] had just been hypothesizing and throwing out a bunch of what-ifs, but there was no story in place. It was, without doubt, a formidable assignment. There were so many options and so many paths that could be taken. Even when we were in debate — and sometimes it was frustrating and heated — it was always thrilling, because it seemed almost everywhere you looked there was something potentially extraordinary, which felt very much like the DNA of Star Wars itself. ... My guess is that any question that anyone would be having was among the endless questions we were asking at the very beginning."

Star Wars: A New Hope

Emulating the Original Trilogy

Abrams and Kennedy aren't giving away any spoilers, including the political climate of the galaxy and how the First Order is operating as a makeshift replacement for the Empire, 30 years after the second Death Star was destroyed in Return of the Jedi. But they do say that a lot of the themes from the original trilogy will be present in this new set of films, especially "characters who are conflicted between good and evil, dark and light." Even though George Lucas isn't involved with developing this new Star Wars trilogy, his original thematic ideas from the first trilogy still echo in these new films as well. Kennedy adds:

"George spoke often about that tension in everybody between what's good and bad. He always felt that it was easier to be bad than good. I'm not sure all people would agree, but I think that that's always an interesting conflict to explore. So that's a big part of the themes inside of Episode VII."

But there are plenty of ways in which the new trilogy will be different. Kennedy says:

"I think we can't explore in quite as much detail issues of compassion, the way [Lucas] did in terms of the values of the Jedi. But we're going to get there, let's put it that way. In the arc of all three movies, that will increase."

Could that be a hint as to where we find Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens and how he will develop throughout the new trilogy?

The Force Awakens behind the scenes

A Galaxy Far, Far Away: 30 Years Later

When it comes to embodying and referencing the original trilogy, Kasdan said he and Abrams didn't really need to do much research as the movies were "part of" their lives: "You know what you've missed, what you want to bring back, and what you're hoping the new trilogy will embody." Plus, the fact that 30 years had passed in Kasdan's own life, much like the characters of the original Star Wars trilogy, was very intriguing to Kasdan. The screenwriter says, "When George asked me to work on the [prequels], I didn't. That wasn't where I was at." But 15 years after the prequels, Kasdan says:

"They've lived the same 30 years I have. What would that be like? How would you see things differently?' And I was trying to figure out how I saw things differently, and one of the surprises is that you don't learn all that much. You haven't become much wiser than you were, and things are not clearer to you, and the world is just as confusing as it always was — and that's a kind of lovely thing to get to write about again. Age does not necessarily bring wisdom; it just brings experience."

Star Wars New Trilogy

Beyond The Force Awakens: Star Wars 8 and 9

That sounds like the perfect approach to bringing back characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. But what's in store for the galaxy far, far away after The Force Awakens?

Even though Star Wars: Episode VIII is still over two years away, we know that threads of the story have already been sewn, and Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick, The Brothers Bloom) is hard at work on writing the movie that he will also direct (Kasdan and Simon Kinberg have also been working on Episode 8 and 9). But as the second film in a trilogy, how much freedom does he have? Kennedy explains:

"We know where we're going, but only in the broadest sense. When Rian came in and started writing his script, he started from scratch, other than knowing what we had done in Episode VII and projecting out where it was going. He then sat down and put pen to paper, and it's 100 percent him."

So it sounds like maybe Lucasfilm isn't being quite as strict with controlling their filmmakers as their Disney neighbors at Marvel Studios, and that's some very encouraging news. Abrams added that, "It's a thrill to see [Johnson] take things and elevate them beyond what we had imagined at the time."

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's just keep our eyes on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (check out the new photos that were released earlier today), and try to take on these movies one at a time. Obviously sometimes we can't help ourselves when thinking about the future, but it's pretty nice to be so excited about the future of Star Wars again, only unlike the prequels, this time we have no idea where we're going.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens arrives on December 18th.