Even More ‘Star Wars’ Films, ‘Godzilla’ Director Signed On for Spin-Off

Empire Strikes Back Star Wars

Today’s obligatory Star Wars news is actually pretty exciting. Two days after J.J. Abrams released a short video advertising the UNICEF benefit Star Wars for Change, news just broke that Gareth Edwards, director of Godzilla and abrupt cultural phenom, has been tapped to shoot a standalone film set in the Star Wars universe.

Maybe this is in response to the overwhelmingly negative super-fan response that, God forbid, Abrams and co. were going to ignore the (huge, sprawling, inconsistent) extended universe, which was established through many, many books and comics and video games and cartoons and toys that were, and are, more reflective of George Lucas’s sticky-fingered money-grubbing than any creative ideology. Or maybe this has been in the works for a long time. Who knows? It doesn’t really matter why they’ve decided to do more films in the Star Wars universe; it only matters than Gareth Edwards, who showed a considerable amount of flair with the Godzilla reboot, is a director worth following. He’s shown that he can lace blockbusters with artistic ingenuity, and his Kubrick allusions make a film fan smile.

For the legion of Star Wars fans who felt irreparably burned by the abysmal prequels (and, believe it or not, a lot of people genuinely like those movies), Abrams taking up the reigns of the franchise was bittersweet. Lucas being done with Star Wars was unquestionably a good thing, since the best two Star Wars films weren’t even directed by him, and he’d long ago devolved into CGI tinkering on necessarily expensive Blu-ray sets. But Abrams, that guy did Star Trek, right? Is that allowed?

But Abrams is a true Star Wars geek, far more than he is a Star Trek geek, and his brawn-over-brain approach to Into Darkness will serve Star Wars well. It’s a space opera, big and character-driven and pure escapism, where Star Trek was always marked by progressive idealism and philosophy. And like Abrams, Gareth Edwards is a film geek, albeit one who broke into the mainstream like a wrecking ball, eschewing the gradual learning process taken by most filmmakers (Spielberg, Lucas, James Cameron, even Abrams).

The new Star Wars films are starting to take a vague sort of shape, and it’s exciting. The cast is incredible: should-have-been-an-Oscar-nominee Oscar Issac, Girls‘s Adam Driver as the villain, John Boyega from the indie favorite Attack the Block, the legendary Max Von Sydow, Andy Serkis, newcomer Daisy Ridley and, of course, the Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker, all from the original saga.

In the aforementioned UNICEF video, a small, ugly, long-necked creature pulled straight from The Dark Crystal shambles past Abrams. It’s the most promising bit of Star Wars pre-release hype so far: an actual puppet, done with practical effects, in the age of CGI domination? It’s funny and affable, and antipodal to He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named. Fans can, and should, support that. Maybe not with a $50,000 donation, like Abrams asks, but with something less tangible, like love.

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