With newly-minted blockbuster Godzilla under his belt, director Gareth Edwards will helm the first of several standalone Star Wars films coming in the years ahead. Disney and Lucasfilm have announced that the film will be released on December 16th, 2016, a year after J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII hits theaters. The subject of the new movie hasn't been formally announced, though Disney has previously stated that the standalone films will be origin stories, with everyone from Yoda, Boba Fett, to Han Solo thrown around as possible candidates. Gary Whitta (After Earth, Book of Eli) will be writing the first film.
Edwards' appointment comes on the heels of huge success with Godzilla, which opened last week. It earned $38.5 million on its first day, and went on to earn $93.1 million in domestic box office for the weekend. Both the ticket sales and largely favorable critical reception led to an immediate call for a sequel, according to a report from Deadline. Edwards' previous feature directorial project was the indie feature Monsters, in which he served as director, cinematographer, and visual effects artist all on his own.
It's been a busy series of weeks for Star Wars. Late last month the cast of Episode VII was announced, bringing confirmation that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher would be returning to their iconic roles more than 30 years after Return of the Jedi. Gareth Edwards' involvement in the franchise was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
When we spoke with Edwards at SXSW, he struck us as a thoughtful filmmaker who was interested in more than just the empty spectacle that so many blockbusters thrive upon. Disney has seemed to demonstrate a keen awareness of the Star Wars fatigue many fans felt in the wake of the prequel films, and while the notion of annual standalone films is itself a reason for some concern, putting directors like Edwards behind the camera will go a long way towards ensuring the films are more than just a series of empty cash grabs.
Bryan Bishop contributed to this report.