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Whatever Happened To Rian Johnson's Star Wars Trilogy?

This article contains spoilers for The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.

Back in November 2017, Disney and Lucasfilm proudly announced that filmmaker Rian Johnson, who had just completed work on Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, was going to develop an entirely new Star Wars trilogy. While the films would be set in the Star Wars universe, they would introduce a whole new cast of characters and possibly take place in another time and section of the galaxy far, far away.

The plan was for Johnson to write all three movies and direct at least the first one. While no release date was ever set for the first movie, execs at Disney and Lucasfilm were clearly enthusiastic about what Johnson had delivered with The Last Jedi.

"Watching (Johnson) craft The Last Jedi from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career," said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy at the time (via Deadline). "Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy."

But little has been heard about Johnson's Star Wars trilogy since, and it was notably not even mentioned during the Lucasfilm portion of Disney's 2020 Investor Day presentation. Does this mean that Johnson's trilogy is no longer happening, and if so, why?

The Last Jedi polarized Star Wars fans

So what exactly happened after the big announcement of Johnson's trilogy? Well, about a month or so later, the world got to see The Last Jedi. While an unqualified box office smash (it's the second highest grossing film in the series) and a hit with critics and audiences, a subset of Star Wars fans harbored intensely negative feelings about the film and what they felt were Johnson's subversions of well-loved Star Wars tropes and fan theories. Many of the film's detractors allegedly review-bombed sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, causing user ratings for the film to plummet.

Among their complaints, these fans disliked Johnson's rendering of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as embittered and cynical, while also taking issue with the writer-director's revelation that lead character Rey (Daisy Ridley) was not connected to the Skywalker family in any way. While many appreciated Johnson's willingness to take the saga in a different direction, a number of fans were unhappy with his choices and acted out as a result.

Fandom turned toxic and ugly

While fans could legitimately take issue with Johnson's movie for any number of valid reasons, the criticism of the film soon turned overly harsh, personal, and bigoted. According to The GuardianJohnson himself was subjected to vicious personal attacks on social media, but trolls seemed to save their worst behavior for Kelly Marie Tran, who played the Resistance engineer Rose Tico. The young actress had to endure a campaign of relentless racist harassment online, leading Tran to ultimately exit social media under extreme emotional duress.

Johnson and other cast members like Mark Hamill and John Boyega spoke out in defense of Tran, but the campaign against The Last Jedi didn't end there. A petition was launched asking Lucasfilm to remake the movie entirely, and while Disney itself publicly supported Johnson, Tran, and the film, the backlash did seem to have an effect: 2019's The Rise of Skywalker blatantly reversed many of Johnson's narrative choices — most notably those concerning Rey's ancestry — while giving Rose Tico a much reduced presence.

Johnson started a whole new franchise with Knives Out

Meanwhile, Rian Johnson completed his fifth film, Knives Out, an original, old-fashioned murder mystery with an all-star cast (Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, and more) that turned into a commercial and critical success. A sequel to the film was greenlit in February 2020, with Johnson saying that he wanted to make a whole series of mysteries starring Craig's gentleman detective, Benoit Blanc.

At the same time, The Rise of Skywalker, directed by J.J. Abrams, arrived in December 2019 to some of the worst reviews of the entire Star Wars saga and significantly fewer box office returns than either of its predecessors. A new Star Wars trilogy to be created by Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss was scrapped, and Lucasfilm pivoted to focusing on content for Disney+, starting with The Mandalorian and extending to a slew of newly announced shows.

As recently as January 2020, Johnson claimed he was "still talking to Lucasfilm" about continuing with Star Wars, but has said little since. Although two new Star Wars films, to be directed by Taika Waititi and Patty Jenkins, were confirmed at Disney's Investor Day 2020, Johnson's trilogy was nowhere to be found. Disney might not want to raise the ire of fans who still harbor hatred for The Last Jedi, while Johnson himself has his own new franchise to build and probably, in the end, no desire to confront the toxic Star Wars trolls again either.

While nothing can ever be ruled out in Hollywood, it's probably a safe bet that Johnson's Star Wars trilogy, whatever it might have been, will not surface in this or any other galaxy.