'Star Wars' fan petition seeking removal of J.J. Abrams from 'Episode IX' picks up steam

After revitalizing the Star Wars film canon with 2015’s The Force Awakens, writer-director J.J. Abrams has been tapped for Episode IX (in theaters December 2019). However, some Star Wars fans would prefer that Abrams let the sleeping Force lie. An online petition demanding that Lucasfilm remove Abrams from the upcoming Star Wars sequel has acquired nearly 3,000 signatures since going live one week ago. The petition’s creator, a fan named Matt Vela, writes that Lucasfilm broke its promise “to promote a fresh new vision on every installment” of the sequel trilogy when producer Kathleen Kennedy fired original Episode IX writer-director Colin Trevorrow and rehired Abrams. More to the point, Vela really, really didn’t like The Force Awakens.

Although not reflected in the box-office sales, most fans agree that Abrams’s vision for Episode VII resulted in a rehash of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” the author of the petition writes. “There was virtually no creativity, and no risks taken. Such complacency cannot be the trajectory of this sequel trilogy. More specifically, the metric for success in a Star Wars movie cannot be box-office sales. Lucasfilm and Disney *need* to listen to fan criticism. Star Wars fans deserve better. They demand better.”

Daisy Ridley and J.J. Abrams on the set of <i>Star Wars: The Force Awakens.</i> (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Daisy Ridley and J.J. Abrams on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

To say that this fan’s dissatisfaction was “not reflected in the box-office sales” is a comical understatement; The Force Awakens is literally the highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S. But you can’t please everybody, especially not in the case of Star Wars fans, who feel an unusual degree of ownership over their favorite franchise. A search for other Star Wars-related petitions on Change.org brings up hundreds of results, with fans demanding everything from a posthumous Oscar nod for Rogue One’s Peter Cushing to better action figures to George Lucas’s return to the director’s chair. That last one, started by a fan in Brazil, generated more than 8,000 signatures from Lucas fans.

Conversely, Lucas is often accused of “ruining” the Star Wars universe he created, with disgruntled fans pointing to the prequel trilogy and/or the Special Edition rereleases as evidence. Other fans believe that the Star Wars universe tanked with the Ewoks back in 1983 or peaked with Revenge of the Sith in 2005. There were fans who protested Disney taking over the Star Wars franchise in 2012; fans who boycotted Rogue One in 2016 because they believed it was anti-Trump; and, way back in 1987, fans who boycotted Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs for making fun of Han Solo and Yoda. The unofficial Star Wars wiki Wookieepedia even has an entry called “Ruined Forever,” listing dozens of Star Wars plot points, related projects, and rumors that fans at one time believed would kill the franchise. (Examples include the revelation that Luke and Leia are siblings, midi-chlorians, and Angry Birds Star Wars.)

Basically, all evidence points to the resiliency of the Star Wars universe. Fans may strike it down, but like Obi-Wan, the franchise keeps coming back, more powerful than even George Lucas could have imagined.

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