J.J. Abrams returns to 'Star Wars' franchise to direct Episode IX

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Barring any delays, production on the film is scheduled to begin in January with a release date of May 24, 2019.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- J.J. Abrams will return to the "Star Wars" franchise he helped reboot to direct Episode IX.

Lucasfilm announced that Abrams has signed on to direct and co-write the second and final sequel to his "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in 2019.

"With 'The Force Awakens,' J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy," Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement.

The studio also pushed back the movie's original May 24, 2019 opening date to December 20, 2019.

Abrams, who previously rebooted both the "Star Trek" and "Mission: Impossible" franchises, will write the script with Chris Terrio ("Argo," "Batman v Supeman: Dawn of Justice"). As far as the story goes, it appears the new team will start from scratch, throwing out previous drafts by Colin Trevorrow and Jack Thorne.

Abrams also wrote "The Force Awakens" with "Star Wars" vet Lawrence Kasdan ("The Empire Strikes Back," "Return of the Jedi"). While his first foray into the "Star Wars" saga became the highest grossing movie in North America with a box office take of more than $936 million, the film was criticized by some for being too derivative of the source material.

The middle film in the triilogy, Rian Johnson's "The Last Jedi," coming out in December, is believed to be darker and different than anything we've seen before in the franchise. While Johnson was rumored to be the frontrunner to replace Trevorrow, who was dismissed earlier this month over creative differences, he said recently "it was never in the plan" for him to direct Episode IX.

Directing Episode IX gives Abrams the opportunity to wrap up the stories of Rey, Kylo Ren and Finn that he put into motion.

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